ASU men’s hoops’ surge too late to overcome USC in flat performance
TEMPE – It was too little, too late for Arizona State men’s basketball as the Sun Devils fell 77-69 to USC on Saturday night at Desert Financial Arena.
“I approve of the scrambling mode of our last four minutes and just how guys tried a lot harder,” ASU head coach Bobby Hurley said postgame.
“And hopefully we can build off that and put guys on the floor that are going to give maximum effort when they are out there.”
ASU (15-3, 6-3 Pac-12) played poorly for most of the game, leading just once on the night when Desmond Cambridge Jr. hit a jump shot to put the Sun Devils up 4-2 with 18:41 left in the first half.
The Sun Devils trailed by as much as 24 points when the Trojans took a 77-53 lead on a Boogie Ellis slam with 4:51 to play in the game.
However, USC (14-6, 6-3 Pac-12) did not score the rest of the night, as Arizona State stormed back to cut the lead to just eight points with 34 seconds on the clock.
On the Trojans’ ensuing possession, ASU guard Frankie Collins stole the ball from Drew Peterson. However, Sun Devil forward Warren Washington turned the ball over and Arizona State let USC dribble the clock away without fouling.
Despite the effort at the end of the game and tying a career-high with 21 points, Washington was less than enthused with his team’s effort after the game.
“I thought it was flat-out embarrassing,” Washington said. “We embarrassed our fans. We embarrassed ourselves. … Honestly, it’s just embarrassing. I don’t have much to say about it. It’s embarrassing.”
Warren Washington says the loss to USC was embarrassing. pic.twitter.com/7bOIBku2bP
— State of the Sun Devils (@AZSportsDevils) January 22, 2023
In ASU’s game against No. 5 UCLA on Thursday, the Arizona State defense was not up to par with what it has been this season. The Sun Devils allowed the Bruins to shoot 26-for-52 (50%) in the game, falling 74-62.
Against USC on Saturday, the signature 2022-23 ASU defense was not on display again. Arizona State allowed 28-for-57 shooting (49.1%) from the field which included 7-for-18 (38.9%) 3-point shooting.
Hurley discussed his defense not being where it should be.
“It was atrocious defense out there and that’s our responsibility as staff and we’ve had an identity for most of the season of getting stops and USC is a good team,” Hurley said.
“… But at the same time, we’ve given up now back-to-back games virtually 50% shooting from the field when we’ve been holding teams in the mid-30s. So we got to get back to the drawing board at that end of the floor.”
As for if the flat performance had anything to do with ASU coming off of a tightly-contested loss to the highly-ranked Bruins, Hurley shied away from pointing to the UCLA game as a reason for Saturday’s performance.
“I’m not going to sit and make excuses,” he said. “We knew how hard the guys played on Thursday night and so we rested them. We didn’t over-practice them yesterday. There’s no reason that guys at their age physically … can’t respond after 36 hours or whatever the time frame is.”
ASU travels to Seattle to take on Washington (12-9, 4-6 Pac-12) on Thursday at 9 p.m. on ESPN 620 AM / 98.7 FM HD-2, the Arizona Sports app and ArizonaSports.com.
The two teams last met at Desert Financial Arena on Jan. 8, with Arizona State winning 73-65.