ARIZONA STATE BASKETBALL

Fork Report: Gilling’s last-minute 3-pointer completes ASU’s comeback against USC

Feb 23, 2015, 5:07 AM | Updated: 5:10 am

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TEMPE, Ariz. — On an evening in which the Arizona State student section reminded USC of the Sun Devils’ amazing comeback against the Trojans in the 2014 football season, the ASU basketball team put together a similar Jael Mary-esque rally.

After ASU (15-12, 7-7 Pac-12) opened the game 4-of-24 from 3-point range, Tra Holder and Jonathan Gilling buried back-to-back triples in the final minutes to complete a second-half rally and give the Devils a 64-59 win over USC (10-17, 2-13) Sunday at Wells Fargo Arena.

“We knew coming in we were going to in for a 15-round fight tonight. We’re not at all surprised,” said ASU coach Herb Sendek. “(We’re) fortunate our guys stepped up at the end and found a way to win, on a night … when the ball really was having a hard time finding the bottom of the well for us.”

The 942 Crew’s Curtain of Distraction, which has recently been featured in publications such as the New York Times for its ability to hinder opponents’ free-throw shooting, was in effect again Sunday. This time, the students recreated ASU’s last-second Hail Mary touchdown pass from Mike Bercovici to Jaelen Strong that gave the Sun Devils a last-second win over the Trojans in Los Angeles last October.

ASU’s rally on Sunday wasn’t quite as dramatic, but considering how many open shots the Devils missed, it seemed nearly as improbable before the game’s final minutes unfolded.

Holder was 0-for-4 from the field until his 3-pointer evened the game at 56-56 with 2:02 to play. With 44 seconds left, Gilling, who opened the game 1-of-6 from the floor, buried his open jumper from beyond the arc to give the Devils the lead.

“I feel like pretty much all the shots I miss go in and out, rolls on the rim. So I was just like, ‘Oh, come on now,'” Gilling said about a 3-point attempt he missed just 37 seconds before his game-winner.

“And then, yeah, I was just like, ‘Yeah, if I get another one, I’ll just knock that one down,’ and that’s what happened.”

Holder was 5-for-6 from the free-throw line in the final seconds as part of ASU’s late 16-2 run against a Trojans team that was missing two of its top three scorers.

ASU shot just 29.6 percent from the field in the first half but took a 27-24 lead into halftime behind Gerry Blakes’ 10 points and Eric Jacobsen’s eight rebounds. Jacobsen would finish with a game-high 10 boards.

But the Trojans came out hot in the second half, connecting on 8-of-9 field-goal attempts at one point to obtain their biggest advantage, 51-41, with just under 10 minutes to play.

Kahlil Dukes came off the bench to score a game-high 18 points for USC, including 10 in the second half.

But ASU tightened up on defense in the final 10 minutes and began taking the ball to the hoop, earning layups and drawing fouls to play its way back into the game.

“I feel like we let our struggles on offense affect our defense a little bit,” Gilling said. “But as we have been the last three home games, we’ve just been fighting back, scratching and clawing, and it’s resulted in another victory.”

Sendek said the Denmark-born Gilling lived up to his nickname on Sunday.

“Obviously he hasn’t been shooting like he’s capable of, but when that shot went in to put us ahead by three, it reminded all of us why, throughout his career, we nicknamed him the Danish Dagger,” he said.

“That takes a lot of courage when things aren’t going your way in a close game, to rise up and make that kind of shot.”

THE GOOD

They opened the season 1-6 in games decided by five or fewer points, but the Sun Devils went 2-0 in those situations in their last two games with Sunday’s win combined with Wednesday’s 68-66 victory over UCLA.

After committing nine first-half turnovers, the Devils took much better care of the ball in the second half Sunday, giving the ball away just twice in the final 20 minutes.

Jacobsen only scored five points, but his play under the basket was crucial for the Devils. Three of the junior’s 10 rebounds came on the offensive glass. He also blocked three shots and took a pair of charges.

Speaking of rebounding, ASU has excelled in that category recently. With Sunday’s 39-33 rebounding margin, the Devils have out-rebounded their opponents 164-114 in their last four games.

THE BAD

Savon Goodman didn’t have one of his most memorable performances Sunday. The sophomore forward averaged 19.5 points on a combined 12-of-18 shooting in his previous two games, but he went just 4-of-10 from the field and 1-of-3 from the line Sunday, scoring just nine points.

Shaquielle McKissic also didn’t have a game to write home about, shooting just 3-of-13 from the field, including 1-of-7 from 3-point range. He missed a pair of wide-open 3-pointers in the second half.

STAT OF THE GAME

ASU’s 32.8 field-goal percentage was its second-lowest in a victory in the Sendek era.

HE SAID IT

“The question is: Why not do it both halves? The curtain is transportable, right? Let’s play good free-throw defense both halves, and maybe it can offset some of our lousy half-court live-ball defense.” -Sendek on the Curtain of Distraction

NOTED

Shortly before game time, USC announced a trio of players — Katin Reinhardt, Chass Bryan and Devon Pflueger — had been sent home for violating team rules after the Trojans’ loss at Arizona on Thursday. Bryan and Pflueger play sparingly, but Reinhardt is averaging 12 points per game and is USC’s leading 3-point shooter, connecting on 49-of-131 attempts (37.4 percent) for the season. The sophomore guard scored 45 points in a triple-overtime loss vs. Colorado on Jan. 29.

The Trojans were also without freshman guard Jordan McLaughlin, who missed his third straight game with a shoulder injury. He’s averaging 12.1 points and 4.5 assists per game.

The Curtain of Distraction is now recognized during ASU’s pregame intro video. Several of the regular acts featured behind the curtain were shown. Also featured: highlights of ASU’s victory over then-No. 6 UA on Feb. 7.

The man who threw the Jael Mary touchdown pass appreciated the 942 Crew’s homage on Sunday.

UP NEXT

ASU’s toughest remaining regular-season test awaits Thursday when it heads to Salt Lake City to face Utah (21-5, 11-3), which is ranked ninth in the nation but is coming off a 69-58 loss at Oregon on Sunday. The Sun Devils suffered their worst home defeat of the season in a 76-59 loss to the Utes on Jan. 15.

Tip-off is scheduled for 8:30 p.m., with pregame coverage beginning 30 minutes earlier on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM.

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Fork Report: Gilling’s last-minute 3-pointer completes ASU’s comeback against USC