Comeback falls just short against ASU

It has been like a broken record on repeat for the USC men’s basketball team in the past few weeks.

Late game errors, bad shots, and, even worse, fouls plagued the Trojans (16-13, 8-9) down the stretch once again, this time as they fell to Arizona State 59-54 in Tempe, Ariz. Senior guard Mike Gerrity and junior guard Marcus Simmons led USC with 11 points each, but it was not enough to quiet the Sun Devils’ offensive attack.

Resurgence · Junior guard Marcus Simmons scored 11 points against the Sun Devils on Thursday, his best performance since he scored 11 against Loyola Marymount in November. - Brandon Hui | Daily Trojan

Sun Devils’ forward Rihards Kuksiks was a catalyst for his team’s offensive success, coming off the bench to score 24 points on 8-13 shooting. He made six of nine attempts from the three-point line, including several late threes to keep Arizona State ahead.

Both teams showed their defensive prowess early in the game, limiting the scoring and preventing either team from pulling ahead by a large margin. The Sun Devils (21-9, 11-6) stretched their lead to five on a Kuksiks three-pointer with eight minutes left in the half, but points from six different Trojans helped USC keep the score within two going into the break.

Spurts of offense from both sides finally appeared in the beginning of the second half, punctuated by three more Kuksiks three-pointers in the span of four minutes. USC managed to stay within three points of the Sun Devils up until the two-minute mark, but several costly errors sunk the Trojans — an untimely foul by sophomore guard Donte Smith allowed Ty Abbott to sink three free throws and widen the lead for Arizona State, and a minute later sophomore forward Leonard Washington was called for offensive goaltending on an easy layup by senior guard Marcus Johnson.

Despite a late three from Johnson, USC could not keep up with the Sun Devils, who remain in second place in the Pac-10 behind conference leader California.

Although a late three from Johnson pulled the Trojans within one, USC could not manage to regain the lead as the Sun Devils’ late free throw shooting sealed the victory.

While the Trojans shot 42 percent from the field — a vast improvement compared to their miserable 29 percent shooting performance against Oregon State — their 3-point shooting woes continued, as they were only able to convert 27 percent of their attempts.

Despite starting the second half of conference play with four consecutive wins, USC has now lost its last four games, dropping the Trojans into sixth place in the Pac-10. The win allows Arizona State to remain in second place behind conference leader California and keeps them in contention for a split of the Pac-10 title.

USC, with only one game left to play this year due to its postseason ban, will now travel to Arizona to face the Wildcats on Saturday. The Trojans defeated Arizona in their first conference game of the season 56-50 at the Galen Center.