A back-and-forth contest which saw USC and Arizona State trade leads on 11 occasions ended in tragic fashion for the Trojans on Sunday.
A double-digit lead for USC with 3:57 remaining in regulation evaporated as Arizona State finished the game on a 12-1 run to defeat the Trojans, 83-82, at the Wells Fargo Arena in Tempe, Ariz.
USC (21-8, 8-8) was clinging to an 82-81 lead with 14 seconds remaining in regulation when sophomore forward Bennie Boatwright’s inbound pass was stolen by Arizona State freshman Tra Holder. Holder proceeded to get fouled on a shot attempt, and he hit two game-winning free throws to give the Sun Devils the final lead change of the game at 83-82 with seven seconds remaining.
A 12-1 scoring run — capped off with a dunk from USC sophomore forward Chimezie Metu — gave the Trojans an 81-71 lead over Arizona State with just under four minutes in the game.
The Trojans’ devastating, last-second loss saw them finish the game on a 2:08 scoring drought in which they missed five of their final six shots taken in regulation. USC allowed Arizona State to score seven points in the final 28 seconds to clinch the come-from-behind victory.
The loss to the Sun Devils (14-16, 7-10) is the Trojans’ fourth consecutive loss in conference play. USC has not won a game since Feb. 9 against Oregon State and has lost its last five games played at the Wells Fargo Arena.
After losing their final road game of the season, the Trojans fell to 8-8 in conference play and currently sit at sixth in the Pac-12 standings. USC finishes the season with a 4-5 record in road conferences game; the Trojans have failed to clinch a winning-record in road conference games since 2008.
Despite outshooting ASU from the field (56 percent to 46 percent), a 31-for-55 shooting effort from the floor was not enough to give USC a victory.
The premier offensive performer for the Trojans in the loss was Boatwright, who finished Sunday tied for the game-high with 22 points scored. Boatwright finished the game 5-for-8 (62.5 percent) from beyond the 3-point line.
Both USC (12-for-28, 43 percent) and Arizona State (13-for-28, 46 percent) finished with strong shooting performances from beyond the arc. The Sun Devils hit 10-of-16 3-point shot attempts in the first half.
In a losing effort, Metu recorded his second consecutive double-double, scoring 14 points and pulling in 13 rebounds. This was the sixth double-double of Metu’s career.
Metu hit a 3-pointer in transition at the halftime buzzer to give the Trojans a 48-47 lead entering the break. USC finished the first half on a 17-8 run over the final 4:52 to take a one point lead going into the half.
A 14-2 run from Arizona State midway through the first half gave the Sun Devils a 28-19 lead with 9:22 remaining in the opening period.
Arizona State junior guard Kodi Justice tied Boatwright for the game-high in scoring with 22 points. A 3-pointer from Justice pulled Arizona State within an 82-81 deficit of the Trojans with 15 seconds remaining in play. After hitting his first four 3-point shots of the game, Justice finished Sunday shooting 6-for-9 (67 percent) from long distance.
The Sun Devils capitalized by scoring 27 points off of USC’s 12 turnovers in the game.
USC junior guard Jordan McLaughlin, who finished with eight points on 4-of-10 shooting, recorded a game-high 10 assists against the Sun Devils Sunday.
The Trojans opened the game by hitting eight of their first 11 shots (72.7 percent). USC finished the first half shooting 18-for-26 (69.2 percent) from the floor.
After dropping its fourth consecutive conference game, USC will look to finish its regular season on a strong note with a homestand against Washington State (12-15, 5-10) and Washington (9-18, 2-13) in the coming week. The Trojans’ current four-game skid has stalled their hopes of clinching anything better than a No. 6 seed for the Pac-12 Tournament in March.