Sun Devil Fall Just Short in Upset Bid 58-53 to USC
The Sun Devils men's hoops team fell short of an upset bid to No. 19 USC Trojans at Desert Financial Arena Thursday. Although entering the last minute tied at 51, ASU could not come up with the victory after the Trojans made six free throws in the last 60 seconds to notch a 58-53 win, despite holding USC to 30 percent shooting (18-of-60).
Dating back to 1996-97, ASU has held opponents to 30 percent shooting or less 27 times, Thursday night was the first loss.
Foul trouble was a problem for Bobby Hurley's squad from the beginning of the second quarter, which caused USC to shoot 17 more free throws than ASU.
However, ASU displayed a great defensive performance. The Sun Devils closed up the rim with 11 blocks on the night. Enoch Boakye led ASU with three blocked shots, and four more Sun Devils recorded two (Jalen Graham, Kimani Lawrence, Alonzo Gaffney and Jamiya Neal).
ASU forced 14 USC 14 turnovers and the Sun Devils only had six. The best example of the intensity that ASU put up in the game can be summarized right after the first media timeout of the second half. USC tried to inbound the ball, but ASU's defense didn't allow them, forcing coach Enfield to call a 30-second timeout. That didn't prevent the turnover, as in the following play, they lost the ball to the Sun Devils.
Although ASU could not enjoy their first lead until the second half, some of the best minutes came in the first. USC came off the gates hot, leading 10-2 with only 4 minutes played. However, the Sun Devils came back with an 11-1 run emphasized by Jalen Graham, who made a huge block on defense, and scored a putback basket after grabbing an offensive board. The junior led ASU on scoring with a career-high 19 points on a 9-for-14 shooting night.
JALEN GRAHAM TOP CAREER SCORING GAMES
19 vs. #19 USC/Feb. 3, 2022
16 at Stanford/Jan. 22, 2022
16 vs. Colorado/Jan. 15, 2022
15 at #16 USC/Jan. 24, 2022
14 vs. Oregon State/Feb. 14, 2021
14 at Arizona/Jan. 25, 2021
12 vs. Utah/Jan. 17, 2022
12 vs. Stanford/Jan. 30, 2021
12 vs. California/Jan. 28, 2021
The only other Sun Devil with double digits in scoring was Kimani Lawrence, with 14 points, adding also a game-high eight rebounds. Guard Marreon Jackson was ASU's leader in assists with five
The ASU men's hoops team will return to action Saturday (Feb. 5) when they'll face UCLA back at Desert Financial Arena at 8 p.m. on ESPN2.
BOBBY HURLEY QUOTES
"Well I thought we did some nice things out there again, especially defensively. The guys competed really well, really hard, we had plenty of chances when it was 40-32 we could've had really extended our lead and we just didn't handle the zone well for 2-3 minutes there and we just stopped making shots. We were on a bit of a roll there to make it 40 and then we just...when they went zone, they kind of took away some of our inside game some, and then we just couldn't hit perimeter shots and that's kind of been the theme for us this year overall with our offense. But give them credit, they battled and they made their free throws late in the game and we just didn't do what we needed to do there to close the game out."
TALKING ABOUT THE SUN DEVIL DEFENSE
"Again, we kind of were sticking with a similar plan that we had against ArizonA. It was 38-24 in the paint, I know that they got a lot of free throws because they're tall and they're focused on going to the glass. They had 20 offensive rebounds. We couldn't come up with some of those rebounds after we made them miss in congestion they seemed to get their hands on a lot of those and we, unfortunately, did not. But overall we just got to handle the last minute better. It was tied, we got a great shot, it didn't go in and JG had a bunch of really good moments in the game offensively and then we fouled immediately and put them on the line which gave them the lead. We got to eliminate things like that happening."
Any extra motivation going into this game since you weren't out there last time you played USC?
"I mean I didn't really look at it that way. I just looked at it the same way as I looked at Arizona in terms of preparing. It was a winning effort again, we just didn't close out the game."
JALEN GRAHAM'S PERFORMANCE
"His footwork was special. His touch around the basket, he looked like the best player on the court to me tonight. He's just making new strides, I'm happy for him, he's really been great the last few weeks. Just a great attitude, the way he's practicing, I actually told him before the game he practiced so well yesterday that maybe he should've saved that for tonight but he really did well, I'm happy for Jalen tonight."
JALEN NOT LOSING MOMENTUM DESPITE FOUL TROUBLE
"Yeah, it was, in a sense, a blessing. If you saw during the game, there was a trash can near our bench and he was -- he had ate something bad. My coach, when I played in college said something really bad about me during the Final Four, about me not feeling well, so I'm not going to be as graphic as he was and explain exactly what JG was going through today but he was dealing with that stuff as well. So it was good that he had a few more minutes, maybe at times, a little more breaks. But when he was out there he really maximized his minutes."
MANAGING FOULS EARLY IN THE GAME
"The ones in the early half hurt because they get the (other) team almost immediately knowing that they're going to be shooting a ton of foul shots. So we have to do better to start that second half to avoid those situations. I'll look at the film to see what we can do better to avoid that because it seems like that's really been the difference-maker in these games. We had four more field goals than them again. So like the last several games, outside of the USC game at USC, we've had more field goals than our opponent, we're just putting them on the line too much."
ON THE SHOT BLOCKING
"Those guys knew what the challenge was coming in. We had just played Arizona so this was a similar scenario. They were up for it in the paint, 38-24 in the paint, the guys were really challenging shots. Even Enoch's block out of bounds, it was kind of an intimidating block. So we just got to keep being that way on defense and again, it was there for us to take it ... 30 percent we held them to for the game. So we did our work on the defensive end, we just didn't get enough offense when they shifted to zone and that was really it. 40-32 and we eventually got the ball in the high post to Kimani some and that improved our offense against the zone but then we had that two, three-minute period where we could have got a lot of separation and we didn't do it."
QUOTING ANDY ENFIELD
"Jay Heath was 2-of-9 and Horne was 1-of-12 for the two leading scorers, that's 3-of-21 between the two. I thought our guys took a challenge to get to their shooters and to hold a team to 53 points on their home court, we will take that and we're happy to get out of here with a win. Our interior players got outplayed tonight by Graham and Lawrence. Lawrence is 6'6" or 6'7" but he makes a lot of floaters and Jalen Graham was dominant offensively, we couldn't stop him and that is why we had to go zone and then we went back to man and he scored two more times.I think they deserve a lot of credit, Graham and Lawrence played outstanding basketball. Our big guys had an off night, they have been so important to us to be 19-3. We wouldn't be 19-3 if our interior players weren't having a great season but tonight they just didn't have it. But hey, everybody has off nights and we will come back and learn something from this and hopefully motivates them for the rest of the week."