Sun Devils edge Trojans

It wasn't pretty, but Arizona State found a way. A hot shooting first half by the Sun Devils turned into a defensive clinic as ASU shut down Southern California Saturday at Wells Fargo Arena, earning a 56-52 with the help of some last second theatrics.

Clinging to a one point lead with just 28 seconds remaining, the Sun Devils called a timeout and drew up one final play. Having gone nearly seven minutes without scoring it was anybody's guess as to who ASU was going to turn to for its final possession.

Jordan Bachynski? Maybe. Trent Lockett? That would make sense. Instead it was junior point guard Chris Colvin, who used a high screen and a little luck as he sank an out of control leaner as the shot clock expired, while also drawing a foul.

"Same thing you think, I don't know," said a smiling Colvin after the game when asked how he managed to make that final shot in traffic. "I just threw it up on the rim and thought hopefully our bigs would go get it. I know they're talented enough to go get it on the rim, so just put it on the rim and hoped they'd get it."

As the saying goes: sometimes it's better to be lucky than good.

Colvin though has been much improved over the past few weeks for the Sun Devils as he has averaged 11.5 points and 5 assists in the team's last four games. On Saturday he filled the stat sheet once again, contributing with 8 points, 5 assists, 3 rebounds, 2 steals, but also had 6 turnovers.

"It's a good feeling," remarked Colvin on his recent play. "Without my teammates, I wouldn't have that feeling. They instill a great amount of confidence in me, and my coaches do too, and just to come out and play well the last three or four games, it's good for me.

"We set up a ball-screen action for him, and he just had enough presence in mind to turn the corner and he made a difficult shot," commented head coach Herb Sendek. "And just as significantly, he made the free throw because there's a big difference being up four in that situation, than being up just three."

While Colvin's game-winner sealed the victory, Arizona State was able to put itself in a position to win by getting back to some of its basics, mainly playing suffocating defense. Despite leading by eleven at one point and shooting 60% in the first half, the Sun Devils were overtaken by the Trojans in the second half and were forced to grind it out.

A Byron Wesley jumper with 11:16 remaining was the last field goal the Trojans were able to muster against the tough ASU defense in the second half, as they were limited to just free throws and very few second shot opportunities down the stretch.

"I thought the key to our win was our defense the last 11:16 of the game," said Sendek. "After they took the lead, that really was the last field goal we yielded and they only had five free throws from that point on. So that certainly was the difference."

The Sun Devils limited the Trojans to just 33% shooting in the second half and out rebounded their opposition 36-20, clearly exploiting USC's lack of interior size.

"Keeping it in, and keeping it tight, that's something that the coaches had been stressing to us all week," said Colvin on the team's defensive mentality. "We knew they had a good guard on their side, so we wanted to keep it tight so he couldn't get into the seams of our defense and score easily."

Helping matters Saturday was once again the impressive play of sophomore center Jordan Bachynski. The Sun Devil big man asserted himself early and often as the Sun Devils' primary offensive threat as Southern California clearly struggled to match up with his height. Bachynski came just one rebound shy of recording his third career double-double as he chipped in 19 points and 9 rebounds.

"We tried throughout the game to get the ball inside," commented Sendek. "As easy as it may look, because they do a good job fronting the post, they pressure the ball and have good help-side, and when you do get it in, they really collapse. So when you put that all together, they make up for whatever they lack in size with great team defense. They're a tremendous defensive team, they always are."

After getting easy buckets on three of ASU's first four possessions down low, Bachynski was most effective from the free throw line Saturday as he knocked down 7 of his 11 attempts, and also added a pair of blocked shots, making his presence known at each end. Bachynski's confidence continues to grow during the season's second half, something he credits his teammates for the most.

"That's solely on our guards," he remarked. "They played amazing. Our forwards and guards really took advantage of that, and I mean, anyone could have scored with the passes they were giving to me. They placed the ball in the perfect spot where I was able to be effective."

With the win ASU improved to 9-20 on the season, 5-12 in conference play. They'll wrap up the regular season next weekend as they play host to rival Arizona in Tempe. Despite a lackluster season, there would be no better way to end things than with a surprising win over a UA team hoping to squeak into the NCAA tournament.

"USC has had some tough injuries this year, and they might be injured, but they're still playing with their pride," said Bachynski. "They're playing hard, they're playing strong. I don't think they get enough credit for what they do. That's a tough situation they're in and they're working hard.

"And that's great preparation for Arizona because they're working really hard. And I think if we continue to work hard, and if we're able to cut down on our turnovers, and if we're able to continue to crash the boards and get rebounds like we have been, I think we're going to have a great chance."

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