USC Preview

The tension surrounding ASU athletics is palpable with football signing day less than two weeks away and the basketball team dropping two straight after a hot start. The Arizona State Sun Devils will look to return to their winning ways against the USC Trojans on Thursday night at Wells Fargo Arena.

Last week, USC played two incredibly tight games against the Oregon schools with a two-point loss to #21 Oregon before sneaking out with a one-point victory against Oregon State. The Trojans were balanced as J.T. Terrell led the squad with 20 points in the Oregon loss while Byron Wesley poured in 19 in the victory over OSU. USC's leading scorer, Eric Wise had 17 and 18 points in each game respectively.

Arizona State's winning ways were brought to a halt against Oregon in a tough loss on the road and #6 Arizona won emphatically in Tempe, 71-54 to extend the Sun Devils' losing streak to two games. Jahii Carson's impact to the Sun Devils was pronounced when he battled with foul trouble all game and Arizona's Mark Lyons attacked Carson and ASU to the tune of 24 points at Carson's expense. On the flip side, the Devils would have been walloped even harder had it not been for Carson's 22 points. Evan Gordon dumped in 14 points with no other Sun Devils over six points. Carrick Felix and Jordan Bachynski combined to score just 8 points on 2-13 shooting and 10 turnovers.

This weekend's slate of games looms large for the Sun Devils as USC provides ASU a very winnable matchup before facing UCLA in what will undoubtedly prove to be a tougher test. For ASU, a sweep would forgive the losses to Oregon and Arizona altogether while a split would at least keep the Sun Devils heads above water. Losing both games would put Herb Sendek behind the proverbial eight-ball.

Head Coach:

Bob Cantu: Interim Coach; Kevin O'Neill fired on January 14

Herb Sendek: 7th season at ASU – 112-99; 366-267 career

Projected Starters: G – Jio Fontan (14.6 PPG, 3.3 APG) vs. Jahii Carson (17.3 PPG, 5.2 APG)

G – JT Terrell (10.1 PPG, 32% 3PT) vs. Evan Gordon (10.1 PPG, 36% 3PT)

F – Byron Wesley (9.8 PPG, 4.2 RPG) vs. Carrick Felix (14.6 PPG, 7.9 RPG)

F – Eric Wise (12.5 PPG, 4.9 RPG) vs. Jon Gilling (9.4 PPG, 6.8 RPG)

C – Omar Oraby (7.3 PPG, 4.1 RPG) vs. Jordan Bachynski (9.9 PPG, 4.4 BPG)

Why USC Can Win: Depth and confidence are two things going in the Trojans favor right now over ASU. With Chris Colvin suspended, the Sun Devils really only have a six-man rotation until someone else steps up. The lack of depth reared its ugly head in the worst way against Arizona and until Colvin returns, it will hamper ASU. For USC, there are eight players averaging more than 12 minutes per game. As for confidence, ASU has lost two straight while the Trojans have won two of three with the loss coming by only a bucket. This is a team that lost seven of eight at one point including a loss to lowly UC Irvine. Since then, USC has gone 4-3 with all three losses coming by eight points or less. In terms of X's and O's – the balanced trio of Wise, Wesley and Terrell can light up the scoreboard while Jio Fontan's season-long slump will eventually break and his impact running the point cannot be understated.

Why ASU Can Win: The two best players on the court Thursday night will be Jahii Carson and Carrick Felix. Carson is turning in one of the finest freshman campaigns in the country while Felix's game has elevated to a high level in his senior campaign and gives you a better idea as to why he was the first JUCO player ever offered by Duke. With Jahii and Felix turning the jets on, the rest of the Sun Devils need to keep up the pace. Bachynski has to respond with a strong game after a dud against Arizona while Evan Gordon and Jon Gilling need to make the open three. This team is not good enough to rely on one or two players at a time to win basketball games in Pac-12 play.

Key Stat: 10.2/79%; when the game is on the line, JC is there. Jahii Carson is averaging 10.1 points in the second half including 61-of-77 (.792) from the free throw line. Not bad for a freshman.

X-Factor: Jordan Bachynski; when you are standing 86 inches above the Earth, it is evident that the basketball gods smiled wide on you but implementing that size to your advantage requires additional work. Jordan Bachynski has shown flashes of absolute dominance. He has shown an aggressive albeit controlled demeanor that can score at will in the paint and give ASU a dangerous inside-out presence. He has also not shown anything at all. Against Arizona's youthful front line, Bachynski looked completely outclassed. If Bachynski can find that rage to succeed inside of him, Arizona State will be successful. Simple as that.

Final Score: ASU 71 USC 60

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