Sun Devils beat No. 23 USC to earn consecutive wins in Pac-12 for first time this season

Behind Tra Holder's 20-point performance and a 17-point night for Savon Goodman, the Sun Devils posted their second win over a ranked team this season.

With the shot clock winding down and the crowd on its feet yelling in anticipation, Arizona State sophomore guard Tra Holder maneuvered to his right as he lifted up from the top of the three-point arc.

His team up 66-60 over the USC Trojans on Friday night with 1:39 remaining in the game, Holder watched along with the rest of Wells Fargo Arena as his sixth three-point attempt of the night hit glass and banked in, giving the Sun Devils a nine-point cushion and causing a frenzy to ensue in Tempe.

"I'm glad that he (Holder) banked it," ASU head coach Bobby Hurley said. "I don't feel guilty or bad that he banked it. We deserve it.”

Finally, on a night that seemed like almost everything was going ASU’s way, the bank-shot three-pointer from Holder allowed ASU to cash in a 74-67 upset win over No. 23 USC on Friday night in front of 7,772 in attendance.

ASU improved to 14-11 overall, 4-8 in the Pac-12 and the Trojans fell to 18-6, 7-4.

This was ASU’s second win over a ranked team this season after beating then-No. 18 Texas A&M on Dec. 5.

With Friday’s win, ASU has now won back-to-back games this season for the first time since it beat Stephen F. Austin and then CSU Bakersfield in the last week of December. 

USC came into Friday’s game riding a three-game win streak, but is now 1-8 in its last nine trips to Wells Fargo Arena.

"It's a big win for us at this point in the season, to take care of business here," Hurley said. "It's a great feeling. It was a great crowd. There was really good energy, but our defense was unbelievable throughout the entire game." 

Despite the Trojans shooting 51.9 percent from the field in the game, ASU forced the Trojans into 17 turnovers on the night, 11 in the first half alone.

Coming into Friday’s game, the Trojans had five players averaging 12 or more points per game, but against ASU, USC only had three players reach double digits.

The Sun Devils didn’t let USC freshman forward Bennie Boatwright score a single point in the entire game before he fouled out late in the second half. Boatwright was averaging 12.2 points per game.

USC junior forward Nikola Jovanovic had to pick up the slack, leading the way for the Trojans with 25 points, going 11 of 15 shooting for the field, and grabbing down 15 rebounds. 

The Sun Devils’ first half defense set the tone for the rest of the night. While ASU trailed USC 30-27 at halftime, Hurley said he told his players at halftime he knew the team was going to get it done and win.  

"He was saying the he felt that the whole week,” ASU senior guard Gerry Blakes said. “Even at halftime he said he wasn’t panicking and we were in a good position. 

Hurley’s instincts were correct. Out of the gates in the second half, ASU went on a 10-5 run against the Trojans and never trailed again.

Even when a late push by the Trojans’ got them to within three points with 3:57 remaining in the second half, the Sun Devils fought back and pushed the lead to nine points in less than two and a half minutes.

Hurley said he felt confident in his team’s defensive abilities for the entire game and knew offensively, they could turn it around and do better in the second half.

Leading the way offensively for ASU was Holder who scored 20 points off 6 of 10 shooting from the field and junior forward Savon Goodman who scored 17 points on 8 of 10 attempts from the field.

Goodman’s 17 points were his highest since scoring 23 points in ASU’s win over Creighton on Dec. 2.

"I'm really proud of Savon and happy with his effort," Hurley said.  "I had a feeling he was sitting on a game like this, and he's had a great week of practice playing with great energy, he was the best player in practice all week so I'm not surprised he had the numbers he put up for us tonight."

Offensively in the first half, the Sun Devils struggled, going 11 of 33 shooting from the field and 4 of 15 from three-point range. By only the nine-minute mark in the first half, ASU had already attempted 11 three-pointers and three had fell in.

"There were a couple (three-pointers) that were sketchy in terms of shot selection," Hurley said. "But I thought some of them were open and if you are open then you have to take them and I think that we're capable of making them.”

From the charity stripe, ASU faltered as well, only converting 1 of 7 in the first half and finished 16 of 26. Goodman went 0 of 4 from the free-throw line in the first half.

In an equally bad first half, USC was 15 of 26 from the field, but only attempted one three-pointer. And while both of the teams started off the game cold -- with ASU’s first five of seven shots being missed three-pointers -- both teams found their rhythms in the second half, just ASU moreso than the Trojans.

"We're now on a two-game winning streak, but we wash both of the wins out and we have to start fresh," Blakes said. "Our backs are still against the wall, but we have a big challenge coming up on Sunday (against UCLA)." 

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