Justice's career-high night leads Sun Devils to 83-82 victory over Trojans

Arizona State snapped a two-game losing streak with the win on Sunday as it heads into its final regular season game of the year against No. 4 Arizona on Saturday.

Arizona State guard Kodi Justice scored a career high 22 points Sunday afternoon and ASU needed every one of them. 

Despite playing with a bandage over his left eye after getting four stitches Saturday to close a gushing wound, Justice nailed six threes on the night, including one game-changing shot with 14 seconds left in the game. 

Clearly, he was seeing the basket just fine. 

Coming off a missed front-end free throw by USC, ASU guard Tra Holder dished a dime to Justice, who buried a three pointer to cut USC's lead to within one, 82-81. USC turned the ball over on the ensuing inbounds play and fouled Holder driving to the basket with 6.9 remaining.

And for the second time this season, Holder converted two free throws to give ASU a victory. 

"He was ice cold about it," ASU head coach Bobby Hurley said. "I had complete confidence he was going to step up there he had that look in his eye."

With the 83-82 win over USC at Wells Fargo Arena, ASU snapped a two-game losing streak and improved to 14-16 overall and 7-10 in Pac-12 play.

In beating USC, the Sun Devils recorded their first win over a team in the top half of the conference. After being picked to finish No. 11 in the Pac-12 media poll before the season, ASU is now No. 7 in the Pac-12 standings with one game left in the regular season - No. 4 Arizona on Saturday. 

"We just kept finding ways," Justice said. "Every time we come together as a team and we stay together, even when we it seems like we might be out, we always for some reason, it clicks and it comes together."

With the loss, the Trojans dropped to 21-8 overall and 8-8 in conference play. USC guard Bennie Boatwright, led the Trojans with 22 points on 8-of-12 shooting from the field. 

USC is now on a four-game losing streak after falling to then No. 5 Oregon, then No. 6 UCLA, No. 4 Arizona and now ASU. USC began the season 14-0, but with its latest losing streak, has hurt its NCAA tournament hopes.

ASU needs to win the Pac-12 Tournament in order to get a NCAA tournament bid so the Sun Devils haven't been playing for much down the stretch, other than pride. 

But Sunday, they showed a lot of it.

Minutes before Holder stepped up to the free throw line to nail the go-ahead free throws, he was apparently heckled by an ASU fan. Taking it personally, Holder said the comments stayed in his mind as he used it as fuel when he went to the line with the game in his hands. 

"I was ready to celebrate and prove him wrong," Holder said. 

Celebrate he did, as Holder and Shannon Evans jumped atop the scorer's table to celebrate with the crowd in the game's immediate aftermath. Holder finished with 18 points on 6-of-13 shooting from the field, 2of-4 from behind the arc. 

"They've compensated and given so much," Hurley said. "They are beyond the point of giving in or giving up. They are ready to play the next game and continue to season as much as we can."

Despite its gritty play throughout the night, ASU looked to be headed to its third-straight loss down 10 points, 81-71, with under three minutes remaining in the second half. But the Sun Devils weren't done yet. 

"Down 10 I'm a confident player and I'm not worried we can't come back," Justice said. "It's making sure everyone else knows what we need to execute because any mistake could put the game out."  

Mistakes were plentiful for USC throughout the night, who turned the ball over 12 times, eight in the first half alone which lead to 20 ASU points. 

The last turnover of the game was the most costly for USC, as ASU senior guard Torian Graham's steal off USC's inbounds play with 12 seconds in the game snatched away USC's hopes of stealing one in Tempe. 

However, other than Graham's steal, Graham was a non-factor Sunday, missing wide-open three-pointers the entire night, including one from the corner with just over a minute remaining that could have cut the game down to a single possession. Graham finished 2-of-12 on the night, 0-of-7 from behind the arc after making 7-of-14 three-pointers Thursday night against UCLA.

But while Graham wasn't able to hit from behind the arc, ASU was hot from three-point range in the first half behind Justice's four 4-of-4 shooting from behind the arc in the first half. ASU cooled off in the second half, only managing to make two three-pointers. 

At halftime, the Trojans were up 48-47 after USC sophomore forward Chimezie Metu grabbed down Evans’ ill-timed shot with six seconds remaining to hit a three-pointer at the buzzer. The Trojans shot 69.2 percent from the field in the first half and finished shooting 56.4 percent from the field.

"The first half we scored well and executed well," Hurley said. "Minus the last minute of the half I thought we should have done a better job than being down one and probably having the lead, but we just fought through a lot of adversity throughout the course of the game and that has been what the team has been about, especially in league play."

ASU split the season series against the Trojans with its win on Sunday. USC beat ASU 82-79 at the Galen Center on Jan. 22. USC has now lost its last five games at Wells Fargo Arena.

"We feel like if we can hang in there defensively that we are very competitive and that was the case again," Hurley said. "I'm thrilled, except probably the weeks or days that this will take off my life that comes with having to go through that game and coach it, but what a great feeling. I feel terrific for the guys that worked so hard and got that type of result." 


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