Trojans Topple Devils

Los Angeles is a place where for every show business dream that comes true; there are hundreds of others that are crushed. The Sun Devils (16-9, 5-8) came to this city wanting to keep their NCAA post-season tournament hopes alive. Tonight, following their 82-71 loss to USC (10-14, 3-10), and their third defeat in a row, they find themselves feeling empathizing with the many failed actors in tinsel town.

Jason Braxton gave ASU its second and last lead of the game, 4-2, at the 18:32 mark of the first half. Nick Young capped off a 7-0 run by USC that gave the home team an 11-4 lead at the 15:22 mark. Steve Moore's three-point play cut the margin to 17-13 at the 12:20 mark, and despite his team failing to score for nearly four minutes, the Sun Devils were only down 22-15 with 8:46 left in the game. Dewayne Shackelford's three-point basket gave the Trojans a 27-17 lead at the 6:53 mark, but nine points by Kevin Kruger in the closing moments of the first stanza keeps matters close as the Devils trail only 40-37 at halftime.

ASU started the second half frigid, scoring only five points in the first seven minutes, while Young's dunk puts USC back in double-digit lead 52-42 at the 13:47 mark. The Trojans were in control but were never able to put the Sun Devils away just yet, and Kruger's six straight points cut down the margin to 68-64 with 3:21 remaining in the contest. Ike Diogu preservers his nation leading double-digit scoring streak with only two minutes left in the game, but just thirty seconds later Gabriel Pruitt long-range basket gave his team a 74-66 lead. USC made eight straight free throws in the closing moments of the game and crushed any hopes the visitors had to split this Southern California road series.

With his mother watching him for the first time in the stands, Steve Moore lead ASU in scoring for the second straight game with 19 points off the bench, including 4-7 beyond the arc. Kevin Kruger added 17 and a game-high six assists. Diogu collected 12 points, but was only 3-10 from the field. Serge Angounou was the only other Sun Devil in double figures with 10, to go along with his team-high nine rebounds. ASU was a miserable 36.1% from the field, which was in sharp contrast to their eight turnovers - two shy from their season low. Their 27 rebounds, on the other hand, did match their season low, as USC tallied 35 boards of their own. Pruitt lead the Trojans with 15 points.

Not even a home win against Oregon State, ASU's next opponent this coming Thursday, can greatly enhance the Sun Devils' chances of making it to the big dance. The damage is all but irreparable. If Rob Evans' squad qualifies for the Pac-10 tournament, which is far from being a guarantee, it will need to shock the basketball world and win that event in order to go dancing in March. Truth be told, that even the most optimistic maroon and gold fan cannot even remotely entertain that scenario.

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