Sun Devils Swept by L.A. Schools

USC's 67-53 win over Arizona State provided a painful reminder to the Sun Devil faithful: If James Harden is not 100% healthy, let alone not on the floor, the chances of winning a game are literally reduced to none. Harden's fourth foul with just under four minutes gone in the second half produced a 15-2 Trojan run which sealed the game's fate and saw ASU suffer their fifth straight loss.

James Harden's three-point play at the 14:35 mark gave Arizona State (14-7, 4-5 Pac-10) an 11-7 lead. However, the Sun Devil deficiencies never allowed the margin to increase beyond four points. Sloppy passing gave USC (14-7, 5-4) more opportunities on offense and the primary beneficiary of those chances was the Trojans' Taj Gibson. The forward had his way in the paint on both ends of the floor, which frustrated ASU's forward Jeff Pendergraph.

An 8-0 USC run gave the hosts a 15-11 lead with 11:15 to go in the half. Pendergraph started to come alive with two dunks in the waning moments of the opening period and tied the game at 24 apiece at the 2:02 mark. Despite its eight first half turnovers ASU trailed just 30-26 and was probably feeling confident in their chances of snapping their losing streak.

ASU had a nice run in the first few minutes of the second half, and back-to-back three point shots by Harden and Rihards Kuksiks gave the Devils a 36-32 lead with 18:07 left in the game. Harden, who entered the second half with just one foul, picked up another three in the first 3:51 minutes of the period, with the last two coming just 18 seconds apart from each other.

And the rest as they say was history.

Dwight Lewis and O.J. Mayo not only bring back USC in the game, but help build a double digit lead, 51-40, at the 10:11 mark. At that point Harden comes back to the game and helps engineer one last ASU run, 16-5, to bring the deficit down to 56-50, with 2:54 left in the game. During that run ASU head coach Herb Sendek received a technical foul.

Alas the maroon and gold managed just three more points the rest of the way and saw another chance for a streak busting victory go up in flames.

Harden scored 15 of his game-high 26 points in the second half and was near perfect from the field (8-9). Pendergraph added 10 points and a team-high five rebounds. Derek Glasser who started at point guard had a nice stat line with 8 points, 4 rebounds and a game-high 4 assists. O.J. Mayo paced USC with 20 points, while Taj Gibson chipped in with 19 points and seven rebounds.

ASU was out rebounded 29-21 and shot 40% from the field versus USC's 51.1%. The Sun Devils were just 7-20 beyond the arc, with Harden converting 3-4.

The Sun Devils play their third consecutive road game at Arizona a week from Sunday. Arizona, just like ASU, was humbled by UCLA during the weekend, and to say that the Wildcats are looking to avenge their early Pac-10 season loss in Tempe would be an understatement. Tucson may be the toughest venue for the maroon and gold to once again find their winning ways, but every loss that the Sun Devils accumulate obviously has the potential to erode this young team's confidence.

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