USC gets ranked in the top 25 right before going on an important road trip and comes up with a flat performance that sees them fall. The Trojans lost to Arizona State, 74-67, Friday evening at the Wells Fargo Arena.
They turned the ball over, didn't rebound and didn't play good second half defense. That combined with 20 points from Tra Holder negated a big night from Nikola Jovanovic, who scored 25 points on 11-of-15 shooting and grabbed 15 rebounds.
USC shot a strong 51.9 percent, but made just 2-of-11 three-point attempts and turned the ball over 17 times. Arizona State came out hot in the second half and erased a 30-27 halftime deficit by making 50 percent of their second half shots. The Sun Devils also outrebounded USC, 19-16 in the second half and finished the game with 16 offensive rebounds.
Here's three takeaways from USC's loss in Tempe Friday:
Give It Away Now
The Trojans started slowly, scoring just two points before the first media timeout. Against UCLA, the Trojans had 14 points before the first media whistle was blown. The primary issue was USC's inability to take care of the basketball. During that initial four-minute stretch, it turned the ball over four times. That was a precursor for the Trojans' ballhandling for the entire game as they committed 18 turnovers. Some of it was playing hard and not being able to fully execute, but there were offensive fouls, stepping out of bounds and lack of concentration mistakes.
USC gave the game away with their inability to control the tempo and control the basketball. The Trojans also likely gave away their top 25 ranking once again with a poor showing on the road. Maybe they just need that chip on their shoulder of not being ranked? Or maybe this team is too young to play on the road. That appears to be the final hurdle for the team to overcome. They've jumped over several, but this one has proved to be too much thus far.
Bennie Boatwright had one of the worst games of his young career. Boatwright was in foul trouble throughout the game and even was charged with a deadball technical foul when he swung his arm behind him in a rebounding situation and hit an Arizona State player above the shoulders. Boatwright played like a freshman and part of it may be stemming from his shooting struggles recently.
Though he had scored in double figures in three of the previous four games, Boatwright was just 4-for-20 on his bread-and-butter three-point attempts. The freshman didn't even attempt a 3-pointer against Arizona State and was 0-for-4 from the floor. Coming down the stretch, Boatwright wasn't even on the floor like he typically is. Instead, Andy Enfield opted to use fellow freshman big man Chimezie Metu for much of the crunch time minutes.
Boatwright fouled out after being held scoreless in 14 minutes of play and when he was on the court USC was -15.
Get A Body On Them
What has been an off-and-on issue throughout the season came back to bite the Trojans once again as they allowed 16 offensive rebounds. USC used a lot of zone defense against Arizona State that doesn't shoot the ball great from the outside. That ended up backfiring even though the Sun Devils only made eight of their 28 three-point atttempts. But they attacked the glass and ate the Trojans up with offensive boards and putbacks.
Even when they were in man defenses, USC struggled rebounding. They weren't focused. Instead of going for box outs, they went for grabbing the ball. Instead of making sure their man couldn't get the rebound and having a teammate grab the board, they tried to do things as individuals.
Savon Goodman and Gerry Blakes both had four offensive rebounds and Goodman finished with 17 points, many of them coming on second chances. For the game, Arizona State had 15 second chance points.
USC has a day off before getting right back to action against Arizona. Though Oregon snapped the Wildcats' 50-game home winning streak recently, the trip to Tucson is an opportunity for USC to make a statement that they can win against a good team in a hostile environment and could be a big resume booster when looking at potential March Madness seeding. Arizona (19-5, 7-4) faces UCLA later Friday night and has a chance to overtake USC and pull within a game of first place Oregon with a win.