ASU men's basketball defeats USC 98-93 in marathon game
ASU coach Herb Sendek didn’t have his jacket or his tie on during his postgame press conference.
“No jacket, no blazer — just some B.O.,” Sendek said.
The game he just coached took everything he had out of him.
It took a miraculous comeback, an overtime period and 141 points by both teams for ASU to separate from USC 98-93 Thursday at Wells Fargo Arena.
The Sun Devils (15-4, 4-2 Pac-12) went with senior center Ruslan Pateev for the last 3:35 in overtime and the decision paid off.
Pateev made two clutch free throws to push ASU’s lead to 95-91 with 1:38 left in overtime. Pateev finished with eight points, five rebounds and three blocks.
“His two free throws he made down the stretch were maybe as big as any two points we had," Sendek said. "I don’t know if we don’t win without him.”
It was just as strange to see Pateev ring the victory bell after the game, as it was to see the Trojans (8-12, 3-4 Pac-12) somehow tie the game.
The Sun Devils were up 80-71 with 2:51 left in the game when the Trojans went on a 14-5 run. USC junior guard J.T. Terrell sunk consecutive three pointers that were good behind the NBA three-point line to bring USC down one possession.
Senior guard Jio Fontan tied the game on a well-contested prayer at the top of the key that found the bottom of the net.
The Trojans shot 49.3 percent and went 15-28 on three-pointers. Fontan had a team-high 25 points while Terrell finished with 20 points.
“Are you kidding me?” Sendek said. “Can you believe what we just witnessed out there? That was incredible. The shots that those two guards were making, I mean, I’m still mesmerized.”
The USC comeback was made possible by ASU’s inability to sink free throws at the end of the game.
Redshirt freshman point guard Jahii Carson missed two free throws while senior wing Carrick Felix missed one. They made 69.4 percent of their free throws Thursday.
“We haven’t been a very good free throw shooting team all season, and it’s made it a lot more difficult for us,” Sendek said.
The Sun Devils withstood the comeback and outscored USC 13-8 during the overtime period. They shot 50.8 percent from the floor and had five players in double digits.
Junior guard Evan Gordon had five of his game-high 28 points in overtime. He sunk two free throws with four seconds left to give ASU the five point lead and eliminate another comeback possibility.
“We knew we confident in winning,” Gordon said. “Those were tough shots. If they’re going to hit those, we knew they couldn’t make enough of those to win the game. When we went to the huddle, we just said stop them every time in overtime and push the lead out.”
Gordon, Carson, Felix and sophomore forward Jonathan Gilling played over 40 minutes in the game.
The Sun Devils were without senior guard Chris Colvin once again. He was suspended for violating team rules last week.
Carson contributed 21 points and eight assists. Felix bounced back from his five-point performance against UA and had 16 points and 10 rebounds. Gilling had 13 points, 11 rebounds and six assists.
“We need a couple of those games so we’ll be ready if we come down to the clutch like that again, we’ve got some experience,” Carson said.
The Sun Devils will have another tough matchup Saturday against UCLA. The Bruins defeated the Wildcats 84-73 in Tucson.
“With them beating the ‘Cats, that gives them an extra boost and with us losing to them that gives us a little boost,” Carson said. “They just got the win there. We just got the win here. We’re both feeling confident so if we can get a win against UCLA, our confidence is going to go through the roof.”
Reach the reporter at firstname.lastname@example.org