Sunday in Tempe, ASU basketball finished the job, topping University of Southern California 83-82 and ending a two-game skid in the process.
The Sun Devils (14-16, 7-10 Pac-12) once again came out hot from distance, sinking its first four three-pointers and jumping out to a quick lead. The hottest of the bunch was junior guard Kodi Justice, who ended up with a career performance.
Following up a 19-point outing against UCLA Thursday, the most points he'd ever scored in a conference game, Justice knocked down his first four shots on Sunday, all from beyond the arch.
He kept his hot shooting going into the second half, as well, pacing the Sun Devils with 10 points in the final 20 minutes.
But aside from his monster shooting night, head coach Bobby Hurley appreciates Justice for his lesser noticed qualities, like guarding post players from time to time despite standing at just 6 foot 5 inches.
"He's so much more than that," Hurley said. "He's got so much heart and plays with great communication."
Despite Justice's offensive explosion, the Sun Devils still found themselves nearly out of the game, down 10 points with 3:55 left in the ballgame. A tough spot, but one they'd been in before.
On Jan. 22, ASU trailed this same USC team by 11 points before going on a run and having a chance to win in the final seconds. But the rally to came to an end as junior guard Shannon Evans' last-second shot came up just short.
This time, ASU employed a similar strategy on both ends, starting with a full-court press.
"We went to a press and they turned the ball over two or three times," Justice said. "We were kind of waiting for the moment to use it if we were going to be down and we were down and we used it."
First it was a pair of free throws by senior forward Obinna Oleka.
Then Evans knocked down a shot from long range just 12 seconds later. Five-point game.
ASU was scoreless nearly two minutes following the Evans shot, its odds of winning dwindling with every second that ticked off the clock.
Then came the flurry.
A layup by junior guard Tra Holder was followed up by a missed free throw by junior guard Elijah Stewart. Then it was a deep three-pointer by Justice to cut ASU's deficit to one point with 15 seconds left, leading USC coach Andy Enfield to call timeout.
In the huddle, Hurley said, there were two scenarios discussed: if ASU caught the inbound and if USC caught the inbound.
"We just let them know we don't need a three here because it's a one-point game and if we have something inside the line, that's ok," Hurley said.
Then senior guard Torian Graham stole the pass and fed it to Holder, who went hard to the basket and was fouled with 6.9 seconds on the clock.
"When it's a broken play like that, your best chance is to do exactly what we did," Hurley said. "Attack off the dribble before they can really get set or know what's going on."
Despite a less than stellar second half shooting performance, the ball was in Holder's hands heading to the basket.
"I had complete confidence that he was going to step up there," Hurley said. "He had the look in his eye... He had that resilience, that toughness."
"Somebody had said something to me in the stands," Holder said. "I was just ready to celebrate and kind of prove him wrong. I was in that situation before and I knew I was going to make them."
And he did just that, sinking both shots, giving ASU a one-point lead and an eventual win, despite an open shot by USC sophomore forward Bennie Boatwright as time expired.
"It's big," Justice said of the win. "Especially with the Tournament coming in a week or so, where every game matters."
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