ASU knocks off USC on Holder’s late basket
TEMPE, Ariz. — Tra Holder wanted the last shot of the game, and after his team had struggled with shooting and free throws all night, he felt confident his fadeaway bank shot was going in.
It did, with less than two seconds to play, and Arizona State scored the last nine points of Thursday night’s game to stun USC 80-78.
The Trojans had the final possession but couldn’t get off a shot from near half-court.
Holder’s 22 points led the Sun Devils (18-6, 6-6 Pac-12 Conference), who won the opener of a two-game conference set for the first time this season after losing five in a row. Shannon Evans added 21 points.
“I probably faded, but I was on balance, I thought,” Holder said of his winner. “I had two feet planted. I threw it to the right a little bit, and I knew it was cash.”
The Sun Devils missed 12 free throws for the game and went five minutes without a field goal late in the second half after cutting the USC lead to one. But USC didn’t score in the final 2:28 and committed three turnovers in that stretch.
“That’s the beauty of this, is that we won a game like this and I think we were far from our best,” Sun Devils coach Bobby Hurley said.
Evans drilled a deep 3 with 50 seconds to play to tie the score at 78. Then Arizona State rebounded a Trojans miss and opted not to call timeout before the winning play.
“Cash,” Evans deadpanned when asked about his shot. “Net. I was just reacting. The ball was going in for me the second half. I had some room.”
The Sun Devils trimmed the USC lead to 67-66 on an Evans 3 with 7:11 to play, but the Trojans had an answer. They scored the next eight points, capped off by Boatwright’s 3 at the 5:02 mark.
Boatwright, who’d struggled to get into a rhythm early in the game, held his follow-through high for the crowd to see as he back-pedaled on defense.
“It’s been tough for us. Definitely the first game of the week, we always tend to lose that one,” Evans said. “To get the first one out the way is good but we’re trying to get two this week.”
The Trojans were out of sorts in the first half, going down 9-2 on a 3-pointer out of the corner from Holder. USC didn’t score for almost six minutes after making its first shot of the game.
But the Trojans rallied to take a 24-20 lead after an 8-0 run. Then Boatwright got hot for USC, and his 3 with 1:05 to go in the half gave the Trojans a 37-29 lead.
Boatwright, a 6-10 junior, scored all 10 of his 12 first-half points in the final 2:40 of the half. Holder had 10 at halftime for the Sun Devils.
“They played hard enough to win but as a team, we made too many mistakes,” USC coach Andy Enfield said. “When you have that many small things, it adds up in a game like this. Our guys played hard and I’m proud of them. We’re going to stick together and try to win on Saturday.”
USC: The Trojans missed a golden opportunity to move into a first-place tie with 13th-ranked Arizona after the Wildcats lost at home to UCLA on Thursday. Now they face the Wildcats in Tucson on Saturday.
Arizona State: After facing UCLA and Arizona, both at home, in its next two games, the Sun Devils finish the conference season with two of their four remaining games against teams near the bottom of the standings — Oregon State and California. Arizona State, with a good run of conference wins, still has a shot at a top-four seed and first round bye in the Pac-12 tournament.
NEED FOR SPEED
IndyCar drivers Tony Kanaan and Simon Pagenaud, in town for local track testing, were the latest celebrity types to be featured in the infamous Curtain of Distraction, a tactic of Arizona State students used to razz opposing free throw shooters.
Arizona State’s Vitaly Shibel entered the game averaging just 1.3 points per game in conference play. But he delivered a powerful two-handed follow dunk of a missed shot just before the halftime buzzer cut USC’s lead to 37-33.
Arizona State won its seventh game of the season after trailing at the half, with three of those wins against Pac-12 opponents.
USC: At No. 13 Arizona on Saturday.
Arizona State: Hosts UCLA on Saturday.
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