USC defeats Arizona State in nail-biting Senior Night victory

The Trojans cooled the Sun Devils to a 23% shooting percentage in the first half to solidify their place in the NCAA tournament.

Boogie drives into the lane.

After losing against Arizona, USC knew it had to bounce back against Arizona State. A second loss in a week at Galen Center might have jeopardized the Trojans’ chances of making the NCAA tournament.

Instead, the Trojans narrowly escaped the Sun Devils’ second-half comeback in a 68-65 victory.

“It was a great win for us,” Head Coach Andy Enfield said. “I can’t say enough about the improvement this team has made. One of the most improved teams we’ve ever had here in ten years.”

On Senior Night, the packed Galen Center crowd of 8,671 honored senior guard Boogie Ellis and fifth-year guard Drew Peterson.

“It was definitely a blessing to play at a high level at Galen Center,” Ellis said. “Tonight, it was a great environment.”

Ellis led all players with 28 points after scoring a career-high 35 against Arizona.

Meanwhile, Peterson scored 9 points while playing through a back injury. The former Rice Owl did not know if he was going to play until the hours leading up to tip-off.

“I told everybody at shootaround I wasn’t playing,” Peterson said. “Between that time and the game, I just gutted it out.”

Aside from Ellis and Peterson, the Trojans’ bench shined despite missing freshman forward Vincent Iwuchukwu to a back injury and sophomore guard Malik Thomas due to personal reasons, according to Enfield. USC received 23 points from the bench compared to Arizona State’s 6.

“[Our bench] was a big part of the game,” Enfield said. “For those guys to perform like they did tonight was a huge reason why we won the game.”

On defense, the Trojans limited the Sun Devils to just 23% from field-goal range prior to halftime. Arizona State’s 20 points in the first half are tied for the lowest number of points scored in a first half this season for the Sun Devils.

“We played great defensively,” Ellis said. “We’ve got guys like Kobe in passing lanes, contesting everything. We’ve got Drew’s length, and me being able to put pressure and get steals.”

The Trojans led by as much as 14 in the second half. But in the final six minutes, the lead evaporated.

Sun Devil sophomore guard Frankie Collins’s jumper cut the deficit to as close as 1 with 15 seconds to go. Freshman guard Tre White and redshirt junior forward Joshua Morgan made enough of their free throws to force ASU to take a 3-point shot.

Sun Devil junior guard DJ Horne’s final shot bounced off the rim, sealing the Trojans’ victory.

USC’s regular season ends with a 22-9 overall record and a 14-6 conference record. The Trojans went 15-2 at home and 5-5 on the road.

“I think our team deserves to be in the NCAA tournament,” Enfield said. “And I think Arizona State deserves to be in as well.”

USC will head to Vegas to play in the Pac-12 Tournament. Its first game will be on Thursday at 8:30 pm. After their first-round bye, the Trojans will face the winner of No. 6 Arizona State and No. 11 Oregon State.