Jose Perez enthusiastically hypes up Frankie Collins after one of USC Trojans’ season-high 22 turnovers. (Photo by Bennett Silvyn/Cronkite News)
TEMPE – In a spectacular turnout Saturday, Desert Financial Arena witnessed a regular season-high crowd of 13,746 fans and the second-largest student crowd (4,325) in program history.
The nearly packed arena gathered for the noon tipoff to catch a glimpse of USC freshman Bronny James, the son of NBA star Lebron James, as he made his third collegiate start during the Arizona State men’s basketball program’s hot start to conference play.
“Shoutout to our crowd and our students today,” ASU coach Bobby Hurley said. “I’m really excited for the opportunity our players had to play in that environment.”
The Sun Devils did not disappoint the Sun Devil faithful from start to finish, as Hurley’s team swarmed the Trojans with a showcase of unwavering defense that held James to seven points on 3-for-6 shooting. By the final buzzer, ASU forced 22 turnovers that translated to 24 points and 27 fast-break points. USC also struggled with 4-for-15 shooting from 3-point range.
“We don’t really want to run a half-court offense if we don’t have to,” ASU guard Jamiya Neal said during the postgame press conference. “We rather get out and show our athleticism, talent and skill. Defense is offense to us, that is what we preach.
“There is no better way to score than getting out in transition, getting steals and getting out quick.”
Sun Devils guard Frankie Collins took charge with six steals to provide the team and the packed crowd with a burst of energy.
The tenacious defense combined with the efforts of four double-digit scorers, especially Jose Prez’s impressive 20-point performance, resulted in a total of 82 points – tied for the second-highest this season behind an 84-point performance in a road loss to San Diego in December.
“If it’s one-on-one, I don’t think there’s anybody that can stay (with me) one-on-one,” Perez said.
Despite the high-spirited crowd energy and offensive struggles, USC managed to keep the game close. The Trojans trailed only 67-60 as the final eight minutes approached behind a strong defensive presence that included five blocks. On offense, they scored 34 points in the paint.
The Sun Devils responded with a decisive 15-7 run late in the second half that firmly closed the door on the Trojans. ASU maintained a double-digit lead for the final six and a half minutes to secure a triumphant 82-67 victory.
Locked in a tie for first place in the Pac-12 alongside Arizona (14-4 overall, 5-2 in Pac-12) and Oregon (13-5, 5-2), ASU (11-7, 5-2) heads to Eugene for a crucial face-off Thursday against the Ducks in a battle for the top spot.