Arizona State hopes to bounce back vs. surging USC

NCAA Basketball

Arizona State is coming off an overtime loss to UCLA, its first game in nearly a month because of COVID-19 complications, and the Sun Devils were without four scholarship players including captain Remy Martin.

USC is on a high after subduing Arizona 87-73, its first win at McKale Center in Tucson since 2008.

The Sun Devils (4-4, 1-1 Pac-12) host the Trojans (7-2, 2-1) on Saturday and it’s uncertain if Martin will return in time from the funeral of his grandfather.

Taeshon Cherry and Jaelen House were also both unavailable against UCLA because of COVID-19 contact tracing, and Jalen Graham was also out due to mononucleosis. All three are expected to miss the game against USC.

Four of ASU’s players logged at least 40 minutes against UCLA and two other Sun Devils fouled out, leaving only six scholarship players available through most of the overtime.

“Just proud of my team’s effort, thought we battled extremely hard,” ASU coach Bobby Hurley said. “To be short-handed: to compete the way we did, I thought was very honorable despite all the adversity that we were facing.”

ASU previously played on Dec. 16 because COVID-19 caused the cancellation or postponement of games against Incarnate Word, Utah, Washington State and Washington.

Josh Christopher continued to be a top Pac-12 Freshman of the Year candidate with 22 points and 11 rebounds against UCLA. Alonzo Verge Jr., who had 25 points, scored 16 in the second half, including two crucial free throws with five seconds left to send the game into overtime.

USC’s 7-footer Evan Mobley, another freshman standout, scored 12 points after halftime, finishing with 19 points and 11 rebounds in the win over Arizona. He hit 7 of 13 field goal attempts and 5 of 6 foul shots with two steals and a blocked shot.

“Very proud of Evan because people forget he’s very talented but he’s still a freshman,” USC coach Andy Enfield said. “He grew up, he played a much better basketball game against a very physical team.”

What must be a concern for Hurley, who coaches a guard-laden team, is the way USC’s guards shut down Arizona’s James Akinjo and Jemarl Baker Jr. They entered the game averaging a combined 27.9 points. They finished with only three points while making 1 of 16 shots from the field.

Isaiah White finished with 22 points for the Trojans making 3 of 5 from beyond the arc.

–Field Level Media

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