USC topped Arizona State 73-64 Saturday evening at Desert Financial Arena, but it certainly wasn't normal.
In a second straight game without guard Jaelen House, forwards Taeshon Cherry and Jalen Graham and preseason All-America guard Remy Martin, the Sun Devils fell into a deep hole in the first half against the 8-2 Trojans, trailing 36-18 with 2:08 remaining.
Woods and fellow guard Alonzo Verge Jr. led the way in scoring for the Sun Devils with 18 and 17 points, respectively.
"The coaches told me to stay confident in my shot," Woods said. "I missed the first two shots I took, but I didn't want to quit, I was trying to get it done on the defensive end and do anything to give us some energy. I didn't want to let the game get away, so I just did what I could, and my teammates helped me defensively. I think we really turned it on in that last four minutes, and that's where we were able to go on that run."
Freshman forward Marcus Bagley key on the defensive end, securing 13 rebounds and blocked two shots.
Despite the 13 rebounds from Bagley, the Sun Devils were outrebounded 50-30 by the Trojans and also had 12 shots blocked. The Mobley brothers, forwards Evan and Isaiah, combined for 27 points, 20 rebounds, and seven blocks for the Trojans. Coach Bobby Hurley attributes some of the offensive struggles to the Trojans' length.
"I thought that their length really bothered us. They're one of the tallest teams that I've seen. [They] blocked 12 shots, altered a lot of other shots. It's really hard to win any game against anybody if you're blocked 12 times, you airball about six times, and you only take 59 shots."
The Sun Devils kept themselves in the game by forcing 16 Trojan turnovers, compared to only nine of their own as well as holding the Pac-12's best three-point shooting team to 3-of-22 (.136) from beyond the arc.
With a 58-56 lead with 7:03 remaining in the game, the Sun Devils could not generate enough offense and did not score until a pair of Verge free throws with 2:35 remaining. A Trojan three-pointer with 1:52 remaining to put the Sun Devils behind 65-61 turned out to be the dagger that handed the Sun Devils their third consecutive loss and fourth loss in five games.
"We had a stretch of 12 minutes [that was] some of the worst [basketball] I've seen on both ends of the court for us," Hurley said of the first half. "Holland [really stepped up during] the last four minutes, refused to let the slide continue, and made a lot of big plays and gave us hope and gave us a chance. You [can] attribute some of it to the fatigue [from] Thursday night's game, but we just didn't have the appropriate energy during that period of time, and then we recovered from it, and it took a lot out of us to recover from that. We just didn't have enough to finish. The game was stuck on 58 for a while, we had a few empty possessions, and now it's kind of a different game late."
The 4-5 Sun Devils will travel to Eugene, OR to take on the No. 17 Oregon Ducks on Thursday, Jan. 14 at 7 p.m. MT.
BOBBY HURLEY QUOTES
On the Sun Devils defense
"We had good energy again at that end of the floor outside of the rebounding piece. I'm not sure if some of it is [because 7'1" Evan Mobley] is just reaching over the top, but we struggled on the backboard again, getting doubled up in that category. But otherwise, creating 16 turnovers was positive [and] we guarded the line well. They had some looks that were pretty decent, but they shot three for 22, so that was another positive defensively."
On playing short-handed
"We're not the team that was in Connecticut, our offense has been an issue, and we haven't been able to generate the points that we need. Not having one of your leading scorers doesn't help that department, and [losing] some other key guys is a factor… [we had our] backs against the wall in both games [against USC and UCLA] [and] showed some grit and toughness. A number of teams could have easily mailed it in when down by 18 in the first half, [but we] figured out a way to charge back and take the lead in the second half and give ourselves chances to win, so I just admire our effort. We tried, [but] we just didn't have enough."