NCAA Tournament bonafides at stake for USC, ASU

Pac-12 Conference counterparts Arizona State and Southern California come into the regular-season finale Saturday in Los Angeles each needing a win for their NCAA Tournament at-large resumes.

USC (21-9, 13-6 Pac-12) saw its 14-game home-court winning streak snapped on Thursday in an 87-81 loss to Arizona, a setback that dropped the Trojans’ NCAA NET ranking from No. 44 to No. 50.

USC scored 50 second-half points in the loss, but that was only enough to halve its deficit at halftime. The Trojans’ struggles to keep pace with Arizona in the first half denied them a marquee win as firm bubble candidates for this month’s NCAA Tournament selection.

“We have a huge game Saturday,” USC coach Andy Enfield said in his postgame press conference. “We have to prepare, starting [Thursday night] or [Friday] very early for Arizona State, who’s an exceptional team and very talented. So, Saturday is a big game. I won’t think about this game [vs. Arizona] after I wake up at 5 in the morning.”

Arizona State (20-10, 11-8) missed its own opportunity to secure a resume win, losing Thursday at fourth-ranked UCLA, 79-61. The Sun Devils – coming off a big win Feb. 25 at Arizona in which Desmond Cambridge Jr. hit a three-quarter-court shot at the buzzer – jumped in front of the Bruins 12-2, but were dominated the rest of the way.

Arizona State gave up 29 points off turnovers, was outscored in the paint 36-22, and managed just 9-of-25 shooting from the floor in the second half. The Sun Devils’ NET ranking was unchanged, but at No. 63, they are in a tenuous spot down the stretch.

“There’s no team in the country that would probably have a harder finish than we’ve had in the last three games,” Sun Devils coach Bobby Hurley said in his postgame press conference on Thursday. “So we just got to get back to the drawing board and get ready to go all in on Saturday.”

Arizona State rallied from down as many as 24 points before falling short, 77-69, in its Jan. 21 meeting with USC. Drew Peterson scored 19 points and Boogie Ellis went for 18 to lead the Trojans in that contest.

Warren Washington finished with 21 points, eight rebounds, two blocked shots and two steals for Arizona State against USC.

–Field Level Media