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USC Eyes Best Start in Nearly 50 Years

Trojans Need Win at Arizona State to Improve to 19-3 for First Time Since 1974

Although there have been some recent stumbles after a 13-0 start, the 19th-ranked Southern California Trojans can match their best start since 1974 with a win at Arizona State.

USC leads the Pac-12 with six road wins while Arizona State is just 4-4 at home. the Trojans won the first matchup 78-56 on Jan. 24.

USC vs Arizona State: Live Stream, Odds, Picks & Predictions 2022

Arizona State has proven its ability to win close games, going 15-7 in two-possession contests in conference play over the last three seasons, so USC will need to take command of this game early to keep the upset thoughts out of the head of the Sun Devils.

Southern California’s odds to win the Pac-12 title has fallen to +1500. The Trojans have the same odds to reach the Final Four according to the odds to win March Madness.

  • Game: Southern California (18-3) at Arizona State (6-12)
  • Location: Desert Financial Arena, Tempe, Arizona
  • Day/Time: Thursday, 11 p.m. ET
  • Television: ESPN2

USC Trojans at Arizona State Sun Devils

Visitors Need to Rebound

If there is one trend that the USC Trojans would like to put an end to sooner rather than later, it is the recent run of slow starts.

USC was trailing five minutes into the game in each of its last seven games. It started with a 14-10 deficit at home against Oregon State. The Trojans didn’t take the lead until midway through the second half. The next time out, an 18-8 deficit to Oregon proved to be too much to overcome. In the last five games, the Trojans trailed Colorado by four points, Utah by one, Arizona State by eight, Stanford by nine and California by three.

The good news for USC is that it heated up from the perimeter. Against Utah, it was back-to-back 3-pointers from Boogie Ellis that put the Trojans in front. The Sun Devils pushed their lead to 22-10 before USC connected on four 3-pointers in a span of 1:34 to tie the game. It was a Drew Peterson 3-pointer with 4:35 to go in the first half to propel the Trojans into the lead against Stanford, although the Trojans ultimately lost by three.

The good news is that Southern California was able to correct its course against some of the weaker teams in the conference, but with some tough matchups on the horizon, that could be a risky way of doing business.

“We can’t come out flat anymore,” USC forward Isaiah Mobley said. “We need to fix what we need to fix and move forward.”

A key to these comebacks has been the strong all-around play of Mobley, who joins Wisconsin’s Johnny Davis, North Carolina State’s Dereon Seabron and Alondes Williams of Wake Forest as the only players from the Power-5 conferences to lead his team in scoring, rebounding and assists.

The total listed by the Las Vegas odds have gone over in six of the last nine games.

Graham Coming on Strong for ASU

There are plenty of reasons why Arizona State is sitting in ninth place in the Pac-12 standings. A lack of offense has certainly contributed to the Sun Devils’ struggles.

ASU has been looking for players to step up to help DJ Horne and Kimani Lawrence provide offense on a regular basis. It hasn’t helped that Marcus Bagley, who had 30 points in the first two games of the season, hasn’t played since Nov. 15 due to a knee injury.

Junior Jalen Graham has been doing his part to try to add some secondary scoring. After going eight straight games and averaging 2.6 points on 35 percent shooting, Graham has kicked it up a notch. He had five straight double-digit scoring games and is averaging 11.3 points on 51 percent shooting over the last six contests.

Graham has been rewarded with more playing time. He played at least 20 minutes just five times in the first 11 games in which he has appeared, but he been out on the court for at least 20 minutes in four of the last five contests.

He had the game-winning basket in a 64-62 win over Utah earlier this month.

“That kid means a lot to me,” Arizona State coach Bob Hurley said after the Utah game. “He and I have built a good relationship this year, we sat down and talked just about the whole season, and it hasn’t been easy for him. We both came into this year with high hopes and we haven’t lived up to what he had hoped for, so it was kind of more let’s try and take advantage of every moment we have the rest of the way this year.

“I could tell in his body language and how he communicated leading into the Colorado game, I wasn’t even sure if he was gonna still be able to play because he’s been under the weather. We made that commitment to each other and he’s more than honored it so far.”

Arizona State is 7-3 against college basketball spreads in its last 10 games.

Arizona State Hopes to Slow USC

Arizona State is third in Pac-12 in field goal percentage defense, allowing 39.6 shooting, but that will be tested by USC, which is second in the conference at 46.2 percent.

USC has covered in its last seven games against Arizona State and could make it eight in a row as a 5½-point favorite on the road. It is certainly a number that those who bet online are jumping all over.

Arizona State has won seven of the last eight home games against the Trojans while 13 of the last 15 games between the teams have gone under the total.

Pick: Under 135

Pick: Southern California Trojans -5½

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