Despite squandering a nine point lead with less than three minutes remaining in regulation, the Sun Devils (15-4, 4-2) were able to hold off the Trojans (8-12, 3-4) in overtime behind a spectacular 28 point performance by shooting guard Evan Gordon.
USC used a 14-5 run to close out the second half, including 3 three point baskets in the final 22 seconds of regulation and a game-tying heave by Jic Fontan with less than a second to go to force overtime. In the end though, the Sun Devils and Gordon proved to be too much for the Trojans, outscoring USC 13-8 in the extra frame to seal the win.
"Can you believe what we just witnessed out there," exclaimed an exhausted Herb Sendek afterwards. "I mean, that was incredible. The shots that those two guards were making, I mean, I'm still mesmerized."
For the game, the Trojans knocked down 15 of their 28 three point attempts to keep pace with the Sun Devils, in an up and down contest that featured four players scoring in double figures for each team.
Gordon led the way for the Sun Devils, notching his third consecutive strong game after previously struggling. His 28 points on 9-16 were a game-high, which also included some timely free throws down the stretch to ice the game.
"Just playing with confidence," said Gordon of his recent play. "We're playing as a team more the last three games even though they've been tougher games, against Oregon and UofA, but I guess I'm coming around and shaking off the rust."
Despite a slow start, freshman Jahii Carson poured in 21 points - his fourth consecutive 20 point game - to go along with eight assists.
"That's definitely the type of style that we like to play," he said with a smile. "Except for them scoring as much as us. That's a fast tempo game. We like teams that try to run up and down with us because that plays into our hands but tonight they were being able to compete and keep themselves in the game.
"On our end, we like to definitely run up and down the court, score a lot of buckets, hit a lot of threes, get a lot of buckets in transition, but on the defensive end we've got to stop them from scoring."
Both Carrick Felix and Jon Gilling registered double-doubles in the win. Felix bounced back from a disappointing showing against Arizona last Saturday with 16 points and 10 rebounds while Gilling added 13 points and 11 rebounds of his own.
Perhaps one of the biggest contributors of the night though was none other than senior center Ruslan Pateev, who totaled eight points and five rebounds off the bench in 23 minutes of action.
Not only did Pateev provide Bachynski with plenty of rest in a fast tempo, guard orientated match-up, but his energy and defense down the stretch and in overtime gave the Sun Devils the boost they sorely needed.
"Ruslan, in practice and in the last couple of games, has been a key guy for us," said Gordon. "He's coming off the bench and struggled in the beginning of the year like I did but just came to practice everyday with a good attitude and he's just one of those guys you can always rely on, whether it's basketball or just anything.
"With him playing limited minutes behind Jordan, I think when he gets his opportunity, he's someone we can lean on."
On a night when the Sun Devils only made 25-36 free throw attempts, Pateev made arguably the two biggest by sinking a pair with 1:38 to go in overtime to give ASU a four point lead they would not relinquish.
"He didn't get off to the best of starts in his senior year," commented Sendek on Pateev. "In fact there were some guys where he didn't play. Yet, I think he's taught us all great lessons how to be unconditionally in, how to keep persevering and I mean his two free throws that he made down the stretch were maybe as big as any two points we had and I don't know if we win without him."
With four Sun Devils logging more than 40 minutes of playing time, the team won't have much time to rest as they take on UCLA Saturday at 2 p.m. The Bruins knocked off Arizona on Thursday as well, setting up a pivotal game for both squads as they jockey for position in the Pac-12 race.
"With them beating the 'Cats gives them an extra boost and with us losing to them, that gives us a lower boost," said Carson. "We just got the win here and they just got the win there, so we're both feeling confident so if we can get a win against UCLA our confidence is going to go through the roof."