USC’s Bennie Boatwright wasn’t about to miss another game-winning 3-point attempt.
The senior forward gave the Trojans their third straight win on a jumper from the top of the key as they rallied for a 69-67 victory over Arizona State on Saturday. Boatwright scored 18 points as USC (12-8, 5-2 Pac-12) moved into a tie for second in the conference going into a Wednesday showdown against league-leading Washington.
“It was a big game for us. We’ve had a lot of ups and downs this year but we have been playing well the last month of the season,” USC coach Andy Enfield said. “Bennie has been playing like the MVP of our league.”
Boatwright came into the game third in the Pac-12 in scoring at 17 points per game. He had made 41 percent of his 3-pointers in conference play but missed a game-winning attempt in an overtime loss at Oregon State on Jan. 10.
“Derryck (Thornton) did a great job of bringing the man down, Jonah (Mathews) set me a good screen and I got a good look at it and was able to knock it down,” Boatwright said.
Arizona State (14-6, 5-3) led 67-66 with 24 seconds remaining when Zylan Cheatham missed the front end of a bonus. Kevin Porter Jr. got the rebound and passed it to Thornton, who brought the ball up court before Boatwright was able to get open.
Remy Martin missed a 3-pointer on the ensuing trip and Mathews got the rebound. Mathews missed the front end of a bonus and the Sun Devils called a timeout with 0.8 seconds remaining. Luguentz Dort missed a 3-pointer at the buzzer.
“He’s one of the better players in the league and in a big spot he made a big shot,” Arizona State coach Bobby Hurley said.
The Trojans were able to rally despite their top two scorers — Boatwright and Nick Rakocevic — each having four fouls midway through the second half. Rakocevic scored 15 points before fouling out with 1:35 remaining. Shaqquan Aaron added 13 and Mathews 11.
Romello White led the Sun Devils with 11 points and Kimani Lawrence, Zylan Cheatham and Martin scored 10 apiece.
A pair of Dort free throws gave Arizona State a 44-39 advantage when the Trojans (12-8, 5-2) scored 13 straight points. USC was 6 of 8 from the field and forced five turnovers as Thornton and Rakocevic scored four apiece. Rakocevic’s layup off a Thornton assist gave the Trojans a 52-44 lead with 13:33 remaining.
USC led 62-57 with 6:31 remaining when the Sun Devils took the lead with eight straight points by Martin, including a pair of 3-pointers. Rakocevic scored four straight points to put the Trojans back on top with 1:46 remaining but he fouled Dort in the paint on the ensuing possession. Dort made both free throws to make it 67-66 with 1:35 left.
Arizona State led 38-35 at the half as there were six ties and five lead changes in the first 20 minutes.
Arizona State: The Sun Devils remain one of three Pac-12 teams that haven’t posted a road sweep since the conference expanded in 2011-12. They have not swept the Los Angeles portion of the trip since 1987.
USC: The Trojans held Arizona State to 30.6 percent from the field (19 of 62). In the last three games — wins over UCLA, Arizona and Arizona State — USC has held opponents to 33.2 percent (68 of 205).
BATTLE OF THE BOARDS
The game was a matchup of the top two rebounders in the Pac-12. Cheatham, who came into the game leading the conference with 10.2 boards per game, finished with 14 and got his eighth double-double of the season while Rakocevic, who was second at 9.8, had nine and just missed his third straight double-double.
There was a 1:40 stretch midway in the second half when Boatwright and Rakocevic were both on the bench and Arizona State wasn’t able to take the lead. The Trojans were up by as many as six before the Sun Devils went on a 7-1 run to get within 58-57 with 8:54 remaining. Enfield called a timeout and put both players back in.
“We were doing some really bad things out there. ... We didn’t take advantage,” Hurley said.
Arizona State: Begins a stretch of three straight home games against Arizona on Thursday.
USC: Hits the road for its next two, starting against Washington on Wednesday.