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January 10, 2014

Sun Devils get easy road win over USC

LOS ANGELES --The run never came.

Though it had earned nine straight home wins entering Thursday's Pac-12 game against Arizona State, USC was unable to mount any viable second half resistance at Galen Center in a one sided 79-60 rout at the hands of the Sun Devils.

ASU senior center Jordan Bachynski grabbed the necessary rebounds on his way to 12 total and his ninth double-double of the season. Senior wing Shaquille McKissic had a season high six assists, taking advantage of USC's careless treatment of the basketball.

ASU's lead kept building until it was apparent there would be no response. The Sun Devils led by double digits from just about four minutes left in the first half until the game's final buzzer sounded.

The Sun Devils improved to 13-3 overall and 2-1 in Pac-12 play while USC dropped to 9-6 overall and 0-2 in the league.

"I think our defense was the centerpiece tonight," ASU coach Herb Sendek said. "Good defensive numbers all the way around although we didn't really hold (USC wing) Byron Wesley in check, he had 20 (points) and 14 (rebounds)."

The Trojans, conversely, offered very little defensive resistance throughout, and especially during the second half. They sat in a zone even though trailing by a large margin, and even when it didn't appear to give the visitor much of a challenge.

"I think it just comes down to playing team basketball," said Bachynski, who finished with a team-high 20 points to go along with his 12 rebounds. "We moved the ball really well, got everybody involved. We got me involved early, established an inside presence early which opened up the drive game. That's why we were successful, we played as a team."

Backynski's rebounding has really taken off this year and could perhaps even go up a notch after a recent conversation with his coach led to one of his best performances of the season in the category.

"What we finally decided is to not have a block out, because when he was doing that he was more worried about blocking out than getting the ball and inevitably, guys who had a lower center of gravity will tilt him off balance and then he couldn't get to the ball," Sendek said. "We kind of had an epiphany and we'll see how it works, but right now his charge is just to go get the ball."

He did plenty of that and so did McKissic, though he most frequently just took it away from the opposition, which led to the most steals by an ASU player in a game since Jamelle McMillan against Long Beach State in December of 2010.

A good transition athlete, McKissic had 12 points on just five shots with eight rebounds as he took advantage of high percentage looks at the basket and free throw opportunities.

"He works so hard," Sendek said of McKissic, a first-year Division I player despite being a senior. "He is a lot like (former ASU player) Carrick (Felix) in that respect. He doesn't take any possessions off in practice, gives his best every day.

"Since we got into the month of December, he's really been very consistent for us."

ASU's transition defense in particular was improved, Sendek said, with sophomore point guard Jahii Carson providing energy and vocal leadership despite not scoring through about the game's first 15 minutes, in support of McKissic's strong effort.

The Trojans had 16 turnovers against 12 assists and couldn't get the ball to the rim off the bounce as much as they like to.

"Team defense is really important," Bachynski said. "We needed help side We knew this is a good driving team and we needed to shrink the floor, meaning everybody is a little bit closer to the hoop and I think that really frustrated their driving game."

One of four ASU players in double figures, Carson ended up with 18 points, knocking down several key shots in the second half to prevent USC from getting within reach.

Sendek called a timeout after USC scored the first six points of the second half to get to its smallest deficit of the period at 10 points, but after that point, ASU just kept fortifying its advantage.

ASU will now get a Sunday game at UCLA, which lost to No. 1 Arizona earlier Thursday after recovering from a 13 point second half deficit to tie the game up late.

"We know UCLA is a great team and it's going to be a 15 rebound heavyweight bout and we're going to have to fight the whole way to get the win," Bachynski said.

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