USC guard Maurice Jones, right, battles Arizona State guard Trent Lockett… (Richard Hartog / Associated…)
USC recorded an upbeat accomplishment Thursday.
Barring a disaster, it can endure no more embarrassing a loss the rest of the season than its 62-53 defeat to an undermanned Arizona State squad.
The Sun Devils trailed before they entered the Galen Center, with three players, including leading scorer Keala King (13.7 points a game), suspended for "unacceptable conduct."
Along with King, fellow starter Kyle Cain and reserve guard Chris Colvin didn't make the trip to Los Angeles, leaving Arizona State with only six scholarship players.
The Sun Devils, 5-9 overall and 1-1 in the Pac-12 Conference, hadn't been scoring much — just 64.2 points per game, 10th lowest in the league — but they were short about 28 more points than usual.
That didn't matter against USC (5-11, 0-3), which has lost seven of eight, as the Sun Devils shot a blistering 61% from the field, their best road shooting percentage since 2004.
USC Coach Kevin O'Neill said he warned his players that Arizona State would band together.
He was right. But his team's usual lockdown defense fell short.
"Our defense was very suspect," O'Neill said.
USC's offense was too, as usual, but more so against Arizona State's zone defense. So USC, again, struggled from the field, making just 38% of its shots and, again, it failed to win a close game, even when it seemed it should have.
"That was a desperation game, we needed to get a win, and they came out with a lot more energy than we did," Trojans guard Alexis Moore said.
The closest the Trojans came in the second half was within one point, after Dewayne Dedmon scored on an offensive putback with about nine minutes left.
But Arizona State, which received 22 points from Carrick Felix and 19 from Trent Lockett, responded with a 6-0 run and held on to snap a four-game losing streak.
"Everyone contributed on our team, even walk-ons who hadn't played up until this week," said Arizona State Coach Herb Sendek, who improved to 1-6 in the Galen Center, which featured a crowd of 3,112.
Even though his Sun Devils were the visitors, for most of the night their shots found the bottom of the net as if they had been playing at Galen for years.
They couldn't seem to miss, but USC could.
In fact, the Trojans found themselves down by 10 at halftime after starting the game three for 12.
A metal detector might have helped USC's shots find the rim — it wouldn't have hurt— but the Trojans were afforded no such luxury.
Instead, they made costly mistakes along with the misses, such as failing to capitalize on Arizona State's 18 turnovers.
USC floor leader Maurice Jones finished with 13 points but few affected the game. Aaron Fuller led USC with 14 points.
"I feel like we've let a lot slip away, today especially," Dedmon said.