Arizona State center Eric Jacobsen is fouled by USC center Omar Oraby on… (Reed Saxon / Associated…)
Foul or shot-clock violation? Two free throws for USC's Eric Wise or possession to Arizona State?
It felt like "forever," Wise said, while officials huddled around a television screen and tried to make a decision.
In a basketball season during which so much has gone wrong for the Trojans, this time something went right.
The call made by the referee closest to Wise, the one who had called a foul on Arizona State's Jordan Bachynski just as the 35-second shot clock ran out of time, is the call that stood.
Wise made two free throws and USC hung on for a 57-56 win over Arizona State at Galen Center on Saturday afternoon.
The Trojans (14-15, 9-7) moved a half-game ahead of the Sun Devils (20-10, 9-8) and are tied for fifth with Colorado in the Pac-12 Conference. The Trojans have games remaining at Washington and at Washington State.
Wise's two free throws gave the Trojans a 57-52 lead with 18.2 seconds left and made it easier to forget the one Wise missed, the front end of a one-and-one with four seconds remaining. Arizona State's tough-to-guard freshman guard Jahii Carson missed a three-pointer at the buzzer as most of the crowd of 4,034 held its breath.
Carson finished with a game-high 23 points plus seven rebounds and four assists in 39 minutes. Wise led a balanced USC scoring line with 12 points. Byron Wesley had 11 and J.T. Terrell added 10 for USC.
Sophomore guard Wesley had started his first 61 games as a Trojan, but he came off the bench Saturday when interim head Coach Bob Cantu started senior Tyler Sugiyama on senior day.
USC's senior point guard Jio Fontan had all of his seven points in the first half. Fontan, who became teary-eyed when discussing his last regular-season home game at Galen Center, was limited to 22 minutes by foul trouble and something more troubling — an injured right wrist. An X-ray taken after the game was negative, and Fontan is listed as day to day with a sprained wrist.
Fontan, who came to USC from Paterson, N.J., as a transfer from Fordham, said he was proud of everything that has happened to him here. He said, "I became a man," and said he was particularly happy that his father, Jorge, was able to be at Galen Center for this senior day.
There might also have been a tear in the eye of Cantu, who replaced the fired Kevin O'Neill in January and who doesn't know where he might be working next season. "Thank you Cantu, thank you Cantu," was the chant that filled the student section as the game ended.
Arizona State started out shooting three for 16 from the field, and USC built a 28-9 lead on a three-pointer from Chass Bryan, who was playing for Fontan, who picked up his second foul with 9:47 left in the first half.
"We just talked about gradually trimming that lead," Arizona State Coach Herb Sendek said. "We didn't play very well and to our guys' credit they found a way to battle back and we had a chance to win."
A Terrell three-pointer gave the Trojans a 49-35 lead with 9:12 left in the game, but then bad things started to happen. A flagrant-one foul was called on Fontan with 5:54 left and USC leading, 51-41. After Carson made both free throws and Chris Colvin sank a jump shot on the possession that came with the flagrant call, USC was left with a 51-45 lead.
"It's never easy," Cantu said. "Everything you get in this conference is earned, home or away."