TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) – Nikola Vucevic had 26 points and 12 rebounds, and Maurice Jones added 14 points to help Southern California beat Arizona State 63-61 Thursday night for a rare conference road win.
USC (12-9, 4-4 Pac-10) overcame a rash of early turnovers by getting the ball inside to Vucevic and held off the Sun Devils down the stretch to win for just the fifth time in its last 22 conference road games.
Arizona State overcame a rough night from the free-throw line — 12 for 25 — to keep it close until the end, but struggled to get a decent shot on its final possession while trailing by two.
Rihards Kuksiks had 22 and keyed a late run, while Ty Abbott had 19 points for the Sun Devils in their sixth straight conference loss.
USC, coming off a two-point loss to California on Saturday, struggled early against Arizona State’s zone, turning it over four times in its first seven possessions and 10 times in the first half.
The Trojans started to find success by getting the ball to Vucevic.
USC’s leading scorer had just six points against Cal, but had a much easier time of it inside against the smaller Sun Devils.
Flipping in jump hooks and scoring on power moves inside, he had eight points in the first 6 minutes and 11 on 5 of 8 shooting to go with seven rebounds by halftime.
Vucevic went to work again to start the second half, scoring eight points in the first 5 minutes, giving the Trojans their first lead since the opening minutes with a jump hook in the lane.
The Trojans increased the lead as Arizona State went cold from the field, going up 53-45 while the Sun Devils went about 6 minutes without a field goal.
Kuksiks broke the skid with a 3-pointer and hit two more on consecutive possessions, adding two free throws to tie it at 58-all with 65 seconds left.
Vucevic hit two free throws to put USC back up two and, after an Arizona State turnover, Jones hit a pair of free throws with 34 seconds left to put the Trojans up four.
The Sun Devils weren’t quite done, though.
Working the ball around the perimeter, Arizona State got the ball to Trent Lockett, who knocked down a 3-pointer from the wing that cut USC’s lead to 62-61.
The Sun Devils fouled Garrett Jackson, who hit 1 of 2 free throws with 16 seconds left, but could only manage a pair of off-balance shots by Abbott on their final possession to lose their fourth straight game overall.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)