Arizona State star James Harden couldn’t get into a groove versus Southern California last month. Opponents, though, have had little trouble scoring against the Trojans over the past week.
After helping the 18th-ranked Sun Devils earn one of their biggest wins of the season, Harden looks to avenge the worst game of his career Sunday night against USC.
The sophomore Harden—a likely NBA lottery pick—is one of the nation’s top all-around players, averaging 21.6 points, 5.5 rebounds and 4.3 assists. He had 15 points and a career-high 11 assists as Arizona State (19-5, 8-4 Pac-10) beat No. 11 UCLA 74-67 on Thursday night, as the Sun Devils swept the season series.
Arizona State can take over sole possession of second place in the Pac-10 with a win Sunday and move within one game of first-place Washington.
Harden, though, was terrible against USC (15-8, 6-5) on Jan. 15, scoring a career-low four points as Arizona State lost 61-49 in one of its worst offensive games of the season. Harden was guarded by Daniel Hackett for most of the game, and went 0-for-8 from the field and 4-for-7 from the free-throw line.
The Trojans are allowing 63.1 points per game, but their defense has been vulnerable en route to two straight defeats.
USC lost 83-76 to Arizona on Thursday night after falling 76-60 to the Bruins on Feb. 4. Those opponents combined to shoot 51.5 percent, including 48.6 percent from 3-point range, against the Trojans.
USC will have its hands full versus an Arizona State team coming off a strong effort on offense.
Derek Glasser had 15 points as the Sun Devils became the first team to sweep the season series against UCLA since 2005-06. Jeff Pendergraph and Rihards Kuksiks each had 14 points, and Ty Abbott added 12 off the bench.
“We were finally able to find some offensive balance,” Arizona State coach Herb Sendek said. “I can’t remember the last time we had five guys in double figures.”
Pendergraph leads the nation with a 67.3 field-goal percentage. He made 6 of 7 of his attempts against USC, finishing with 13 points and seven rebounds.
The senior forward is averaging 13.8 points and a team-high 7.9 rebounds.
The Sun Devils are a win away from clinching consecutive 20-win seasons for the first time since going 22-7 in 1979-80 and 24-4 in 1980-81. They are seeking their first NCAA tournament berth since 2003.
USC, meanwhile, is beginning to struggle after going 21-12 last season. The Trojans’ problems on the road have them in danger of losing three straight for the first time this season.
USC is 2-5 on the road, averaging 66.9 points a contest despite making 43.7 percent of its attempts from beyond the arc.
The Trojans shot 58.8 percent (10-for-17) from 3-point range against the Wildcats on Thursday in their best scoring game since an 83-62 win over Oregon on Jan. 2.
Dwight Lewis made a career-high six 3-pointers, but missed two crucial shots from long range in the final two minutes. He leads USC with 15.7 points per game.
The junior guard went 5-for-8 from beyond the arc and had 18 points in this season’s first matchup with Arizona State.
The Sun Devils have lost two straight and eight of 11 against the Trojans but have won two straight at home. USC leads the series 47-31.
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