LOS ANGELES -- With the post-season right around the corner, No. 9 Arizona State will take its latest win no matter what it looked like.
Katie Hempen scored 11 points and the Sun Devils held on late to win their seventh in a row, defeating Southern California 50-45 on Friday night.
"We do win ugly. We've a number of games like that, where we just grind it out," said ASU Coach Charli Turner Thorne. "It's that time of year. You've got a bubble team that's trying to play their way in. That kind of game can happen to anybody."
After playing a terrible first half offensively, the Sun Devils recovered their poise and extended several possessions with hard-fought rebounds. In the closing minute they made just enough free throws to win.
"In the fourth quarter I thought we took our time on offense a lot better," Hempen said. "We ran our plays, which we weren't doing in the first half at all. We were rushing everything. In the fourth quarter we knew what we wanted. We knew how we wanted to execute."
Elisha Davis added 8 points and Sophie Brunner grabbed 11 rebounds for the Sun Devils (25-4, 16-1 Pac-12), who stayed atop the conference standings with one league game to play.
Kristen Simon scored 15 points and Sadie Edwards added 11 points for the Trojans (18-11, 6-11 Pac-12), who lost for the fifth time in six games and remained in eighth place.
"I think we just lost our focus," said Simon. "They kept playing hard and they kept their confidence. I think we lost our confidence a little bit down the stretch."
The Sun Devils outrebounded the Trojans 38-26 and shot 54 percent in the second half to edge USC for the second time this season.
"We played well enough defensively to be in the game against a very, very well-coached team," said USC coach Cynthia Cooper-Dyke.
With the score 47-45, Temi Fagbenle missed a contested layup that would have tied the score with 32 seconds left. Sabrina Haynes made one of two free throws with 28 seconds left to give Arizona State a 48-45 lead.
After Sadie Edwards missed a 3-pointer, Brunner outfought two Trojans for the rebound, was fouled and made the first of two free throws.
"Sophie just finds a way. She just found a way to go get that rebound," said Thorne. "That's what I think makes our team so good, so tough. We didn't have anything close to our best stuff but we know how to win."
Kelsie Moos was fouled while rebounding Brunner's miss. Moos made 1 of 2 for the final margin.
"Kelsie and Sophie they take rebounding to a whole different level," said Hempen.
TALE OF TWO HALVES
The Sun Devils, who needed 6 minutes, 8 seconds to get on the scoreboard, shot 6-for-22 in the first half (27 percent). In the second half, they went 13-for-24 for 54 percent.
"We're always about the next play. Whatever happened on the last play, it's done, it's over. Can't do anything about it," said Hempen. "Yeah, shooting 27 percent in the first half but we turned that number around pretty dramatically in the second half."
Arizona State; In the first meeting between these two teams, the Sun Devils beat the Trojans 69-68 in Tempe on Feb. 7, on Sophie Brunner's 3-point play with 1.4 seconds remaining. It was the fourth consecutive ASU-USC game that came down to the final possession or overtime.
Southern California: The Trojans have yet to sweep a weekend series in conference play this season. The closest they came was on Feb. 5-7 when they beat Arizona 67-57 in Tucson only to lose to Arizona State 69-68 in Tempe.
Arizona State: At UCLA on Sunday.
Southern California: Hosts Arizona on Sunday
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