Too Little, Too Late Yet Again for USC : College basketball: Martin can't connect on shot to force overtime. Trojans lose ninth in a row, 74-70 to Arizona State.


With seven seconds remaining and USC trailing by three points against No. 13 Arizona State, Brandon Martin had a chance to force overtime.

Martin's three-pointer looked good upon release, but like USC's season, the shot ended off the mark as the Trojans lost their ninth consecutive game, 74-70, to the Sun Devils Saturday afternoon before 3,531 at the Sports Arena.

For Martin, the miss was similar to the buzzer shot he took in a 72-70 loss to Utah in December. The difference, however, was when he missed the first shot, the season was still fresh with hope.

"I thought that it was in," said Martin, who had made four of six shots for 11 points before his final attempt. "I knew that it was going down. It felt good when I let it go."

However, the shot bounced in and out of the hoop. Arizona State, 19-6 overall and 9-4 in the Pacific 10, then sealed the game with a free throw by point guard Marcell Capers.

"The Southern Cal kids did not quit and played extremely hard," said Arizona State Coach Bill Frieder. "We knew that if we were going to win, that we'd have to win it ourselves."

Arizona State, which defeated the Trojans by 10 points last month in Tempe, Ariz., held on for the victory mostly because of USC's poor interior defense and free-throw shooting.

The Sun Devils shot 50.9% from the field and scored 44 points on either layups or dunks against USC (7-16, 2-11). The Trojans have not held an opponent under 50% from the field in their last eight games.

Center Mario Bennett exploited the Trojans' lack of size inside with 14 points, nine rebounds and six assists. Arizona State outrebounded USC only 32-29, but many of its points came off offensive rebounds.

The Trojans, who entered the weekend as the No. 2 free-throw shooting team in the Pac-10 at 72%, hurt themselves by making only nine of 15 attempts.

In an 89-80 loss to No. 12 Arizona on Thursday, USC made only 11 of 22 free throws.

"This was a one-possession game," USC assistant coach Jack Fertig said. "Somewhere, you've got to find something within yourself where you're up, 72-70, and not down, 72-70. You can look at a lot of things at the end, like Orr's missed free throws, but the missed shots in the first half count just as much. When you're the second-leading free-throw team in the conference and you shoot free throws like we have the past two games, you're not helping yourself."

USC definitely had its chances to end its longest losing streak in six seasons. The Trojans trailed, 34-31, at halftime and battled back to tie the score in the second half after the Sun Devils had opened an eight-point lead with 11:57 remaining.

Stais Boseman led USC with 20 points, including four three-point baskets, as the Trojans shot 47.4% from the field. Jaha Wilson missed by one rebound his 10th double-double of the season, finishing with 17 points and nine rebounds.


Trojan Notes

USC, 5-7 at home this season and 2-5 in the Pac-10, will not play again at the Sports Arena until March 9 against Oregon. The Trojans will travel to play at Stanford and California next week before playing UCLA March 1 at Pauley Pavilion. . . . USC has lost six games this season by fewer than five points. . . . A USC Community Business mixer will be held in honor of retired coach George Raveling on March 23. Information: (213) 740-4561.

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