The victory over the Trojans was the Sun Devils' first over a ranked opponent since March 20, 2003, when they defeated No. 19 Memphis in the first round of the NCAA tournament. ASU had lost 22 straight to ranked teams since then.
"A lot lesser group of fans could have been at home watching 'Desperate Housewives' tonight," first-year coach Herb Sendek said. "And so it was heartening to see such a great crowd out here tonight to see us get this one."
Forward Jeff Pendergraph, who scored 14 points and pulled down 15 rebounds, waded through a crush of fellow students on his way to the locker room. "That's their reward," he said. "They get to rush the court and get on TV, acting all crazy."
There was a different reward for the Sun Devils (7-19, 1-14 Pac-10). They avoided becoming the first team to go winless in the Pac-10 since the conference expanded in 1978-79.
ASU will no longer have to answer questions about how it's bearing up under a long skid.
"It feels great to finally win," guard Antwi Atuahene said. "We haven't won a game since Christmas."
Actually, they hadn't won since Dec. 21, when they beat North Carolina A&T 71-66.
Since then, ASU has hung in there with good teams and bad. Three nights earlier, the Sun Devils had chased No. 5 UCLA to the wire before losing 67-61.
ASU's last five losses had come by six or fewer points. Each defeat stung, but the Sun Devils never became disheartened. And that showed Sunday night when they rallied from a nine-point deficit early in the second half.
"We've taken some real steps forward in the last several games," Sendek said. "And we've talked as a team about taking that next step, which means to finish strong and make plays down the stretch."
It's an understatement to say ASU finished strong. After scoring 21 points in the first half, the Sun Devils blitzed the Trojans with 47 second-half points, shooting 57.1 percent from the floor.
Trailing 32-23 with 15:15 to play, the Sun Devils outscored USC 24-7 to take a 47-39 lead with 6 minutes to go, then hung on for the win.
"You just give them a lot of credit for hanging in and having a lot of pride," USC coach Tim Floyd said. "They just played better than we did."
Gabe Pruitt scored 22 points and Lodrick Stewart added 18 for the Trojans (19-8, 9-5), who have lost two of three.
"It's very disappointing," said guard Nick Young, limited to 11 points, nearly eight off his average. "This could have been one of those games that put us in the (NCAA) tournament."
The Pac-10 is known for its up-tempo style, but this game was played in slow motion _ ASU's best speed.
The Trojans missed their first five shots and committed two turnovers before they scored a point. The teams started a combined 2-for-18 before ASU's Jerren Shipp hit a 3-pointer to put the Sun Devils up 5-2 with 13:06 left in the first half.
USC looked like it would coast home when it took a 32-23 lead early in the second half, but that's when the Sun Devils began finding their range and the Trojans began misfiring.
ASU went on a 13-2 run to take a 36-34 lead. They followed that up with an 11-5 spurt capped by back-to-back 3-pointers by Allen Morril and Derek Glasser to take a 47-39 lead with 5:15 to play.
USC came no closer than three points the rest of the way.
Now ASU will try to make it two in a row when archrival No. 19 Arizona visits next Sunday. Pendergraph said one conference victory isn't enough.
"We won and it feels good," he said. "But I'm still sick of losing."