March 8th, 2017
The Trojans got a scare in their Pac 12 Tournament 1st round matchup against Washington on Wednesday night. However, USC managed to get by the Hustkies, 78-73 in Vegas, likely securing themselves an NCAA tournament bid.
Chimezie Metu had 24 points and 9 rebounds to lead the way for USC. The Trojans we’re able to overcome a slow start and a sloppy finish. The Huskies came out out fast, as Matisse Thybulle hit three straight 3-pointers, helping Washington jump out to a 37-27 lead. Thybulle scored 14 points and had to step up in the absence of freshman star Markelle Fultz.
However, the Trojans switched to a zone defense and Metu helped spark a 10-2 run to end the 1st half. USC took over in the 2nd half, sparked by two straight dunks from Metu, along with four straight free throws from Bennie Boatwright, who scored 13 points on the night. The Trojans found themselves with a 14 point lead.
The Huskies wouldn’t go away though, and put a scare in the Trojans in the final minutes. Up seven points with 45 seconds left, USC avoided disaster on a missed three-pointer by Washington that would’ve tied the score.
“I thought our players did a great job of coming back,” USC Coach Andy Enfield said. “We have to play smarter offense, We have to come out of the gate and play well.”
USC was the second-to-last team in the field in the bracket of ESPN’s Joe Lunardi on Wednesday morning. This win should certainly further strengthen their position. However, cross-town rival UCLA awaits them on Thursday in the quarterfinals.
For the third season in a row, the Bruins and Trojans will meet in Vegas in the conference tournament. USC split two games with UCLA this season, but the last matchup was a 102-70 Bruins win. The Bruins are looking to secure a #1 seed in next week’s NCAA tournament, in the West Region. Meanwhile, the Trojans would most certainly cement their at-large bid if they are able to beat the Bruins again.