March 16th, 2017
USC came back from a 17 point deficit in Dayton on Wednesday night to defeat Providence 75-71, in a First Four game and advance in the NCAA tournament.
Bennie Boatwright scored a career-high 24 points and the Trojans got some payback for losing to Providence at the buzzer in last year’s opening round of the tournament.
The Friars used a 15-0 run and a stifling zone defense in the 1st half to jump out to a 44-29 lead at halftime.
However, USC would put together a furious comeback and close the deficit to five points by the 10-minute mark. Chimezie Metu finally gave the Trojans the lead with under 7 minutes left after making a jump shot. Metu finished the game with 15 points and 8 rebounds.
The big surprise of the night was freshman Nick Rakocevic, the 6’11 forward scored 9 points off the bench in 19 minutes, but provided a great deal of energy for USC to feed off of and get back in the game. He also had the best plus-minus in the game, finishing with a +10.
“This win’s probably his,” guard Elijah Stewart said. “Honestly, we should be at the crib right now.”
After digging themselves a whole in the first half, USC coach Andy Enfield fired up his players, but was also displeased according to several of them.
“I think it’s just — give Coach a heart attack or something,” Rakocevic said. “I don’t really know why we do it.” According to Elijah Stewart, Enfield said “What are you scared of?”
It turns out in the 2nd half they weren’t scared of anything. The Trojans will now face #6 SMU in the opening round of the tournament on Friday in Tulsa, Oklahoma. USC defeated SMU earlier in the season, but they’ll be facing a much improved team since then.