Trailing 44-35 after Washington State opened the second half on an 8-0 run, the USC basketball team looked like it was going to once again be doomed by an unanswered second-half run.
But instead the Trojans (11-19, 2-15) turned the tables, outscoring the Cougars 28-8 over a 10-minute span to take a 67-52 lead that USC rode to a 79-68 victory Thursday night at Beasley Coliseum in Pullman, Wash. The win snapped a 10-game losing streak and gave USC its first conference road win.
Byron Wesley scored 20 of USC's 44 second-half points to finish with a game-high 31 points -- tying the career high he recorded earlier this season against Northern Arizona. He also collected 10 rebounds for his fifth double-double of the season. Wesley also passed out three assists and had two steals.
The Trojans trailed by a point at halftime, 36-35, despite opening the game by taking a 10-2 run. But it was USC basketball's second-half effort to push the ball in transition and attack Washington State (9-20, 2-15) in the paint without turning the ball over -- only three turnovers in the second half -- that proved to be the difference. The catalyst in the middle of it was reserve combo guard Julian Jacobs, who took the reigns of the offense and ran with it, quite literally.
Jacobs dished out nine assists to only two turnovers, playing 31 minutes (while starting point guard Pe'Shon Howard played 17 minutes). Jacobs also grabbed seven rebounds and scored seven points.
The Trojans shot 50.9 percent from the field, including a not terrible 31.9 percent (6-for-19) from deep while holding Washington State to 36.5 percent shooting from the field and 28.6 percent on threes (10-for-35).
Cougars leading scorer DaVonte Lacy had a double-double with 20 points and 10 rebounds, but was a rough 5-for-19 from the floor as Wesley hounded him for the majority of the second half. D.J. Shelton also recorded a double-double with 11 points and 11 rebounds.
While USC snaps its win drought, Washington State has now lost eight games in a row and falls into a 2-15 tie with USC for last place in the Pac-12 standings. Since this was the teams' only matchup this season, the win gives USC the head-to-head tiebreaker should the teams end up tied after Saturday's regular season finales.
While the matter of being the 11th or 12th seed isn't a big deal in terms of the Pac-12 Conference Tournament since neither USC or Washington State is expected to make a dramatic run in Las Vegas, winning the tiebreaker will allow USC to have the pride that it wasn't in the conference cellar. The 11th seeded team also will play in the night session of the tournament's opening night rather than having a midday matchup.
USC basketball plays its final regular season game Saturday at 4:30 p.m. in Washington's Alaska Airlines Arena.