It is safe to say that the madness part of March Madness has arrived. The USC Men's Basketball was on the losing end of it, suffering a gut-wrenching loss at the hands of the Providence Friars in its first round matchup of the NCAA tournament.
After controlling the tempo of the game nearly throughout, the #8 Trojans (21-13) completely collapsed in the final few minutes, culminating in a defensive breakdown that led to the game-winning layup for Providence. With the Trojans ahead 69-68 with 3 seconds to go and no timeouts for either team, Rodney Bullock got free right under the hoop and put in a layup on an out-of-bounds play to win the game for the Friars, 70-69.
USC had ample opportunities to shut the door on the #9 Friars (24-10) in crunch time but simply could not close the deal. Bennie Boatwright missed a free throw with just under 1 minute remaining and the scored tied at 68. Elijah Stewart could have extended the Trojans' lead to 3, but missed the first of a on-and-one with 27 seconds to go. 15 seconds later, Julian Jacobs stepped to the line but the result was the same.
USC will have to go into the offseason with major questions about what could have been. After executing a great game plan, in which the Friars struggled to score all game, all the Trojans have to hang their hats on is the fact that this year was a giant step in the right direction.
Yet again, the USC guards led the charge, with Stewart and Jordan McLaughlin scoring 10 and 15 points apiece. Four Trojans scored in double figures overall. Providence was led by Ben Bentill, who put in 19 points and 9 boards on 7-21 shooting, and Bullock, who scored 16 and grabbed 10 boards.
Providence faces #1 North Carolina in the round of 32 this Saturday.