The USC Trojans men’s basketball team took on the Baylor Bears in the round of 32 in the NCAA Tournament for a shot at the Sweet 16. The Trojans were on a bit of a hot streak after defeating the Providence Friars in the First Four in Dayton, Ohio followed by an upset win over the SMU Mustangs on Friday afternoon.
The game against Providence was a tossup but against SMU, the Trojans were supposed to lose but they did not. Some were tempted to suggest that USC was ‘playing with the house’s money’ in other words they had already progressed past what anyone expected of them so any wins following SMU would just be icing on the cake.
After a short delay because of the game prior running long the Trojans and Bears were finally ready to begin. USC would would win the tip and boatwright would hit a jumper. Baylor would respond with a 3-pointer to take the lead but Boatwright responded with a three of his own. He then followed up it with another three and the Trojans jumped out to an early 8-3 lead. Oregon would hit a couple of shots to tie it up at 8 at the first commercial break. Baylor was not shooting the ball well but were killing it on the offensive rebounds.
Baylor would eventually go on an 15-2 run to lead 18-10 as the Trojans struggled to adjust on the offensive end. USC would trail 20-13 with 9:37 left in the first half.
For the most part USC kept pace with the Baylor bears in the final 9 minutes and USC only trailed by 5 at the half a particularly small lead to overcome by USC standards. Baylor guard King McClure was killing it behind the 3-point line and the Bears were dominating on the glass. Baylor’s continued extra shots on seemingly every possession was lifting the Bears.
Halftime 36-31 Baylor.
Bennie Boatwright opened the half with a 3 and Chimezie Metu tied the game with another 2. With 18 and a half minutes left in the game the Trojans held all of the momentum and the Bears were scrambling for answers. Eventually the Bears would recover and both teams would spend much of the early part of the second half trading blows.
With just over 12 minutes left to play the Trojans briefly retook the lead 50-48 before Baylor retied the game. After more blows USC went on a 12-4 run capped off by an Elijah Stewart dunk and a free throw off the foul. With 9:48 left in the second half the Trojans led 56-52.
Johnathan Motley for the Bears was having his way on offense as the Trojans seemed to have no answers for him. Motley, however, picked up his 4th foul just past the midway point of the second half. With 6:30 left to play though Baylor would tie the game at 63. Chimezie Metu would break that tie with an emphatic dunk that fired up the Trojans bench. This game was getting intense as the clock wound down.
Final 5 Minutes - Lecomte explodes
Just under 5 to play De'Anthony Melton hit a pair of free throws to give the Trojans the 2-point lead. Manu Lecomte nailed a three for the Bears and hit a free throw off a foul on Stewart. Manu Lecomte would then steal the ball and get fouled. He would hit both free throws and then go back down the court and hit another layup. The Lecomte explosion would give the Bears a 73-67 lead with 3:54 left to play. Now USC Trojans coach Andy Enfield would once again need to find an answer for his team.
Enfield would go to Metu to combat the Bears small lineup Motely on the bench. Metu would take it strong to the hole and get the foul in the process. Metu would hit the free throw to bring the game to 73-70. A free throw by Baylor and a floater by Lecomte quickly spread the lead to 76-70. The Trojans would throw up a couple of poor threes and missed both of them.
With 1:39 left and the Trojans still down by 6 Johnathan Motley but Baylor was on an 11-3 run at this point in the game and Lecomte had scored most of those 11 points. The Trojans were running out of time and needed answers fast.
Metu would muscle in another 2 points with 1:18 left. Baylor would miss their next shot and Metu was fouled on the rebound. Metu would go to the line and hit them both. USC trailed 76-74 with 55 seconds left but Baylor had the ball. Lecomte would go for a layup and was clearly a miss but Metu blocked it and the officials called it goaltending.
28 Seconds remained and USC trailed 78-74 with ball. Metu would get a quick dunk to get the game back to 78-76. On the ensuing possession the Trojans fouled Ishmail Wainright with 16.9 seconds left. Wainright would hit them both. Boatwright would toss up a 3 but miss. Baylor would get the rebound and a foul with 5.7 left. Baylor would make both free throws. Metu would get another basket at the buzzer but it didn’t matter.
Baylor wins 82-78,