Boatwright, McLaughlin help USC rally past Providence

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[March 16, 2017]  DAYTON, Ohio -- USC had a few nervous hours on Selection Sunday, then had to endure a five-hour flight delay before arriving in Dayton late Monday night.

The Trojans trailed by 15 points at halftime against Providence on Wednesday but managed to overcome it all to advance.

Bennie Boatwright scored 24 points and Jordan McLaughlin added 18 points and 10 rebounds, helping USC rally from a 17-point, first-half deficit to defeat the Friars 75-71 in an NCAA Tournament First Four matchup of No. 11 seeds.

The Trojans (25-9) advanced to face No. 6 seed SMU in the East Regional on Friday in Tulsa, Okla. USC defeated the Mustangs 78-73 on Nov. 25.

"SMU is an outstanding basketball team," Trojans coach Andy Enfield said. "When you win 30 games, you win your league and your tournament, that's pretty good. So, we know how good they are. They're not going to surprise us."

Wednesday's game was a rematch of last year's NCAA Tournament first-round game that Providence won on Rodney Bullock's last-second layup off an inbounds pass.

USC made sure there would be no such drama this time around.

"It does feel good getting payback from last year, because that was a tough loss," Boatwright said.

Emmitt Holt scored 18 points and Bullock and Jalen Lindsey each scored 17 for Providence (20-13).

USC outscored the Friars 46-27 in the second half.

"Really, really frustrated with how this game ended," Friars coach Ed Cooley said. "I thought we controlled it for most of it. But in tournament play, you've got to play a complete game, and we didn't. So, we're going to take ourselves home and brush ourselves off and look forward to next season."

After starting the season 14-0 and not losing a game until Dec. 30, USC lost four of six to close the season, resulting in some anxious moments on Selection Sunday.

USC sprinted to a 7-0 lead Wednesday, but Providence went on a 15-0 run late in the first half to assume control of the game.

Bullock's 3-pointer put the Friars ahead 30-20, prompting a Trojans timeout. Bullock scored 10 points in the half.

Lindsey led Providence with 15 first-half points.

The Friars went 8 of 15 from 3-point range in the half, including four from long range by Lindsey.

"They scored against our zone. They scored against our man. We weren't talking," Enfield said. "We got discouraged. We missed a lot of easy shots, and I thought it affected our energy on the defensive end. I think that's human nature at times."

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Providence Friars guard Alpha Diallo (11) hangs form the basket after a dunk in the first half against the USC Trojans in the first four of the 2017 NCAA Tournament at Dayton Arena. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Boatwright had 14 first-half points for USC, which did not record a field goal in the final 4 1/2 minutes of the first half. The Trojans shot 34.5 percent in the half.

USC's field-goal drought continued until Jonah Mathews' 3-pointer three minutes into the second half. Mathews was fouled and converted the four-point play, providing a brief spark for the Trojans, who hit just 3 of 12 shots to begin the second half.

Five straight points by Nick Rakocevic got USC within 55-48 with 10 minutes left.

After being red-hot from 3-point range in the first half, the Friars had only five attempts from long range in the second half, making one.

Holt picked up his fourth foul with 7:45 left, and the Trojans went on an 11-1 run.

Chimezie Metu hit a baseline jumper to give USC a 61-60 lead with 6:46 left. He finished with 15 points.

Metu's dunk off an assist from Boatwright pushed the Trojans' advantage to 67-62 with 3:38 left, and Providence couldn't mount a rally.

Enfield credited his players for adapting to a bigger lineup in the second half, a change that helped shut down Providence's offense. The Trojans grabbed 16 offensive rebounds, nine in the second half.

"We played big for at least 10, 12 minutes of the game," he said. "We haven't done it all season. For our players to adjust to that, that was impressive. That was impressive."

NOTES: USC's rally from a 15-point halftime deficit is tied for the second-largest halftime comeback in an NCAA Tournament game in the past 10 seasons. In the 2012 First Four, BYU rallied from 15 points down to defeat Iona. ... The last time two teams met in the first round of the NCAA Tournament in consecutive seasons was BYU and Texas in 2008 and 2009. ... Providence leads the series 2-1. Before last year, the only other meeting was a Friars victory in 1972. ... USC improved to 13-18 all-time in the NCAA Tournament.

[ 2017 Thomson Reuters. All rights reserved.]

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