As the Trojans missed a trio of three-point attempts, the Mustangs built their early lead to 12-6.
Elijah Stewart’s three-pointer pulled USC back to one at 12-11 and it remained a back and forth affair.
After an alley-oop was waived off for a foul, the Mustangs reset with another one to make it 21-15.
It was groundhogs day midway through the half as a banked in triple from SMU’s Jarrey Foster, a drive from Shake Milton and a Semi Ojeley lay up gave the Mustangs their biggest lead at 30-18.
Stewart again sparked the Trojans, hitting back-to-back three pointers to draw within 30-24.
With SMU’s scoring touch seeming to fade, missing eight consecutive shots, USC made their push with a 10-2 run.
However, approaching the final minute, Milton knocked down a three to extend SMU’s lead back to 10 at 38-28.
USC went into halftime trailing 38-30.
Boatwright and Stewart opened the second half with back-to-back threes, immediately erasing most of the deficit.
Chimezie Metu’s slam dunk tied the game at 40 briefly, but Ojeleye responded by taking it to the basket and drawing a foul for the and-one.
A series of USC turnovers helped SMU go on a 10-1 run after the Trojans drew even.
Ojeleye pushed the lead to 10 with a late triple, but Stewart again hit from distance in response.
Then, USC cut the deficit to just two after a 9-1 run, courtesy of drives from Boatwright and Mathews, with eight minutes remaining.
Coming out of a break, Stewart got up high for a dunk to tie it at 54.
The Trojans had a chance to take the lead, but a turnover led to a three-point play driving for Ojeleye.
A McLaughlin fastbreak again out USC in range of the lead but a Boatwright miss was followed by a Milton swish from beyond the arc as the three-minute mark approached.
After Metu tied it back up at 60 from the free throws, Boatwright gave USC their first lead of the game, hitting from distance.
However, Milton put SMU back in front with a triple and the Trojans looked in serious trouble after a bad inbounds pass went off of Boatwright, giving the Mustangs back possession.
An SMU mistake gave USC new life as the Trojans got the ball after an accidental step out of bounds.
Stewart made the Mustangs pay this time, hitting a corner three to put USC into the lead for good.
On the ensuing SMU possession, a foul sent Ben Moore to the line, but he missed the front end. Metu grabbed the rebound and was fouled, but he too missed his foul shot.
With seconds ticking down and the Trojans holding a one-point advantage, Milton drove to the basket, but his shot skimmed the rim as the buzzer sounded.
USC completed the upset 66-65.
The takeaway: For the 13th time this season, the Trojans erased a double-digit deficit to win the game. By far, this was the most dramatic.
A No. 11 upsetting a No. 6 seed will grab the headlines, but the game was likely the most exciting of the tournament so far, with both teams pushing back and forth to the end.
Ultimately, it was USC whose final surge took the day.
Stewart was the main man for the Trojans with 22 points, including the game winner. He shot 6-for-13 from distance on a night when USC struggled to hit jump shots.
Metu and Boatwright each tallied 14 points, while McLaughlin struggled. The point guard had just five points and committed four turnovers.
Stat of the game: USC led for a total of a minute and 15 seconds all game.
Next on tap: The Trojans advance to the Round of 32, facing No. 3 seed Baylor on Sunday.
|USC players (from left) De'Anthony Melton (22), Nick Rakocevic, Bennie Boatwright and Shaqquan Aaron (0) celebrate after defeating Southern Methodist, 66-65, to advance to the second round of the NCAA tournament. (Ronald Martinez / Getty Images)|
USC again rallies from double-digit deficit to advance in NCAA tournament with win over SMU
In USC’s huddle, as Jonah Mathews grabbed him, shook him and told him — correctly, it turned out — that he was about to hit USC’s biggest shot in a decade, Elijah Stewart told Mathews to shut up and get the heck off him.
“I was like, ‘Bro, you're messing up my vibes, man,’” Stewart said.
A moment later, down two points to Southern Methodist, Stewart settled into his favorite spot in the corner. He received a pass just where he liked it. Mathews, in fact, had not messed with his juju.
With good vibes, yet another back-from-the-dead comeback and Stewart’s late three-pointer, 11th-seeded USC shocked No. 6 SMU, 66-65, Friday in an NCAA tournament East Regional first-round game. The Trojans set a program record with their 26th win of the season and advanced to the second round for the first time since 2009. They’ll play No. 3 Baylor on Sunday.
For the second game in a row, USC erased a double-digit deficit and won; it now has 13 such victories this season. And the Trojans again minted a new hero.
On Wednesday, in a 17-point comeback against Providence in a First Four game, USC presented to the college basketball world Nick Rakocevic, a big bundle of energy. On Friday the Trojans offered up his polar opposite.
Stewart, a highly mellow, highly athletic, highly streaky shooting guard, was mostly known for his off-court antics and witticisms.
He once compared USC to Harry Potter, sourcing his claim with a detailed, textual explanation. He tweets mainly about the foibles of his relationships. Last month, he picked a fight publicly with the prominent basketball statistician Ken Pomeroy, whose metrics had rated USC as the luckiest team in college basketball. Stewart held the grudge for the rest of the season. (After Friday’s game, he asked someone to alert Pomeroy.)
"He's very . . . very . . . entertaining,” Coach Andy Enfield said. “Off the court. Sometimes he's entertaining on the court. And we're not sure who he's going to be entertaining for: Our team or the other team.”
Stewart compared his disposition to San Antonio Spurs star Kawhi Leonard’s.
“I mean if it works for you, it works,” Stewart said. “No need to burn any testosterone screaming. You know what I mean? I probably don't have that much.”
“It’s why we love him so much,” Rakocevic said. “When he gets serious, though, and when he puts his mind to something, it’s scary.”
In warmups, Stewart put his mind to a previous meeting with SMU, a USC victory in November. The Mustangs gave up space in the corners and the wings, and he took shots from nowhere else during warmups. Walk-on Kurt Karis noticed his shots looked flat, so Stewart added extra arc.
Stewart carried USC's offense early. He led the team with 22 points. He made six three-pointers. The rest of the team made two.
But USC in the first half had no answers for Semi Ojeleye, who finished with 24 points and 10 rebounds. The Mustangs led by 12 points 12 minutes in. The Trojans called timeout. They cut the deficit to eight by halftime.
“Eight points?” Enfield said later. “That's nothing. We were down 15 points the other night."
USC stormed back on schedule. It tied the score four minutes into the second half. SMU returned fire with a 10-1 run.
USC chipped away. Down two points, the Trojans called a timeout. Mathews had his premonition, but Enfield drew the play for Bennie Boatwright.
SMU’s defense shifted. A tipped pass led to a turnover. The movement, point guard Jordan McLaughlin noticed, had drawn Stewart’s defender out of the corner.
Stewart had some ideas for where the play should end up on the next possession.
"I wanted to shoot. The. Ball.” Stewart said. “Yes. I wanted the last shot of our possession to be me, in the corner. Not the wing. In the corner.”
And if he got the ball, what would he think?
"My thought process?” he said. “If I got a hand in my face, shoot it. Because the play was drawn up for me, and I'm not going to miss it. It was simple as that. I had my feet set. My feet literally did not move that whole play.”
Stewart’s man sunk away. Stewart got the pass. He floated it with arc, just as Karis suggested. It went in.
The game wasn’t over yet. USC weathered an SMU free throw, its own missed foul-shot attempt and a hairy final Mustangs shot that bricked off the rim. Or so Stewart had been told, at least.
“I had my eyes closed,” he said.
“Now you know why we get down so many games,” Enfield said.
In the locker room, Stewart’s teammates mobbed him and soaked him with water. They chanted his name. Good vibes.
USC Basketball vs. SMU Live Steam: How to Watch the NCAA Tournament Online
The 2017 NCAA Tournament continues on Friday for USC basketball as they take on SMU in the Round of 64.
A victory over Providence in the First Four play-in game on Wednesday night extended USC’s life in the Big Dance despite falling behind by 17 points in the second half.
They’ll be hoping to continue their run by upsetting the Mustangs, who they beat at the Galen Center earlier this season.
Tip off in Tulsa is set for 12:10 p.m. Pacific time, or at the conclusion of Baylor vs. New Mexico State, on TruTV with play-by-play from Kevin Harlan and analysis from Reggie Miller.
Westwood One will carry a radio broadcast of the game as well.
Catching the game online is simple. All NCAA tournament games will be broadcast live on NCAA.com with authentication through your cable provider.
If you plan to watch on a mobile device, there is an app for just about every platform to give you acces. On an Android device simply download the NCAA March Madness Live app in the Google Play store or on Apple devices via the equivalent iOS app in Apple’s App Store.