Semi Ojeleye (Photo by Matt Visinsky)

Rapid Reaction: USC upsets SMU in first round of NCAA Tournament

SMU was upset by USC, 66-65, on Friday in Tulsa, Okla. bowing out of the NCAA Tournament early.

How it Happened

SMU opened the scoring with a Sterling Brown jumper and that was a preview of SMU's first half success. After starting 12-for-17, SMU went cold and 0-for-7 and allowed USC to close the gap to four with under three minutes to go in the first half. With 2:31 to go, Ben Moore grabbed his own miss, hit the bucket and nailed a free-throw to put SMU back up seven. Shake Milton hit a three-pointer with 1:15 to go to put SMU back up 10. Chimezie Metu was fouled with six seconds left and hit both free throws to close it to eight. Milton missed a three to end the first half, which sent the Mustangs into the half with a 38-30 lead.

To open the second half, USC made a big push, tying the game for the first time since it was 2-2 when Metu dunked to tie it at 40. Semi Ojeleye, who led SMU at the half with 11 points, had a monster dunk and then answered Metu's dunk with a three-point play to put SMU back up three. That sparked a 10-1 run to put SMU up 50-41 with 13:58 to play. USC went on another run of its own to tie it again with 7:25 to play. Another Ojeleye three-point play put SMU up 57-56 though. Milton's three put SMU back up by four with under four minutes to play, but USC tied it at 60 with three minutes left. Ojeleye hit a turnaround jumper to give SMU the lead, but Bennie Boatwright hit a three to give USC its first lead with 2:09 to go.

After a missed free throw by SMU, Shake Milton put SMU up by two with under 90 seconds to play. On USC's next possession, Ojeleye helped force a USC turnover with one minute left, but Brown stepped out to turn it back over to USC with SMU leading by two. Elijah Stewart hit a three to put SMU down one with under a minute. Ben Moore was fouled on an offensive rebound and missed his first free throw, allowing USC to get the rebound and head to the line. USC missed its free-throw, giving SMU the last shot, but a Milton shot fell short, allowing USC to upset SMU, 66-65. The back-and-forth game came down to the wire, but a few SMU miscues late cost the team its first round tournament game.

What it Means

SMU couldn't earn its first NCAA Tournament win since 1988 after having the halftime lead and facing a USC team that got into Tulsa at 3:30 on Thursday morning after winning its First Four matchup against Providence. SMU made too many mistakes down the stretch and couldn't take advantage of USC's own miscues.

Player of the Game: Semi Ojeleye

The American Athletic Conference Player of the Year left it all out there for SMU, putting the team on his back in crucial moments with big momentum changing plays. Ojeleye finished with 24 points and 10 rebounds on the afternoon. That being said, Ojeleye didn't get the ball in his hands in either of SMU's last three possessions, something that was a crucial mistake. Ojeleye took his last shot with 2:31 left in the game.

Side Note

SMU's record with a halftime lead was 25-0 on the season, but USC ended that streak with its win over SMU. SMU was outrebounded 34-30 and was outscored 36-27 in the second half.

What's Next?

SMU will have to replace seniors Ben Moore and Sterling Brown as it heads into the offseason. SMU finishes the season 30-5 and AAC Champions.

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