The USC men's basketball team turned the ball over 23 times and allowed 19 offensive rebounds and still found a way to move to 5-0 with a win over the No. 20 team in the country. USC beat the Wichita State Shockers, 72-69, in the opening round of the AdvoCare Invitational tournament at HP Field House in Orlando, Fla.
Bennie Boatwright scored a career-high 22 points while Jordan McLaughlin added 15 points (11 in the first half) and Nikola Jovanovic recorded a double-double with 14 points and 11 rebounds. It was just enough for the Trojans to hold off Wichita State (2-2) and the hot shooting of Ron Baker, who finished with 25 points, including 6-of-10 shooting from beyond the three-point arc.
USC jumped out to an early seven-point lead, but could never pull away from the Shockers. The Trojans outshot Wichita State 45.5 percent to 35.1 percent, but had one less field goal because the Shockers got 19 more shots due to turnovers and offensive rebounds.
Markis McDuffie added 14 points off the bench for Wichita State, which was without All-American candidate Fred VanVleet and his backup at point guard Landry Shamet.
Here's three takeaways from the Trojans' first win over a ranked team since beating No. 11 Arizona on Feb. 27, 2013 and second since 2011:
Living Up to the Nickname
Bennie Boatwright has the nickname "Bennie Buckets" because of his ability to put the ball in the basket. At 6-foot-10, he has a unique skill set that allows him to play the 3, 4 or 5 positions. Boatwright can handle the ball on the wing or go down and bang in the paint with the big bodies. His top attribute, however, is his deadly outside shot.
Boatwright hasn't been able to showcase that shot much this season because of some foul trouble. Though he was averaging 10.3 points per game coming into the game -- worst of the team's five starters -- Boatwright hadn't had a true breakout performance until Thanksgiving Day. Boatwright poured in 22 points, knocking down seven of his 13 shots, including going 5-of-9 on 3-pointers.
He made a huge 3-pointer coming out of the under-12 media timeout after Wichita State had used a 12-0 run to open a 6-point lead -- its biggest of the game -- just before the break. He also knocked down three triples in the final eight minutes. His final one came with 2:08 remaining after the Shockers cut the lead to 64-62 and he followed that with a steal that led to a Katin Reinhardt 3-pointer that pushed USC's lead to an insurmountable eight points.
Shoot It Up
USC came into the game shooting 49 percent from the floor and 40 percent from the three-point line, but that was all in its friendly home arena of the Galen Center. How would the Trojans do in a new venue, playing across the country and away from home for the first time? They passed that test with flying colors. USC came out hot and never really relented.
The Trojans shot 45.5 percent from the field and lit it up from outside where they were 12-of-23 (52 percent). Though their best two outside shooters, Bennie Boatwright and Katin Reinhardt did a lot of the damage, it was a complete team effort. Boatwright and Reinhardt were a combined 8-for-14. Jordan McLaughlin and Elijah Stewart each had a make, but the final two 3-pointers came from unexpected places as post players Nikola Jovanovic and Malik Martin both finished the game a perfect 1-for-1.
One area USC didn't excel at was at the free throw line where the Trojans were 10-for-17 (59 percent). They did just enough down the stretch to come out with a three-point win after Wichita State's potential game-tying shot bounced off the front rim, but USC could have salted the game away with free throws. Instead, they made just one of their last four freebies in the last 35 seconds of the game with their primary ball handlers, Reinhardt, McLaughlin and Jacobs, each missing one.
Valuing the Basketball
USC should have been able to cruise to an easy victory long before the game even came down to the final seconds with how well they shot the ball, but the Trojans didn't take care of the basketball. Wichita State was 2-for-17 shooting at one point, but the Trojans couldn't pull away because they continually turned the ball over -- 14 times in the first half and another nine in the second half. And many of the turnovers were just not valuing the basketball.
Wichita State was hugging up on players away from the ball and USC players would still throw a pass to the wing even though a defender was right there. There were also the errant passes that were to no one, which USC did on multiple occasions, including on one possession where Katin Reinhardt passed up an open 3-pointer on a fast break and Jordan McLaughlin tried to pass it back. Instead of either of USC's top long-range shooters getting a shot off, McLaughlin tried to catch the pass and throw it back all in one motion, sending it a good 8-10 feet out of the reach of Reinhardt. It was a very bad play that was very reminiscent of some of the errors last season. Luckily, unlike last year, the Trojans overcame their turnovers and found a way to win the game.
USC is back in action tomorrow at 11:30 a.m. PST. The Trojans take on No. 23 Xavier for a chance to advance to the AdvoCare Invitational championship game.