After missing 15 games with an MCL injury, Bennie Boatwright returned to action for the USC Trojans (19-4, 6-4) and led his team to a comeback victory over the Huskies (9-13, 2-8). He only needed 21 minutes of action to score 23 points as Washington struggled to find any answer defensively.
De’Anthony Melton followed closely behind Boatwright, tallying 16 points. Chimezie Metu picked up eight rebounds to pair with his 15 points, while Jordan McLaughlin’s pair of triples sparked his 13 point outing.
Freshman guard Markelle Fultz scored an even 20 for the Huskies. Noah Dickerson showed well also, scoring 17 points and grabbing nine boards. David Crisp and Matisse Thybulle also ended with double digits, amassing 16 and 12 points respectively with five rebounds a piece.
Boatwright didn’t steal the show until the second half. Two three-pointers in the final minute of the first period capped a 15-0 Husky run that send Washington into the intermission with a 10-point lead and a ton of momentum.
It didn’t take USC long to return the favor. The Trojans forced four turnovers in the first four minutes of the second half, allowing them to narrow the deficit to 43-40.
“We came out in the second half extremely flat for whatever reason. Extremely flat. And it’s something we talked about at halftime. About guarding against that. That this game wasn’t close to being over. But we did come out flat and turned the ball over far too many times," Washington head coach Lorenzo Romar mentioned about the slow start to the second period.
Boatwright, who only got four minutes of action in the first half, was lethal, knocking down four of his five field goals en route to 16 second half points. The sophomore forward also added four second half assists, catalyzing USC’s second half heroics.
In a similar manner to Washington’s run to end the half, USC scored 13 unanswered points near the end of the game to take a 72-66 lead. Washington showed fight, but was never able to regain the lead.
"A lot of passes that have been getting through weren’t getting through tonight. They were getting their hands on it. That can start to play on your mind. The last few minutes, that seemed to be on our mind," said Romar about Washington's offensive struggles down the stretch.
On a brighter side, Sam Timmins had another solid outing for the Dawgs, matching eight points with eight boards, five of which came off the offensive glass. That wasn’t enough, however, to overcome USC’s 68-percent shooting showcase in the second half.
This tale of two halves had a sad ending for the Huskies, who fell to 2-8 in conference play. Their next game will come on Saturday night against the UCLA Bruins at 7:30 pm.
Opening “Inconsistency sums up this entire game. Just thought we did a really good job in the first half in a lot of ways. We came out in the second half extremely flat for whatever reason. Extremely flat. And it’s something we talked about at halftime. About guarding against that. That this game wasn’t close to being over. But we did come out flat and turned the ball over far too many times. In that second half we turned the ball over five times in the first four minutes and that kind of set the tone. While that was going on, we weren’t active defensively. It was a bad combination. We fought back. We ended up taking the lead again. Went up a couple of times, but didn’t finish it. We’ve had two games in a row where we’ve played well and didn’t finish.”
What was so hard about getting the offense going the last five minutes? “I think we had turned the ball over so much, we were a little tentative out there. We began to settle for just three point shots. That made the difference. USC has good length, great anticipation, great athletes, and they’re quick to the ball and they get in those lanes. A lot of passes that have been getting through weren’t getting through tonight. They were getting their hands on it. That can start to play on your mind. The last few minutes, that seemed to be on our mind. Where someone might be open we were a little tentative in making the pass.”
Does it baffle you that your team came out flat after a 10-point lead at half against a good team? “When we were in the locker room at halftime I would say we were feeling pretty good about ourselves. Too good. We obviously didn’t understand that much more work was going to be required to come out on top.”
Are you missing a leader? “Our guys on this team are really close. I think good teams have a couple guys, one guy that’s just going to get in somebody’s face. We haven’t really done that. We haven’t really done that.”
On Markelle’s highlight end to the first half “That’s Markelle (Fultz) being Markelle. Making big plays. He got it going from three. I think he was four for four in the first half from the three point line. That was good to see.”
On Sam Timmins’ development “Sam (Timmins) was really a presence in the first half just around the rim. He had six or seven rebounds in the first half. You could just feel him out there. That really helps us if Sam is going to continue like that. That’s two consecutive games where he’s made some improvements and helped us.”
How does a flat start to the second half happen for a team like this? “This dates back to last year. I don’t - trust me, if I know how it happened, I would change it. I don’t know how it happens. None of us do. They came out that half and jumped on us and cut that lead down quick. Then they had the momentum the rest of the game. I don’t know. I can’t tell you because I don’t know what it is.”
Who takes over at the end of games? “From a scoring perspective it can be anybody. Matisse (Thybulle) has done it. David (Crisp) has done it. Markelle (Fultz) has done it. I’ve done it. It just depends. But that doesn’t matter at the end of the day. At the end of the day, whoever scores scores. At the end of the day we need to play some defense. We need to sit down and get a stop. That’s a team effort. That’s not just one person. Last year we had Andrew Andrews. When we had a great game like that he’d been playing for long enough and played in college long enough to know how to just go take it from somebody. Unfortunately, we don’t have that yet. We’ve had many, many close games and we just haven’t been able to get that game and take it from somebody and see how it feels to take it from somebody. Almost none of us knows what that feels like. Hoping it was going to be this one but there are more games ahead.”