Boatwright, McLaughlin help USC rally past Providence
DAYTON -- Bennie Boatwright scored 24 points and Jordan McLaughlin added 18 points and 10 rebounds, helping USC rally from a 15-point halftime deficit to defeat Providence 75-71 in an NCAA Tournament First Four matchup of No. 11 seeds Wednesday night.
The Trojans (25-9) advanced to face No. 6 seed SMU in the East Regional on Friday in Tulsa. USC defeated the Mustangs in the regular season.
Wednesday was a rematch of last year's NCAA Tournament first-round game which Providence won on Rodney Bullock's last-second layup off an inbound pass.
USC made sure there would be no such drama Wednesday night.
Emmitt Holt scored 18 points and Bullock and Jalen Lindsey each scored 17 for Providence (20-13) which led by as many as 17 points before USC outscored the Friars 46-27 in the second half.
After starting the season 14-0 and not losing a game until December 30, USC (24-9) lost four of six to close the season, resulting in some anxious moments on Selection Sunday. USC also endured a five-hour delay getting to Dayton on Tuesday because of maintenance issues with the plane.
But the Trojans overcame it all Wednesday to advance.
USC sprinted to a 7-0 lead, 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. He 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.
Boatwright had 14 points for USC, which did not record a field goal in the final four and a half 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 began the second half 3-for-12 shooting.
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.
The Trojans went on an 11-1 run. Chimezie Metu's baseline jumper gave them a 61-60 lead with 6:46 left. He finished with 15 points.
Metu's dunk off an assist from Boatwright gave USC a 67-62 lead with 3:38 left. And Providence couldn't mount a rally.
NOTES: 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. The only other meeting was a Friars' victory in 1972. ... The Friars played in their fourth straight NCAA Tournament despite losing top talents from last season in Kris Dunn and Ben Bentil. ... USC improved to 13-18 all-time in the NCAA Tournament.