With backs against the wall, the USC Trojans survived an epic second half comeback from the Dayton Ohio Flyers, winning in overtime 63-61.
With USC leading by two and 5.5 seconds left in regulation, Dayton guard Kevin Dillard drove the length of the floor, drew two defenders near the baseline and found a wide-open Devin Oliver under the basket.
Oliver’s ensuing layup beat the buzzer by one tenth of a second, and forced an extra period. After an extensive examination of the clock, the refs decided to stick with the call on the court forcing overtime, leaving a sense of dismay on the Trojans.
This all came after a clutch shot from Jio Fontan to give the Trojans the lead 53-51. That shot was Fontan’s first bucket of the night, in what looked to be the game winner.
In overtime, the Trojans scored nine points on their first four possessions; including four by Aaron Fuller. Fuller fueled the winning effort and started his first game of the season in place of center Omar Oraby.
The Trojans lived and died with their big men as Omar Oraby, Dewayne Dedmon, Eric Wise and Aaron Fuller combined for 50 of USCs 63 points. Playing inside-out basketball allowed USC to control the tempo for much of the ball game.
Due to what coach Kevin O’Neill calls a better constant effort on a daily basis, Fuller was introduced to the starting in a big way. Both men were quite effective on the evening with Fuller scoring 12, while Oraby added nine himself and grabbed eight boards off the bench.
While the big men were on their game, the back court could never get going from the field. JT Terrell, Jio Fontan and Byron Wesley combined for 13 points on 5-27 shooting from the field. On numerous possessions, Wesley and Terrell took ill-advised shots leading to quick transition points for the Flyers.
None worse than with 3:23 remaining in the game when Terrell took a contested 16-foot jump shot with a three point lead, leading to an easy three-point shot in transition for Dayton. That shot broke their scoreless drought from behind the arc.
Dwayne Dedmon, Jio Fontan and Aaron Fuller carried the load for the Trojans after Eric Wise got ejected at the 5:29 mark of the second half after receiving a second technical foul.
Wise led the Trojans with 19 points on an efficient six of ten from the field. James Blasczyk played huge minutes for the Trojans forcing two charges and grabbing three boards in 12 action-packed minutes.
The biggest key for the Trojans was limiting the three-point shot of Dayton. They shot 2-13 on the night from downtown, losing a critical component of their game. This was only the second game all season that Dayton was held under 60 points in regulation.
A big reason why was because Dayton’s best player, Kevin Dillard scored 13 points on the evening, shooting an abysmal 1-10 from the field. Luckily for Dillard, he connected on 11-12 free throw attempts.
The Trojans defense shut down Dillard all night and was contesting every shot. Throughout the night the team was playing with an innate sense of urgency on every possession. Coach O’Neill said after the game that his team is immature and got lucky to pull out the victory.
Regardless, O’Neill should be proud of the resilient effort his team gave to not let down after allowing the double-digit comeback in the second half.
The loss sends the Flyers to 9-4 on the season, while the Men of Troy stand at 5-8 heading into Pac-12 play on Thursday against the Stanford Cardinal.