Thanksgiving Day’s USC vs. Wichita State opening round game in the AdvoCare Invitational saw the Trojans beat the No. 20 Shockers in Orlando 72-69.
The lowdown: USC got out to a hot start on Thanksgiving Day against the Shockers, opening up multiple first half leads as big as seven points. But 14 turnovers in the first 20 minutes, along with the Trojans scoring just a single field goal in the final 7:48 of the half saw Wichita State go to the break down a single point, 30-29.
WSU would start the second half strong with a pair of Ron Baker three-pointers. Baker led all scorers with 25 points and was lethal from distance, hitting six times from three-point range. His third of the second half threes capped off a 12-0 run for the Shockers, who opened up their largest lead of the game, at 49-43.
But from then on, it was almost all USC. The Trojans tightened up the turnovers and true freshman Bennie Boatwright scored 12 of the team’s final 29 points, including four key three-point shots.
After going up 71-64 with a Katin Reinhardt free throw with 35 seconds left, the Shockers made one last run for a comeback. It would ultimately fall short, as WSU’s Zach Brown missed on a buzzer-beater that would have tied the game.
The takeaway: Though a 4-0 start with a home win over New Mexico was big for the Trojans, it’s the strong start to the AdvoCare Invitational that speaks volumes to the improvement of the team this year.
The win over Wichita State, despite being marred with turnovers at times, showed the development of the Trojans as a shooting team who weren’t settling for poor shot selection despite trailing in the second half. USC shot 52 percent from three-point range and held Wichita State to just 35.1 percent from the field.
The area of concern however, continues to be free throws. The Trojans were just 10 of 17 from the charity stripe, which nearly cost them the game. Reinhardt, Jordan McLaughlin and Julian Jacobs combined to go 2 of 5 from the line in the final minute, which gave Wichita State a chance to complete an improbable comeback.
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Player of the game: True freshman Bennie Boatwright had his best outing of the young season for the Trojans, scoring 22 points and connecting on 5 of 9 from three-point range. Boatwright’s contributions included a trio of three-pointers in the final eight minutes to put away the Shockers after WSU started the second half on a run. He added three steals, including intercepting a late pass that led to a Katin Reinhardt three-pointer with 1:19 left, which proved to be the difference in the game.
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Stat of the game: The win over Wichita State is USC’s first win over a ranked team since upsetting No. 11 Arizona almost three years ago, in February of 2013. The coach at the time? Interim head coach Bob Cantu, who replaced Kevin O’Neill a month prior.
Next on tap: With the win, the Trojans move on to play to Xavier in the AdvoCare Invitational semifinals on Friday at 11:30 a.m. Pacific on ESPN2. The 23rd-ranked Musketeers beat Alabama soundly in the opening game, 64-45.