When USC basketball battles with Providence in the NCAA Tournament, the Trojans need Bennie Boatwright to return to his best.
It hasn’t been the greatest month of USC forward Bennie Boatwright.
The slump started on February 26, when the Trojans blew a double-digit lead over Arizona State in the final minutes, putting their NCAA Tournament bid on the line. Boatwright led USC in scoring that night, but it was his two turnovers in the last two and a half minutes of the game which helped fuel the improbable Sun Devil comeback.
The first set up a three-pointer which cut the lead to five points. The second, followed by a Boatwright foul, sent Tra Holder to the line to take the lead.
Since Boatwright committed those turnovers, the forward has averaged just 11.75 points and has shot 35.1 percent from the field. His season average is 14.6 points and a field goal percentage of 40.2.
He hasn’t led USC in scoring in any of the four games since either.
The Trojans went 3-1 in those games, rebounding against Washington State before fending off Washington in back-to-back contests.
Then they ran into UCLA in the Pac-12 Tournament. Despite a generally poor performance, USC challenged the Bruins to the final second, fighting back from a double-digit deficit twice.
It was a performance which represents the Trojans’ level throughout the season. They never gave up and had the firepower to keep things close, but they lacked that extra something to put them over the top. It was the same story against Oregon and Arizona.
Jordan McLaughlin tallied 18 points in a standout night. Elijah Stewart brought 17 points to the table. Chimezie Metu had 14 rebounds to make up for a poor shooting performance. But Boatwright managed just 11 points — three of which were on a three in the final seconds after the game was essentially finished.
More from Reign of Troy
- Markese Stepp enters transfer portal intending to leave USC football
- USC football’s Alijah Vera-Tucker declares for NFL Draft
- USC football adds Xavion Alford as transfer from Texas
- USC Podcast: RoT Radio Ep. 396 on the Football Season’s Fallout
- Talanoa Hufanga named Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year, USC football with five first-teamers
USC needed more from their most naturally talented player, but his slump continued.
That will have to change in the NCAA Tournament, when the Trojans need Boatwright back to his best.
Last year against Providence, Boatwright had 11 points while USC’s scoring was spread across four players in double-figures.
It’s possible the Trojans will once again lean on a group effort, with plenty of scorers on deck between McLaughlin, Metu, Stewart and Shaqquan Aaron — along with potential contributions from freshmen De’Anthony Melton and Jonah Mathews.
Even so, if USC hopes to advance, Boatwright must raise his level and boost the Trojans from a bubble outfit to a danger team.
The Trojans tip off against Providence tonight at 6:10 p.m. on TruTV.