USC Basketball’s seniors deliver in double-overtime thriller vs. UNC Asheville

Ethan Miller/Getty Images
Ethan Miller/Getty Images /

Jordan McLaughlin refused to let his USC Basketball career end in a first round NIT upset, leading the Trojans past UNC Asheville in a double-overtime thriller.

The lowdown:

With Chimezie Metu sitting to protect his NBA future, USC Basketball could have joined the scores of No. 1 NIT seeds to falter in the first round. Instead, the Trojans battled in double-overtime to keep their postseason alive despite the disappointment of missing out on the NCAA Tournament.

Jordan McLaughlin ran the show on the offensive end for USC in the early goings, scoring the Trojans first seven points of the game. However, USC struggled to get a stop on the defensive end as UNC Asheville’s Jonathan Baehre racked up a quick seven himself and the Bulldogs went up 14-10 in the first quarter.

Triples from McLaughlin and Jordan Usher pulled USC ahead at 18-17 and the Trojans rode a 10-2 run to a six-point lead in the second quarter.

The Trojans surged ahead by 11 on Victor Uyaelunmo’s layup but UNC Asheville responded with an 8-0 run, cutting it to 35-32.

USC produced some highlight plays before the end of the half, including an Usher throw down and an alley-oop dunk from McLaughlin to Elijah Stewart to go into halftime leading 39-34.

Stewart opened the scoring in the second half with a three-pointer from FIBA range as USC battled to maintain an eight-point lead while UNC Asheville worked to keep the Trojans from pulling away.

In the third quarter, the furthest away USC got was eight, but the Bulldogs managed to pull within one on a MaCio Teague three-pointer near the end of the third quarter.

Going into the final period, the Trojans held a tenuous 56-55 lead. Another Teague three-pointer erased the advantage completely and put UNC Asheville ahead by two.

Usher came up with a timely triple to put USC back on top, but the Bulldogs kept pressing the Trojans.

Keeping it close paid off. Miller and Teague hit back-to-back three pointers to take a four-point lead with three minutes remaining.

After missing 10 out of 13 free throw attempts to start the game, Nick Rakocevic and Jordan McLaughlin hit four shots from the foul line to tie the game with 25 seconds remaining. Ahmad Thomas tried to give UNC Asheville the lead at the buzzer, but his jump shot hit the rim, sending the game into overtime.

Though McLaughlin drove quickly to the hoop for the first basket and Shaqquan Aaron slammed down a dunk, Baehre stunned the Trojans with three consecutive three pointers to give the Bulldogs a commanding five-point lead in overtime.

That lead was erased almost as quickly as it came. Jonah Mathews popped up for his first triple of the game, then McLaughlin drove in for a game-tying layup.

After Thomas banked in a jumper, Stewart knocked down a three from the corner to put USC back on top.

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With 34 seconds remaining, Baehre got free for an emphatic dunk to retake the lead. When the Trojans came back empty on their last possession and were forced to foul, UNC Asheville seemed to have a huge advantage with a three-point lead.

But McLaughlin wasn’t ready to lose just yet. He hit a three-pointer to tie the game with seven seconds remaining, forcing a second overtime.

The Bulldogs opened double-overtime in much the same way they did the first. Teague and Miller hit back-to-back triples to build a six-point advantage. But again, USC cut it down quickly with two Rakocevic layups and big dunk to tie.

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It went back and forth from there. Usher swished in a three-pointer putting USC up by one, but UNC Asheville came back with a Kevin Vannatta layup. McLaughlin responded with a floater with 36 seconds remaining.

Teague attempted to drag his Bulldogs back ahead, but his jumper fell short. Elijah Stewart grabbed the rebound and surged up the court for a layup plus a foul shot to expand USC’s advantage to four points with 6.8 seconds on the clock.

The final seconds featured foul shots for both sides, including two potentially damning fouls by Shaqquan Aaron, but Stewart did his part by sinking five-of-five free throws to give the Trojans the 103-98 victory.

Player of the game: Jordan McLaughlin would not let Tuesday night’s game be his final one for USC. He put up 26 points along with 13 assists, three rebounds and a steal, making critical shots down the stretch to keep his Trojans in the game.

Stat of the game: There were eight ties and 15 lead changes between USC and UNC Asheville.

Next on tap: The Trojans will continue to the second round of NIT play with a game against Western Kentucky next Monday night at the Galen Center.