It's not the March Madness the Trojans were expecting when the curtains fell on the Pac-12 tournament, but their 103-98 first round NIT victory over UNC Asheville certainly had elements of madness.
The double overtime game saw three Trojans score more than 20 points. Senior captain Jordan McLaughlin led the team with 26 points, followed Junior Nick Rakocevic with 24 points and 19 rebounds and Senior Elijah Stewart with 22 points.
Notably absent from the game was junior Chimezie Metu who announced that he would not be playing in order to avoid injury as he looks forward to the NBA Draft.
A somewhat lethargic USC entered the locker room with a 39-34 lead. But UNC Asheville wasn't going to let go of the game that easy. With 3:41 left in the second half, the Bulldogs took the lead, and it was neck and neck for the rest of the game.
Free throws from McLaughlin with 25 seconds left in regulation, tied the game at 70 and forced overtime. In the first overtime went back and forth, and ultimately saw the Trojans down by three with 14 seconds left on the clock. Again, it was McLaughlin to send the game into a second overtime when he hit a 3-pointer with seven seconds remaining.
The Trojans had a 99-95 lead with sic seconds left on the clock, but the Bulldogs weren't going to let the game slip away from them that easy. UNC Ashville clawed their back into one possession range with free throws from Jonathan Baehre. Luckily for the Trojans, Stewart was solid from the line, going 6-for-6 in the second overtime.
This game came after USC didn't get an at large bid into the NCAA tournament. An obviously disappointed Trojan side, is making the most of the post-season according to McLaughlin. After the game the senior captain said, "since we're in it, we might as well win it."
Up next, the USC will host No. 4 seed Western Kentucky on Monday, March 19 at 8:30 p.m. in the Galen Center.