Rushed Reactions: #11 USC 66, #6 SMU 65

Posted by Chris Stone on March 17th, 2017

Rush the Court will be providing on-site coverage of the NCAA Tournament from start to finish.

USC pulled off the upset on Friday afternoon. (J Pat Carter / Getty Images)

Three Key Takeaways.

  1. USC has the talent to make the second weekend. The Trojans have been wildly inconsistent this season, often oscillating between lengthy winning streaks and tough losing stretches, but they have proven that they can compete with the top teams in the country when at their best. Sure, everyone was looking forward to a potential SMU-Baylor matchup in Sunday’s Round of 32, but USC — because of its size and versatility on the interior — should also be competitive against the Bears. The teams are oddly somewhat similar with De’Anthony Melton playing the Ish Wainwright role of versatile wing. While he scored just two points today, he also dished out three assists, grabbed a pair of boards and snagged a steal. Melton, Jordan McLaughlin and Chimezie Metu are all potential NBA players and it’s all too common for these types of teams to coalesce and make a run in March.
  2. USC’s zone changed the game. After going into halftime with an eight-point deficit, the Trojans switched it up and played a 2-3 zone against the Mustangs for much of the second half. The new defense worked magnificently as SMU looked like it hadn’t seen a zone all season. The Mustangs struggled to get dribble penetration against it with the long arms of the USC defense all over the place. SMU also failed to get the ball into the middle of the zone by passing it to the free throw line. USC outscored the Mustangs 36-27 in the final 20 minutes to come away with a one-point win.
  3. We got a One Shining Moment play. It’s always fun to try to pick out the plays that might show up in One Shining Moment at the end of the NCAA Tournament. SMU’s Semi Ojeleye delivered a no-doubt inclusion against the Trojans as he skied above everyone else for a one-handed putback slam early in the second half. Ojeleye is a special player who at 6’7″ gives head coach Tim Jankovich versatility because of his athleticism, strength and outside shooting. The junior may ultimately be bound for the NBA at the end of this season, but in the meantime, we can watch his ridiculous slam on repeat.

Star of the Game: Elijah Stewart, USC. The junior led the Trojans with 22 points on 8-of-15 shooting, including 6-of-13 conversions from three-point range. His final three-pointer, with 36 seconds remaining, turned out to be the game-winner. Stewart was also important on the defensive end as he helped control penetration on wing in USC’s 2-3 zone for much of the second half.

Sights and Sounds: SMU seemed to turn out quite the crowd, which makes sense given that the game took place just a four-hours drive from its campus. Unfortunately, we won’t get to see what that crowd could have looked like in a match-up with local north Texas rival Baylor.

What’s Next. SMU is headed home while USC advances to face Baylor in the Round of 32 on Sunday.

Chris Stone (127 Posts)

Chris Stone is a contributor to the Big 12 microsite. You can find him on Twitter @cstonehoops.


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