Boatwright rescues Trojans against New Mexico State
Bennie Boatwright scored 33 points and hit a 3-pointer from the top of the key with 4.1 seconds left to lift Southern California to a 77-72 victory over New Mexico State in the finals of the Diamond Head Classic on Monday at the Stan Sheriff Center in Honolulu.
Jordan McLaughlin added 12 points for the Trojans (9-4), who won the inaugural Diamond Head Classic in 2009 and improved to 6-0 in the tournament all-time.
Zach Lofton had 28 points for the Aggies (11-3) on 6-for-9 shooting from long range. Jemerrio Jones contributed 13 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists in a losing cause.
Chimezie Metu made a key block on Lofton’s driving layup attempt with 1:10 left and Jonah Mathews scored on a driving layup at 1:04 to pull the Trojans into a tie at 72. After USC regained possession, Boatwright launched the winning 3-pointer with five seconds showing on the clock. Metu added a pair of free throws for the final margin.
For a four-minute stretch early in the first half, USC looked every bit like the team that had earned a top-15 preseason ranking. Frustrating New Mexico State with a stifling zone, the Trojans ran off 14 straight points and led 19-9 on Elijah Stewart’s 3-point play with 11:53 left in the half.
USC maintained the 10-point edge at 25-15 on Mathews’ follow shot at 9:07, before Lofton knocked down four straight 3-pointers to give the Aggies a short-lived lead at 32-31. Shaqquan Aaron answered from long distance to put the Trojans up 34-32, but AJ Harris’ runner in the lane tied the score four seconds before the break.
Boatwright led USC with 10 first-half points. For the Aggies, Lofton had 12 before intermission on 4-for-5 shooting from behind the arc. Jones had a double-double before halftime with 11 points and 10 rebounds, five off the offensive glass.
Mathews was back in the Trojans’ lineup after tweaking a left ankle injury on Friday and sitting out USC’s semifinal win over Middle Tennessee on Saturday.