December 24, 2017 / 12:24 AM / a year ago

Metu, Boatwright lead USC past Middle Tennessee

Metu, Boatwright lead USC past Middle Tennessee

Chimezie Metu scored 27 points and Bennie Boatwright added 23 to help USC hold off Middle Tennessee 89-84 in the semifinals of the Diamond Head Classic on Saturday at the Stan Sheriff Center in Honolulu

The efforts of the Trojans big men offset a 28-point, 11-rebound performance from Blue Raiders leading scorer Nick King.

USC, now 5-0 all-time in Diamond Head Classic play, will face the winner of Saturday’s Miami-New Mexico State contest in Monday’s championship game.

Middle Tennessee (8-3) held a nine-point lead at 54-45 on Tyrik Dixon’s 3-point jumper with 16:01 left in the game, but USC (8-4) ran off 10 straight points over the next 3:55 to lead by one.

The Trojans edged ahead 76-72 with 4:19 left and put the game away with two late 3-pointers from Shaqquan Aaron, who scored six of his 10 points when they counted most.

Behind King’s 14 points, Middle Tennessee owned a 43-42 halftime lead. The Blue Raiders led by as many as seven points before Elijah Stewart (13 points) made a trio of 3-pointers on the way to 12 points at the break. The last of those treys tied the game at 33 with 6:25 left in the half.

Metu paced USC with 13 first-half points, and Boatwright added 11, eight of which came on free throws thanks to aggressive moves to the hoop. All told, the Trojans stayed close with 15-of-18 shooting from the foul line. Middle Tennessee made four of its five free-throw attempts.

USC held a 22-12 lead in first-half points in the paint and a 14-2 edge in bench points, but the Blue Raiders earned their one-point edge at intermission on superior shooting, converting 17 of 30 field goal attempts to 11 of 23 for USC. Both teams were 5 of 10 from long range.

Jonah Mathews, who aggravated a left ankle injury in the Trojans’ 84-53 over Akron on Friday, sat out Saturday’s game with a boot on his foot.

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