Onyeka Okongwu blocked Javonte Smart’s jumper as time expired Saturday night, enabling USC to hold off visiting LSU 70-68 in a nonconference game at Staples Center in Los Angeles.
It was fitting that defense decided the game, since the Trojans (10-2) held the Tigers (7-4) without a field goal for a 7:23 stretch late in the game as they erased a 55-50 deficit and led by as many as seven points with just over three minutes remaining.
LSU rallied, getting a layup from Skylar Mays with 5.6 seconds left to cut the margin to two. When Jonah Mathews missed the front end of a one-and-one with 4.9 seconds on the clock, the Tigers had a chance to force overtime, but Okongwu snuffed it out in USC’s fourth straight win.
Five players reached double figures for the Trojans, led by Mathews’ 15 points. Nick Rakocevic added 14 points and nine boards, while Ethan Anderson chipped in 11 points and six assists. Okongwu and Daniel Utomi each scored 10 points.
Mays paced LSU with a game-high 21 points, while Trendon Watford added a 17-point, 10-rebound double-double. Darius Days also posted a double-double with 12 points and 11 boards. The Tigers made only 36.8 percent of their field-goal attempts.
Its pride stung by a blowout loss to East Tennessee State Wednesday night in Baton Rouge, LSU came flying out of the gate, taking a 13-6 lead less than five minutes into the game when Watford converted a short jumper in the paint.
USC fought back over the next eight minutes, establishing a 24-20 advantage with 7:19 left in the half as Utomi drilled a 3-pointer from the right wing. From there, the Tigers made a run to end the half, scoring 15 of the last 19 points.
Watford capped the spurt by driving for a layup with two seconds remaining, sending them into the locker room with a 35-28 advantage. Neither team hit 40 percent from the field, but LSU owned a 24-12 cushion in points in the paint.
—Field Level Media