Men’s Basketball Falls at USC Thursday Behind Strong Inside Play

Men’s Basketball Falls at USC Thursday Behind Strong Inside Play

AUDIO: Halftime Interview with Vrankic

LOS ANGELES – Strong play from its frontline helped USC get back on the winning track.

Junior forwards Bennie Boatwright (21 points/11 rebounds) and Chimezie Metu (20 points/11 rebounds) each had double-doubles to lead the Trojans to an 82-59 victory over Santa Clara men's basketball on Thursday.

Nick Rakocevic came off the bench to also produce a double-double, posting 16 points and 10 rebounds for the Trojans (5-3) who snapped a three-game skid by shooting 49 percent from the floor and holding a 36-22 edge on points in the paint.

Josip Vrankic scored a team-high 15 points and KJ Feagin added 10 for the Broncos (3-7) who shot only 31 percent from the floor and were out-rebounded 52-27 in a game they trailed from the start.

After trailing by as many as 16 in the opening half, the Broncos, who played a 2-3 zone for most of the game, showed some life in the first five minutes of the second.

Feagin's 3-pointer cut the deficit to 44-32 with 16:30 left, but that was as close as Santa Clara was able to get as the Trojans had answers with Rakocevic scoring 13 in the final half, all from close range.

The lead grew to 61-41 on a dunk from Metu and after the Broncos cut their deficit to 66-52 with less than seven minutes left on a 3-point play from Henry Caruso, a dunk from Boatwright was followed by one from Rakocevic. The Broncos were never closer than 18 the rest of the way.

Jordan McLaughlin was held to just nine points, but nearly had a double-double with 10 assists and just two turnovers.

Freshmen Shaquille Walters (nine) and Matt Turner (eight) came off the bench to score 17 points for the Broncos, but Matt Hauser, who had combined to tally 43 points the last two games, was held to three on 1 of 7 shooting from the floor.

Led by six straight points from Metu, the Trojans raced out to a 12-3 five minutes into the game.

Boatwright scored five in a row to push the lead to 26-10 before the Broncos rallied. Turner's 3-pointer cut the deficit to 28-17 with 3:50 left, but Jonah Mathews hit a 3-pointer and set up Stewart for a layup to push the lead to 33-17.

Walters (seven) and Turner (six) scored 13 of the team's 22 first-half points.

Matt Hauser, KJ Feagin, Jarvis Pugh, Henry Caruso and Josip Vrankic started the game. Facing an athletic USC frontcourt, Pugh subbed in for Emmanuel Ndumanya who had started the last 33 games, most on the team.
• The Trojans now lead the all-time series 23-8, but this was just the second meeting since 1983-84. USC defeated Santa Clara, 86-73, on Nov. 15, 2010, in Los Angeles. The Broncos have won only two of the 14 games played at USC. The programs met nearly annually from the 1950s into the 60s and then played a pair of home and away series (1971-72, 1973-74; 1982-83, 1983-84). USC will play at Santa Clara next season.
• Vrankic (15 points) scored in double figures for the sixth-straight game.
Shaquille Walters played a career-high 30 minutes.
• The Broncos registered season lows in turnovers (5) and field-goal.


The Broncos close out nonconference play next week with a pair of home games. They face Valparaiso on Monday (7 p.m.) and San Jose State, in the 51st annual Cable Car Classic on Thursday, also a 7 p.m. tipoff.