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COLLEGE STATION, Texas (AP) — Southern California guard De'Anthony Melton played like a silky-smooth veteran down the stretch at Texas A&M, prompting a gentle reminder from Trojans coach Andy Enfield afterward.
"He's a true freshman, in the third game of his college career, and we were on the road," Enfield said with a smile.
Melton could have fooled the Aggies, late in the Trojans' 65-63 comeback victory before a stunned crowd on Friday night. The 6-foot-4 Melton knocked down a 3-pointer with 2:07 remaining to close A&M's lead to 62-60, and with 12 seconds left he stole the ball from A&M point guard JC Hampton to help preserve the victory.
"He has an uncanny ability to make plays at crucial times," Enfield said.
Melton scored four of his eight points in the last two minutes, Chimezie Metu had 14 points and Jordan McLaughlin added 13.
The Aggies (2-1) led 63-60 with 58 seconds remaining when the Trojans (3-0) closed with a flourish. Bennie Boatwright made two free throws with 45 seconds remaining to tighten the gap to 63-62. Hampton then drove the lane and missed a short jump shot, and Boatwright missed a 3-point attempt on the ensuing possession. But McLaughlin grabbed the offensive rebound, and Metu followed with a dunk to lift the Trojans to a 64-63 lead they wouldn't relinquish.
"We made youthful mistakes that I've got to get them better at," said A&M coach Billy Kennedy, who had to replace four senior starters from last year's NCAA tournament Sweet 16 team.
Following Metu's dunk Hampton dribbled the ball up court with 17 seconds left, but Melton swiped the ball from behind, and Admon Gilder fouled Melton when he drove to the basket with 11 seconds left. Melton made his first free throw but missed his second, and A&M guard D.J. Hogg's 3-point attempt from the top of the key missed the mark at the buzzer.
"We made some mistakes, and in life when you make mistakes sometimes you pay," A&M forward Tonny Trocha-Morelos said. "We made mistakes, and USC took advantage."
Hogg led the Aggies with 17 points, and Trocha-Morelos added 15. USC's Elijah Stewart had 11 points and 11 rebounds and Metu grabbed 10 boards.
"Texas A&M's front line is just outstanding," Enfield said of the Aggies' size and athleticism down low. "So to hold them to 38 percent shooting and out-rebound them (47 to 44) was terrific on our part."
After two easy wins at home to start the season, the Trojans showed plenty of resiliency in their first time on the road, overcoming a late deficit in front of a hostile crowd. A&M coach Billy Kennedy said he believes USC is an NCAA Tournament team, and the Trojans looked like it on Friday.
The Aggies are young and it showed. Freshman forward Robert Williams has been a dynamo around the basket, but a couple of errant long shots late in the game showed he still has a lot to learn. That goes for plenty of his underclassmen teammates, as well.
Texas A&M goes on the road for the first time on Thursday, and will face Cal State Northridge in Fullerton, California, in the Wooden Legacy.
The Trojans return to Los Angeles on Tuesday against New Orleans, the first of three consecutive home games.
HE SAID IT
"Sometimes you have to lose, and learn in those games," A&M coach Billy Kennedy said of his young team.
STAT OF THE NIGHT
The teams were almost even in turnovers (11 for USC and 12 for A&M), but the Trojans doubled up the Aggies, 16-8, in points off turnovers.
A&M led for nearly the entire first half, but USC's Jordan McLaughlin sank a jumper from near the top of the key at the halftime buzzer to lift the Trojans to a 31-29 lead, a harbinger of things to come from USC.
USC snapped an A&M streak of a dozen consecutive non-conference wins over high-major opponents in Reed Arena. A&M hadn't lost to a high-major in non-league play at home since December 8, 2001, against Miami.
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