DAYTON, Ohio (AP) — Beaten by Providence by one point in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament last year, Southern Cal exacted revenge in a rematch Wednesday night.
Bennie Boatwright scored a career-high 24 points as the Trojans rallied from a 17-point deficit in the second half to beat Providence 75-71 in a First Four game.
"It does feel good getting payback from last year, because that was a tough loss," Boatwright said.
Southern Cal, the No. 11 seed, moves on to play No. 6 seed SMU in Tulsa, Oklahoma, on Friday. It will be the second meeting of the season for the teams after USC prevailed 78-73 on Nov. 25. Southern Cal is 5-1 all-time against SMU.
After Providence (20-13) led by 15 points at halftime and went up by 17 to start the second half, Southern Cal (25-9) mounted a furious rally. The Trojans closed it to five points at the 10-minute mark, and went up 61-60 on a jumper by Chimezie Metu off a turnover with 6:46 left .
Metu hit both ends of a 1-and-1 to put Southern Cal up 71-64 with 1:23 remaining and kept Providence from getting momentum down the stretch.
"I think we just got out-toughed in the second half," Providence guard Jalen Lindsey said. "We weren't playing with the same passion we were in the first half, and it showed. And they executed their game plan and we kind of faltered back."
Jordan McLaughlin scored 18 points for Southern Cal, and Metu added 15 on 9-for-12 free throw shooting.
Emmitt Holt led Providence with 18 points and 11 rebounds. Lindsey and Rodney Bullock added 17 each.
The comeback was Southern Cal's 12th this season of at last 10 points, the most in the nation.
Providence outshot Southern Cal 49 percent to 42 percent, but the Trojans outscored them in the second half 46-27.
"I thought we got lazy defensively in the second half, and I was really shocked at that given the time and score of this game," Providence coach Ed Cooley said.
Providence: Had the game well in hand but went cold in the second half and let Southern Cal muscle back into it.
Southern Cal: An energetic second-half comeback gives the Trojans some buoyancy and momentum as they move into the field of 64. And they know they can beat SMU.
LOOKING TO TULSA
USC coach Andy Enfield saw enough of SMU in November to know the Trojans have their work cut out for them on Friday.
"They're a terrific basketball team," he said of the Mustangs, who have won 16 straight. "They have five guys in their starting lineup that are similar to Providence. They're big, they're long, they're very skilled."
McLaughlin said Southern Cal showed it belongs in the tournament.
"Our coaches, they have confidence in us, we have confidence in ourselves," he said. "And we know when we're playing like we did the second half that we're able to compete with anybody. And it's just a matter of us just bringing the energy and knocking down shots and just competing all the way to the end."
The game looked like a rout in the making at halftime. Providence took a 44-29 lead on the strength of a 15-0 run punctuated by two 3-pointers by Bullock and another from Lindsey, who had 15 points in the first half. The Friars were 8 for 15 from 3-point range in the first half.
Southern Cal had just three field goals in the last 11 minutes of the half, and went without one in the last 4 1/2 minutes of the frame with Providence ripping off a 12-3 run in that span.
The second-half comeback included two 8-0 runs by the Trojans.
Southern Cal: Plays 6th-seeded SMU in the first round of the East Regional in Tulsa, Oklahoma, on Friday.
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