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BYU can't finish late rally against USC in Battle 4 Atlantis opener


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SALT LAKE CITY β€” Ultimately, a career scoring night from the newcomer from Arkansas couldn't make up for BYU basketball's miscues.

Boogie Ellis poured in a career-high 27 points, including 13-of-17 from the free-throw line, with four rebounds, and Drew Peterson added 16 points, 10 rebounds and five assists as Southern California pulled away from BYU 82-76 in the quarterfinals of the Battle 4 Atlantis at Paradise Island in the Bahamas.

Reese Dixon-Walters added 13 points and Joshua Morgan had 11 points and 10 rebounds for the Trojans (4-1), who scored 15 points off 17 turnovers in their fifth-straight win over BYU.

Jaxson Robinson posted a season-high 16 points with four 3-pointers for BYU, and Spencer Johnson led the Cougars (3-2) with 18 points. Rudi Williams added 16 points, four rebounds and four assists, and Gideon George chipped in 12 points and six rebounds.

"I was so proud of our guys for forcing Boogie inside, and tonight he just said he was going to make every pull-up two," BYU coach Mark Pope told BYU Radio. "It was kind of like when we played UCLA in the NCAA Tournament a couple of years ago; he just defied all of the numbers.

"We couldn't find an answer for him. He was too much tonight."

Still, turnovers continue to plague the Cougars, who rank among the most prone teams in the NCAA with double-digit giveaway in the first five games of the season β€” from a season-low 13 in a win over Missouri State to a season-high 23 in the season-opening win over Idaho State.

In that regard, Wednesday's 17 turnovers represented a small victory β€” very, very small, but 14 takeaways for a turnover margin of just plus-3 a little better β€” on the road toward respectability.

BYU committed seven turnovers in the first 13 minutes to trail USC early, but outrebounded the Trojans by as much as 16-8 to keep within reach.

"I loved the flow of the game at halftime. It's just that we turned the ball over 11 times, and they were all self-inflicted," Pope said. "It's a process; we've got to hang in there as we hopefully work out way out of this."

"The issue in the second half was we lost our minds on the defensive glass. Every time we were trying to make a push, we lost a possession on the glass."

The Cougars went on a late run of three-straight makes to shoot 48% from the field and outrebounded the Trojans 22-12. But BYU's turnover problem in the first weeks of the season continued with 11 at the break and USC held the Cougars scoreless for the final four minutes en route to a 31-30 halftime edge.

Johnson led all scorers in the first half with 10 points on 3-of-4 shooting, and Williams added 9 points, three assists and two rebounds for the Cougars.

Peterson led USC with 8 points, four rebounds and four assists before the break.

The Trojans connected on 7-of-13 shots to open the second half, including a 9-0 run to push its lead to a game-high 50-39 on Dixon-Waters' 3-pointer. Ellis stretched the lead to 56-42 with a run to the rim for a 15-3 run overall with 10:43 left.

BYU shot just 5-of-17 coming out of the half, a 29.4% clip that USC used to its advantage. A late shooting spell, including three consecutive 3-pointers by Williams and Robinson, cut the deficit as low as 8 with 1:36 remaining.

But the Cougars could get no closer until Johnson's three with 2 seconds left down 9.

After last weekend's win over Nicholls State, Robinson stayed in the Marriott Center for several after to shoot from 3-point range, with Williams and a graduate assistant sending him passes on the wings after he shot 2-of-7 from the field.

By Wednesday afternoon in The Bahamas, the shots worked. His 5-of-9 makes were also a season high, the most since the Arkansas transfer moved to BYU after a brief stop at Texas A&M with three years of eligibility remaining.

"Jax has got a chance to be a really special player, but he's essentially a freshman in terms of playing in games," Pope said. "He doesn't have much in-game experience, and he's on a steep learning curve like Dallin, Richie and that crew.

"Every minute he's on the floor, he should be getting better. And he's trying to. I was most pleased with his defensive assignments in the first half … and then he made a big impact."

BYU will face Butler after the Bulldogs lost to No. 22 Tennessee, 71-45 in another quarterfinal. Tipoff for the Cougars' first game against the Bulldogs since Dec. 19, 1930 is scheduled for Thursday at 4:30 p.m. MT on ESPN3.

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A proud graduate of Syracuse University, Sean Walker has covered BYU for KSL.com since 2015, while also mixing in prep sports, education, and anything else his editors assign him to do.

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