Los Angeles, CA – No. 10 USC overcame a slow start and poor shooting to grind out a 75-65 win over North Dakota State on Monday night at the Galen Center.
Junior Bennie Boatwright scored a career-high 28 points on 10-of-17 shooting to help the Trojans improve to 2-0.
“They played very well and we missed a lot of easy shots,” USC coach Andy Enfield said, “I was proud of my players for coming back.”
USC struggled on offense, missing dunks, layups and shooting 54.8 percent from the free-throw line but used a zone press to force 19 turnovers on defense.
“It was just one of those nights,” Jordan McLaughlin said, “We just need to get back in the gym and keep shooting free throws.”
North Dakota State jumped out to a 10-point lead after three-straight three point baskets with 4:51 remaining in the first half. The Trojans went on a 12-2 run and Boatwright scored eight points to help the Trojans tie the game, 33-33, heading into halftime.
Enfield said they decided to go zone for the last 10 minutes of the game because they were having trouble guarding the Bisons man-to-man.
“They were quicker than us because we had bigger guys,” Enfield said. “They really spread the floor with their shooters. Our zone press was effective at times and we forced them into some bad passes.”
USC trailed by five when Jonah Matthews drained back-to-back shots, including a three, to tie it at 56 with 8:26 left in the game. USC went on a 10-0 run before Cameron Hunter hit a three-pointer to cut the Trojans lead, 70-65.
The Trojans defense held on while USC made free throws down the stretch to secure the win.
“I credit the coaching staff and my teammates for helping me getting in the gym and working on my game,” Boatwright said.”My all-around game, not just being a three-point shooter.”