The USC basketball team saw their lead cut down to three points with 9:35 left in the second half. The Trojans put South Dakota away with a 16-4 run, including two three-pointers by senior Jonah Matthews.
Nick Rakocevic scored 27 points and pulled down 16 rebounds to help USC defeat South Dakota, 84-66, Tuesday night at the Galen Center. USC improved to 3-0 on the season.
“South Dakota, I thought played very well for most of the game,” USC head coach Andy Enfield said. “I thought we wore them down late in the second half with our length. Our guys finished the game strong.”
Rakocevic and Matthews, who finished with 14 points, both got into the 1,000 career points club. Rakocevic tied a career high in points, made a career-high 10 free throws and finished with five steals, also a career high.
“To be part of those great players (who have scored 1,000 points) is special.” Rakocevic said. “Being aggressive down low and crashing the offensive glass has always been part of my game. I had mismatches against them and my teammates got me the ball to score.”
USC jumped out to a 16-point lead in the first half with the help Max Agbongpolo, who made 3-of-4 three pointers off the bench. USC led 38-31 at halftime despite shooting 35 percent.
True freshman Onyeka Okongwu converted a three-point play and grad transfer Quinton Adlesh drilled two three-pointers to fuel an 11-0 run and a 56-44 lead in the second half. South Dakota stormed back with a 12-3 run to cut the lead, 59-56.
In the closing minutes, the seniors took over as Mattews hit two three-pointers and two key free throws. Rakocevic nailed three free throws to extend the lead and put the game out of reach.
“Our guys executed the game plan well,” Enfield said. “Any team we play can beat us. South Dakota State went to the NIT last year, won 25 games, they’re an excellent program. Our players knew they could beat us. It was good for our guys. They did a great job in the last part of the game to get the W.”
The Trojans hit the road for the first time this season when they travel to Nevada on Saturday, Nov.16.