Stewart, Shaqquan lead USC over Montana 75-61
LOS ANGELES (AP) Elijah Stewart scored a career-high 30 points, Shaqquan Aaron added a career-high 17, and Southern California beat Montana 75-61 in the season opener for both teams Friday night.
The Trojans trailed by double digits in the first half but rallied to win its seventh home opener in the last eight years.
''We were terrible early and had a lot of turnovers,'' said Trojans coach Andy Enfield. ''We missed some easy shots and I think there was some nerves and anxiousness without Benny (Boatwright, starting forward out with an injury). But we kept playing and settled down.''
Stewart and Shaqquan combined for 12-of-22 shooting, 17 of 20 free throws and 14 rebounds and sparked the 17-4 run that gave USC the lead for good at 20-18.
''I really didn't take that many shots, I hit my free throws,'' said Stewart who took 12 shots. ''I've learned that the good shooters get to the free-throw line about 10 times a game. Coming into the season, I wanted to work on my free-throw efficiency.'' Stewart made 14 of 16 from the foul line.
Aaron, who sat out last season after transferring from Louisville, was pleased to get back on the hardwood again.
''I was thinking about it before the game and It's been a long time, it's been two years, since I've been on the court,'' Aaron said. ''To be honest, there was some nerves, but it was fun to get back out there. We didn't panic early. It's a long game and we didn't get mad. When you get mad, you lose. We fixed it.''
USC shot 41.2 percent and outrebounded the Grizzlies 39-32. Montana shot 38.6 percent for the game.
Ahmaad Rorie, a redshirt sophomore and Oregon transfer, scored 21 points, including five 3-pointers for the Grizzlies. Fabijan Krslovic added 10 points for Montana.
Chimezie Metu added 14 points and seven rebounds for the Trojans.
''They had a lot of energy and they rebounded well,'' said Montana coach Travis DeCuire. ''We didn't execute and we had too many turnovers and that was the difference.''
The Grizzlies committed 16 turnovers in the game.
USC freshman De'Anthony Melton led the Trojans with eight rebounds.
Montana: The Grizzlies (20-13 last season) have posted back-to-back 20-win seasons but lost in the final of the Big Sky Tournament and played in the 2016 CBI post-season tournament. Montana last qualified for the NCAA Tournament in 2013.
USC: After finishing the 2015-16 with a 21-13 record and qualifying for its first NCAA Tournament since 2011, the Trojans have high expectations for this season.
Following a Grizzlies turnover, Jordan McLaughlin lofted an ally oop pass to 6-11 Chimezie Metu for a thundering dunk that gave USC a 29-21 lead at the 3:30 mark of the first half.
USC sophomore power forward Bennie Boatwright, who started 32 games last season and averaged 11.5 points and 5.2 rebounds, did not play due to upper back spasms. His availability is listed day to day. ''I'm not sure when Benny will be back,'' said Enfield. ''I don't want to rush him. If it was a PAC 12 championship game he would have played, but I don't want to rush him and get him reinjured. We have a long road to go.''
Montana plays its home opener on Monday against the Wyoming.
USC will host Nebraska-Omaha on Sunday. The Mavericks won 18 games last year, return four starters and played in the CBI post-season tournament last season. UNO opens its season with a road game against Big West opponent UC Santa Barbara on Saturday.