USC tops New Mexico State 77-72 to win Diamond Head Classic
HONOLULU (AP) Bennie Boatwright had quite the eventful week in Hawaii.
Boatwright drained a long 3-pointer with 4.1 seconds left and Southern California held off New Mexico State 77-72 in the title game of the Diamond Head Classic Monday.
The Trojans (9-4) won the tournament for the second time in program history with their third consecutive win. They also won the inaugural tournament in 2009.
Three days after being ejected in the first half of Southern California’s come-from-behind win over Akron, Boatwright scored a career-high 33 points on 10-of-16 shooting, including six 3-pointers. He also shot a perfect 7 of 7 from the free-throw line, grabbed seven rebounds and was named the tournament’s most valuable player.
”I didn’t think about that. I honestly just wanted to win three games. That’s all I wanted,” said Boatwright, a 6-foot-10 junior. ”It’s just a sign of hard work and my teammates believing in me and guys looking for me.”
New Mexico State held a 72-68 lead with 1:58 remaining, but Jordan McLaughlin banked in a 7-foot jumper and Jonah Mathews tied it with his coast-to-coast layup with 1:01 left.
Boatwright’s trey from about 26-feet on the left wing gave the Trojans the lead for good.
”Bennie played terrific basketball,” USC coach Andy Enfield said.
”To get MVP of the tournament after scoring two points and getting ejected thirteen minutes into the (Akron) game is pretty impressive. Bennie had a couple rough games where he didn’t shoot the ball well and just didn’t play that well, but he stayed in the gym and he’s healthy now. Now I think you’re seeing Bennie with a lot of energy and a desire to do a lot of things on the floor to help our team win,” Enfield said.
Boatwright had 10 points in the first half and shot 6 of 10 from the field after the intermission.
”Their length and their athleticism bothered us as the game wore on, especially in the second half, and a lot of credit goes to them. They dug in defensively and I thought they were really good down the stretch on the defensive end of the floor, and then at the end of the day Bennie Boatwright was just too hard to guard for us tonight,” Aggies coach Chris Jans said. ”He made some shots that I don’t think it would have mattered who was guarding him. He really made some big shots and then they did what good teams do, they closed it out at the free-throw line.”
McLaughlin added 12 points, eight assists and five rebounds for the Trojans, who shot 51 percent (26 of 51) from the field and 11 of 21 from beyond the arc.
Zach Lofton scored 28 points to lead the Aggies (11-3), who saw their five-game win streak snapped.
Lofton and Boatwright tied the tournament record for 3-pointers in a championship game with six apiece.
The score was tied at 34 at halftime.
USC: Mathews made his return after missing the Trojans’ semifinal victory over Middle Tennessee Saturday. The sophomore guard shot 4 of 6 from the field and finished with nine points, three rebounds and an assist in 28 minutes played.
New Mexico State: The Aggies were seeking their first tournament championship since the 2004-05 season, when it defeated Central Florida in Fairbanks, Alaska.
One of Jones’s eight assists came on a spectacular finish by Johnny McCants with about eight minutes left to play. Jones threw a lob pass from the top of the key to a cutting McCants, who caught it with his right hand and made an underhand scoop shot in one motion to give the Aggies a 61-55 lead.
STAT OF THE NIGHT
USC was held to fewer than 80 points for the first time in seven games, since it lost at SMU 72-55. The Trojans were averaging 88.2 points and a 51.4-percent field goal percentage during that stretch.
USC will host Washington Friday and Washington State Sunday to start the Pac-12 portion of its schedule. The Trojans were picked to finish second in the conference.
New Mexico State, the preseason pick to finish second in the WAC, will visit UC Irvine Thursday before opening up conference play at Chicago State on Jan. 6.