USC rallies in 2nd half to beat South Dakota State 84-66
LOS ANGELES (AP) — It was senior night for Southern California and the season has barely begun.
Nick Rakocevic and Jonah Mathews both went over the 1,000-point mark in their careers while helping the Trojans rally twice in the second half before pulling away to beat South Dakota State 84-66 Tuesday night.
Rakocevic tied his career high with 27 points and 16 rebounds, giving him 1,007 career points. Mathews finished with 14 points and has 1,009 in his fourth season.
“To have it on the same night is something special,” said Mathews, who has known Rakocevic since they were teenagers playing AAU ball.
Rakocevic added, “It’s something we’re going to remember forever.”
Trojans coach Andy Enfield couldn’t recall having two players go over 1,000 points during his career.
“They have a chance to do something special this year as a team,” he said.
It was another good game for their freshman teammate Onyeka Okongwu. He added 12 points and eight rebounds after notching double-doubles in his first two games for the Trojans (3-0).
The Jackrabbits (3-1) twice pulled within one point in the second half, both times on 3-pointers by Noah Freidel and Brandon Key. The second time the Trojans responded with 11 unanswered points to go up 56-44. Grad transfer Quinton Adlesh hit two 3-pointers and Okongwu had a three-point play.
“We knew going in they could beat us if we didn’t play well,” Enfield said. “To have a close game in the second half and have to fight through it was good for our team.”
The Jacks weren’t done.
They used a 12-3 run to close to 59-56, with four different players scoring, including five points from Baylor Scheierman.
The Trojans responded with their own 9-3 spurt, making seven of 10 free throws for a 68-59 lead.
Tray Buchanan’s 3-pointer — the Jacks’ fifth of the half — left them down by six.
“Kind of got to six there with about four and half to go and just kind of lost our minds,” Jacks coach Eric Henderson said. “Had some fouls there, some silly fouls, just really we weren’t ourselves. We were a little out of character and that’s probably what was disappointing.”
From there, USC pulled away to end the game on a 16-4 run. Mathews made two 3-pointers and the Trojans hit six free throws.
Douglas Wilson led the Jacks with 15 points and David Wingett added 10 before both fouled out.
“I felt like if we would just finish like two or three more possessions we would have been either ahead or just right there with them the whole game,” Wilson said, “but I think once that last four minutes came we just shut down as a team.”
South Dakota State: The two-time defending Summit League regular season champions feature several new faces, having returned just 17 percent of their scoring from last season. The Jackrabbits were picked to finish fifth in the league.
USC: The Trojans have faced challenges in each of their first three wins. They trailed at halftime in the first two and needed multiple rallies to put away the Jacks. Okongwu needs to avoid early fouls that have taken him out for chunks of time. Grad transfer Adlesh is proving to be a reliable 3-point shooter and steady presence on the floor.
Mathews was late to class again, according to Enfield, so he didn’t start. He’s started just once in three games because of tardiness. Mathews had three points playing just over nine minutes in the first half. Adlesh started in Mathews’ place.
South Dakota State: Visits Nebraska on Friday, one of four Power 5 schools on the Jackrabbits’ non-conference schedule.
USC: Visits Nevada on Saturday and its new coach Steve Alford, who was fired at UCLA last New Year’s Eve. It’s the Trojans’ only road game among their first six. USC leads the series 2-1 but lost 73-61 last season.
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