The Trojans split their first two games in the Maui Invitational this week, as they were routed 94-64 by Illinois on Monday night before bouncing back on Tuesday with a 59-53 overtime victory over Texas to advance to the tournament’s fifth-place game against Marquette.
By no means did the Trojans (3-1) play a game of offensive firepower with the Longhorns (2-2), who had suffered a shocking upset to Division II Chaminade on Monday. Both teams combined to shoot under 36 percent in a sloppy, defensive-minded game.
Junior guard JT Terrell made all four of his free-throws in the last 20 seconds of overtime to seal the victory. With 18 seconds left in regulation, Terrell had taken a pass from sophomore center Dewayne Dedmon in transition and slammed down an uncontested dunk to tie it up at 47 and sent it into extra time.
Senior forward Eric Wise led the Trojans with 13 points, and senior point guard Jio Fontan scored 10 of his 11 points in the second half to keep USC afloat.
The game had 12 ties and nine lead changes, and neither team led by more than three points in the second half.
USC finally pulled away with 1:27 left in overtime after Dedmon made a layup while being fouled, then sank the ensuing free throw to put the Trojans up 54-51.
In a game that featured two teams having off nights on offense, that was enough separation as Terrell iced the game from the charity stripe.
Texas was held without a field goal for the first six minutes of the game, and the Trojans missed nine shots in a row during one stretch in the second half.
It must’ve been a relief for USC to face a cold-shooting Longhorns squad after running into an offensive buzz saw in Illinois (4-0) the previous night.
USC’s quarterfinal match was never really close — the Trojans were down 9-8 with 14:47 remaining in the first half, and it was all downhill from there.
Illinois outscored USC 48-18 from that point into the halftime break, and cruised to an easy win. The Trojans actually outscored the Fighting Illini by one in the second half, but it wasn’t nearly enough to bring them back into the game.
Illinois’ 94 points was more than the Trojans allowed in any game last season — in fact, it was the most points scored by a USC opponent since a season-opening loss to Mercer in 2007.
The Fighting Illini knocked down eight 3-pointers in the first half alone, and finished the game 13 for 29 (45 percent) from long range. They also dominated USC on the boards, accumulating 39 rebounds compared to 18 for the Trojans.
Senior guard Brandon Paul led the offensive attack for the Fighting Illini, knocking down six 3-pointers on his own to finish with 26 points and six rebounds.
Three Trojans hit double figures scoring — Wise led the team with 13 points and four rebounds, Terrell had 11 points but on an inefficient 5-14 shooting and Fontan had 10 on an equally disappointing 2-8 from the floor.
USC will now face Marquette (3-1) in the fifth-place game of the tournament at 2 p.m. PT. The Golden Eagles lost 72-71 on a buzzer-beater against Butler in the first round on Monday before routing Mississippi State 89-62 on Tuesday.