The men’s basketball team had a strong showing at the AdvoCare Invitational in Orlando over Thanksgiving weekend, upsetting No. 20 Wichita State in the first round before falling to No. 23 Xavier in the semifinals and Monmouth in the third place game.
Thursday’s 72-69 win over Wichita State marked the first time the Trojans had beaten a team ranked in the top 25 since 2013.
Freshman forward Bennie Boatwright led the way with a career-high 22 points. The Men of Troy took a narrow one-point lead into halftime, but Wichita State went on a 12-0 run in the second half to take a 49-43 advantage. The Trojans responded, though, and consecutive threes by Boatwright and Elijah Stewart put them ahead 61-54 with just under seven minutes to play.
Boatwright made more big plays down the stretch, hitting another three to extend a two-point USC lead. Then, he came up with a steal that led to a Katin Reinhardt three-pointer, giving the Trojans a 70-62 lead with 1:19 remaining.
USC hung on for the upset after a desperation game-tying three by Wichita State went off the rim.
However, the Trojans were unable to replicate the upset against No. 23 Xavier in the semifinals in an 87-77 loss. It would have been the first time they notched wins against multiple ranked opponents in the same season since 2010-2011.
Xavier came out on fire, jumping out to a 19-3 lead just five minutes into the game. The Musketeers doubled up on the Trojans in the first half, taking a 54-27 advantage at halftime. They shot 57.6 percent in the half, while the Trojans committed 15 fouls and turned the ball over 12 times.
USC, led by 15 points each from Nikola Jovanovic and Julian Jacobs, was more competitive in the second half, but it was not enough to erase the large first half deficit.
To conclude the tournament, the Trojans fell victim to a pesky Monmouth team in a 83-73 loss. Monmouth had already upset UCLA and No. 17 Notre Dame in the early going, and had played tough against the Trojans in a 101-90 USC win at the Galen Center earlier in November.
The Trojans could not contain Monmouth guard Justin Robinson, who had a game-high 27 points. Robinson went on a 10-2 run by himself late in the first half to help his team go up by nine at halftime.
The Hawks opened up a double-digit lead for much of the second half. Despite a late push by the Trojans to claw within three at 73-70, Monmouth ended the game on a 10-3 run to pull away for the win.
USC leaves Orlando with a 5-2 record, which ranks seventh in the Pac-12. The Trojans have a road game on Thursday in Santa Barbara against the Gauchos.