USC’s De’Anthony Melton, Chimezie Metu land in second round of NBA draft

De’Anthony Melton, who was expected to be selected as high as the mid-20s in the first round of the NBA draft on Thursday night in Brooklyn, ultimately faced a longer wait.

The former USC guard was drafted midway through the second round, slipping to the Houston Rockets, who snagged him with the No. 46 overall pick.

Despite a fall into the second round, it appeared to be a promising pairing, with the analytics-minded franchise settling on Melton, a 20-year-old player who had earned favor among a variety of analytics experts over the past year due to his versatility.

During his freshman season for the Trojans in 2016-17, Melton averaged 8.3 points, 4.7 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 1.9 steals and 1.0 blocked shot. Only one other freshman (Dwyane Wade, then at Marquette) had averaged as much across all five categories since 1992-93.

Melton’s selection was followed three picks later by his former USC teammate, Chimezie Metu, the springy forward who was drafted by the San Antonio Spurs with the No. 49 overall pick.

They were the first USC players to be drafted since Nikola Vucevic in 2011, ending the longest drought in the program’s history. Previously, no more than five years had passed between USC’s NBA draft picks.

There had been 479 players drafted between Vucevic, the 16th overall pick in 2011, and Melton.

Melton’s draft stock was likely impacted after he missed his sophomore season with the Trojans due to a connection to the FBI’s investigation into bribery and corruption in college basketball.

USC, which declared Melton ineligible a month into the season, led an internal investigation that determined Dave Elliott, a family friend, had accepted “extra benefits,” leaving Melton in potential violation of NCAA amateurism rules, a reason it opted to withhold him from games. Melton was never accused of wrongdoing.

Federal prosecutors alleged in a federal complaint last September that Elliott accepted $5,000 from Christian Dawkins and financial advisor Munish Sood.

Melton, who also went to Crespi High, continued to practice with the Trojans before withdrawing from school in February to enter the draft.

Rockets general manager Daryl Morey told reporters in Houston late Thursday that Melton’s season-long absence contributed to his slide – and to their benefit.

“He’s a guy, who if he had played, we feel pretty comfortable he would have been a top-20 pick,” Morey said. “I think he was a little out of sight, out of mind. That played into our advantage, that he was still available.”

Trojans coach Andy Enfield said in an interview earlier this month he believed Melton would have been a lottery pick had he appeared in games as a sophomore.

While versatile, Melton’s best attribute is seen as his defense. A 6-foot-3 combo guard who is able to defend points guards, as well as shooting guards, in the backcourt, his 6-8 wingspan helps him disrupt passes and opposing ball handlers. Melton’s 1.9 steals per game were second in the Pac-12 in the 2016-17 season.

As with Melton, Metu left school early to enter the draft, bypassing his senior season. He also sat out the National Invitation Tournament to end last season.

As a junior last season, Metu, a 6-10 presence who might play power forward or center in the NBA, averaged 15.7 points, 7.4 rebounds, and 1.7 blocked shots per game.

The Lawndale High product was a gifted dunker for the Trojans and compiled 214 rim-rattling finishes over his three-year career.

In a statement following his selection, Enfield said, “Chimezie will have a long career in the NBA. He is a hard worker and has a great skill set for someone his size.”

The selection of Melton and Metu also marked the first time since 2009 that USC had two players drafted in the two-round draft. In 2009, both DeMar DeRozan and Taj Gibson were first-round picks.

Neither point guard Jordan McLaughlin nor shooting guard Elijah Stewart was drafted. The departed seniors were considered more fringe prospects, but both are expected to join Summer League teams.

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USC routs Oregon to reach Pac-12 title game for first time since 2009

  • LAS VEGAS, NV – MARCH 09: Jonah Mathews #2 of the USC Trojans brings the ball up the court against the Oregon Ducks during a semifinal game of the Pac-12 basketball tournament at T-Mobile Arena on March 9, 2018 in Las Vegas, Nevada. The Trojans won 74-54. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

    LAS VEGAS, NV – MARCH 09: Jonah Mathews #2 of the USC Trojans brings the ball up the court against the Oregon Ducks during a semifinal game of the Pac-12 basketball tournament at T-Mobile Arena on March 9, 2018 in Las Vegas, Nevada. The Trojans won 74-54. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

  • LAS VEGAS, NV – MARCH 09: Kenny Wooten #1 of the Oregon Ducks and Nick Rakocevic #31 of the USC Trojans fight for a rebound during a semifinal game of the Pac-12 basketball tournament at T-Mobile Arena on March 9, 2018 in Las Vegas, Nevada. The Trojans won 74-54. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

    LAS VEGAS, NV – MARCH 09: Kenny Wooten #1 of the Oregon Ducks and Nick Rakocevic #31 of the USC Trojans fight for a rebound during a semifinal game of the Pac-12 basketball tournament at T-Mobile Arena on March 9, 2018 in Las Vegas, Nevada. The Trojans won 74-54. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

  • LAS VEGAS, NV – MARCH 09: Jordan McLaughlin #11 of the USC Trojans is fouled as he goes to the basket against Abu Kigab #24 of the Oregon Ducks during a semifinal game of the Pac-12 basketball tournament at T-Mobile Arena on March 9, 2018 in Las Vegas, Nevada. The Trojans won 74-54. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

    LAS VEGAS, NV – MARCH 09: Jordan McLaughlin #11 of the USC Trojans is fouled as he goes to the basket against Abu Kigab #24 of the Oregon Ducks during a semifinal game of the Pac-12 basketball tournament at T-Mobile Arena on March 9, 2018 in Las Vegas, Nevada. The Trojans won 74-54. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

  • LAS VEGAS, NV – MARCH 09: Jonah Mathews #2 of the USC Trojans celebrates on the court after teammate Elijah Stewart (not pictured) #30 hit a 3-pointer against the Oregon Ducks during a semifinal game of the Pac-12 basketball tournament at T-Mobile Arena on March 9, 2018 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

    LAS VEGAS, NV – MARCH 09: Jonah Mathews #2 of the USC Trojans celebrates on the court after teammate Elijah Stewart (not pictured) #30 hit a 3-pointer against the Oregon Ducks during a semifinal game of the Pac-12 basketball tournament at T-Mobile Arena on March 9, 2018 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

  • LAS VEGAS, NV – MARCH 09: Jordan McLaughlin #11 of the USC Trojans recovers the ball after making a steal against the Oregon Ducks during a semifinal game of the Pac-12 basketball tournament at T-Mobile Arena on March 9, 2018 in Las Vegas, Nevada. The Trojans won 74-54. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

    LAS VEGAS, NV – MARCH 09: Jordan McLaughlin #11 of the USC Trojans recovers the ball after making a steal against the Oregon Ducks during a semifinal game of the Pac-12 basketball tournament at T-Mobile Arena on March 9, 2018 in Las Vegas, Nevada. The Trojans won 74-54. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

  • LAS VEGAS, NV – MARCH 09: Jordan McLaughlin #11 of the USC Trojans recovers the ball after making a steal against the Oregon Ducks during a semifinal game of the Pac-12 basketball tournament at T-Mobile Arena on March 9, 2018 in Las Vegas, Nevada. The Trojans won 74-54. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

    LAS VEGAS, NV – MARCH 09: Jordan McLaughlin #11 of the USC Trojans recovers the ball after making a steal against the Oregon Ducks during a semifinal game of the Pac-12 basketball tournament at T-Mobile Arena on March 9, 2018 in Las Vegas, Nevada. The Trojans won 74-54. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

  • LAS VEGAS, NV – MARCH 09: Elijah Stewart #30 of the USC Trojans dunks against the Oregon Ducks during a semifinal game of the Pac-12 basketball tournament at T-Mobile Arena on March 9, 2018 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

    LAS VEGAS, NV – MARCH 09: Elijah Stewart #30 of the USC Trojans dunks against the Oregon Ducks during a semifinal game of the Pac-12 basketball tournament at T-Mobile Arena on March 9, 2018 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

  • LAS VEGAS, NV – MARCH 09: Chimezie Metu #4 of the USC Trojans reacts after teammate Elijah Stewart #30 dunked against the Oregon Ducks during a semifinal game of the Pac-12 basketball tournament at T-Mobile Arena on March 9, 2018 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

    LAS VEGAS, NV – MARCH 09: Chimezie Metu #4 of the USC Trojans reacts after teammate Elijah Stewart #30 dunked against the Oregon Ducks during a semifinal game of the Pac-12 basketball tournament at T-Mobile Arena on March 9, 2018 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

  • LAS VEGAS, NV – MARCH 09: Jonah Mathews #2 of the USC Trojans drives against Payton Pritchard #3 of the Oregon Ducks during a semifinal game of the Pac-12 basketball tournament at T-Mobile Arena on March 9, 2018 in Las Vegas, Nevada. The Trojans won 74-54. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

    LAS VEGAS, NV – MARCH 09: Jonah Mathews #2 of the USC Trojans drives against Payton Pritchard #3 of the Oregon Ducks during a semifinal game of the Pac-12 basketball tournament at T-Mobile Arena on March 9, 2018 in Las Vegas, Nevada. The Trojans won 74-54. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

  • LAS VEGAS, NV – MARCH 09: Payton Pritchard #3 of the Oregon Ducks shoots against Jonah Mathews #2 of the USC Trojans during a semifinal game of the Pac-12 basketball tournament at T-Mobile Arena on March 9, 2018 in Las Vegas, Nevada. The Trojans won 74-54. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

    LAS VEGAS, NV – MARCH 09: Payton Pritchard #3 of the Oregon Ducks shoots against Jonah Mathews #2 of the USC Trojans during a semifinal game of the Pac-12 basketball tournament at T-Mobile Arena on March 9, 2018 in Las Vegas, Nevada. The Trojans won 74-54. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

  • LAS VEGAS, NV – MARCH 09: Elijah Stewart #30, Chimezie Metu #4, Jonah Mathews #2 and Nick Rakocevic #31 of the USC Trojans celebrate on the court after Stewart hit a 3-pointer against the Oregon Ducks during a semifinal game of the Pac-12 basketball tournament at T-Mobile Arena on March 9, 2018 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

    LAS VEGAS, NV – MARCH 09: Elijah Stewart #30, Chimezie Metu #4, Jonah Mathews #2 and Nick Rakocevic #31 of the USC Trojans celebrate on the court after Stewart hit a 3-pointer against the Oregon Ducks during a semifinal game of the Pac-12 basketball tournament at T-Mobile Arena on March 9, 2018 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

  • LAS VEGAS, NV – MARCH 09: Chimezie Metu #4 of the USC Trojans celebrates on the bench late in a semifinal game of the Pac-12 basketball tournament against the Oregon Ducks at T-Mobile Arena on March 9, 2018 in Las Vegas, Nevada. The Trojans won 74-54. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

    LAS VEGAS, NV – MARCH 09: Chimezie Metu #4 of the USC Trojans celebrates on the bench late in a semifinal game of the Pac-12 basketball tournament against the Oregon Ducks at T-Mobile Arena on March 9, 2018 in Las Vegas, Nevada. The Trojans won 74-54. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

  • Southern California’s Nick Rakocevic, left, and Oregon’s Victor Bailey Jr., center, and Troy Brown reach for a loose ball during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in the semifinals of the Pac-12 men’s tournament Friday, March 9, 2018, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/Isaac Brekken)

    Southern California’s Nick Rakocevic, left, and Oregon’s Victor Bailey Jr., center, and Troy Brown reach for a loose ball during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in the semifinals of the Pac-12 men’s tournament Friday, March 9, 2018, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/Isaac Brekken)

  • LAS VEGAS, NV – MARCH 09: Chimezie Metu #4 of the USC Trojans looks on as Jordan Usher #1 falls to the floor in front of Jonah Mathews #2 during a semifinal game of the Pac-12 basketball tournament against the Oregon Ducks at T-Mobile Arena on March 9, 2018 in Las Vegas, Nevada. The Trojans won 74-54. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

    LAS VEGAS, NV – MARCH 09: Chimezie Metu #4 of the USC Trojans looks on as Jordan Usher #1 falls to the floor in front of Jonah Mathews #2 during a semifinal game of the Pac-12 basketball tournament against the Oregon Ducks at T-Mobile Arena on March 9, 2018 in Las Vegas, Nevada. The Trojans won 74-54. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

  • LAS VEGAS, NV – MARCH 09: Jonah Mathews #2 of the USC Trojans drives against Payton Pritchard #3 of the Oregon Ducks during a semifinal game of the Pac-12 basketball tournament at T-Mobile Arena on March 9, 2018 in Las Vegas, Nevada. The Trojans won 74-54. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

    LAS VEGAS, NV – MARCH 09: Jonah Mathews #2 of the USC Trojans drives against Payton Pritchard #3 of the Oregon Ducks during a semifinal game of the Pac-12 basketball tournament at T-Mobile Arena on March 9, 2018 in Las Vegas, Nevada. The Trojans won 74-54. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

  • LAS VEGAS, NV – MARCH 09: MiKyle McIntosh #22 of the Oregon Ducks passes from the floor in front of Shaqquan Aaron #0 and Jonah Mathews #2 of the USC Trojans during a semifinal game of the Pac-12 basketball tournament at T-Mobile Arena on March 9, 2018 in Las Vegas, Nevada. The Trojans won 74-54. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

    LAS VEGAS, NV – MARCH 09: MiKyle McIntosh #22 of the Oregon Ducks passes from the floor in front of Shaqquan Aaron #0 and Jonah Mathews #2 of the USC Trojans during a semifinal game of the Pac-12 basketball tournament at T-Mobile Arena on March 9, 2018 in Las Vegas, Nevada. The Trojans won 74-54. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

  • LAS VEGAS, NV – MARCH 09: Troy Brown #0 of the Oregon Ducks goes in for a dunk against Chimezie Metu #4 of the USC Trojans during a semifinal game of the Pac-12 basketball tournament at T-Mobile Arena on March 9, 2018 in Las Vegas, Nevada. The Trojans won 74-54. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

    LAS VEGAS, NV – MARCH 09: Troy Brown #0 of the Oregon Ducks goes in for a dunk against Chimezie Metu #4 of the USC Trojans during a semifinal game of the Pac-12 basketball tournament at T-Mobile Arena on March 9, 2018 in Las Vegas, Nevada. The Trojans won 74-54. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

  • Oregon’s Payton Pritchard, right, shoots over Southern California’s Jonah Mathews during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in the semifinals of the Pac-12 men’s tournament Friday, March 9, 2018, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/Isaac Brekken)

    Oregon’s Payton Pritchard, right, shoots over Southern California’s Jonah Mathews during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in the semifinals of the Pac-12 men’s tournament Friday, March 9, 2018, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/Isaac Brekken)

  • Southern California’s Nick Rakocevic, right, defends as Oregon’s Payton Pritchard looks for a shot during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in the semifinals of the Pac-12 men’s tournament Friday, March 9, 2018, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/Isaac Brekken)

    Southern California’s Nick Rakocevic, right, defends as Oregon’s Payton Pritchard looks for a shot during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in the semifinals of the Pac-12 men’s tournament Friday, March 9, 2018, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/Isaac Brekken)

  • Oregon’s Abu Kigab, right, covers a shot from Southern California’s Jordan McLaughlin during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in the semifinals of the Pac-12 men’s tournament Friday, March 9, 2018, in Las Vegas. USC won 74-54. (AP Photo/Isaac Brekken)

    Oregon’s Abu Kigab, right, covers a shot from Southern California’s Jordan McLaughlin during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in the semifinals of the Pac-12 men’s tournament Friday, March 9, 2018, in Las Vegas. USC won 74-54. (AP Photo/Isaac Brekken)

  • Southern California’s Elijah Stewart reacts after a score during the first half of the team’s NCAA college basketball game against Oregon in the semifinals of the Pac-12 men’s tournament Friday, March 9, 2018, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/Isaac Brekken)

    Southern California’s Elijah Stewart reacts after a score during the first half of the team’s NCAA college basketball game against Oregon in the semifinals of the Pac-12 men’s tournament Friday, March 9, 2018, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/Isaac Brekken)

  • Southern California’s Jonah Mathews gestures after scoring a 3-point basket during the first half of the team’s NCAA college basketball game against Oregon in the semifinals of the Pac-12 men’s tournament Friday, March 9, 2018, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/Isaac Brekken)

    Southern California’s Jonah Mathews gestures after scoring a 3-point basket during the first half of the team’s NCAA college basketball game against Oregon in the semifinals of the Pac-12 men’s tournament Friday, March 9, 2018, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/Isaac Brekken)

  • Southern California’s Jonah Mathews, left, passes the ball around Oregon’s Kenny Wooten during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in the semifinals of the Pac-12 men’s tournament Friday, March 9, 2018, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/Isaac Brekken)

    Southern California’s Jonah Mathews, left, passes the ball around Oregon’s Kenny Wooten during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in the semifinals of the Pac-12 men’s tournament Friday, March 9, 2018, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/Isaac Brekken)

  • Southern California’s head coach Andy Enfield instructs his team during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Oregon in the semifinals of the Pac-12 men’s tournament Friday, March 9, 2018, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/Isaac Brekken)

    Southern California’s head coach Andy Enfield instructs his team during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Oregon in the semifinals of the Pac-12 men’s tournament Friday, March 9, 2018, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/Isaac Brekken)

  • Oregon’s Troy Brown covers a shot from Southern California’s Elijah Stewart during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in the semifinals of the Pac-12 men’s tournament Friday, March 9, 2018, in Las Vegas. USC won 74-54. (AP Photo/Isaac Brekken)

    Oregon’s Troy Brown covers a shot from Southern California’s Elijah Stewart during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in the semifinals of the Pac-12 men’s tournament Friday, March 9, 2018, in Las Vegas. USC won 74-54. (AP Photo/Isaac Brekken)

  • Oregon’s Roman Sorkin, left, covers a shot from Southern California’s Charles O’Bannon Jr. during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in the semifinals of the Pac-12 men’s tournament Friday, March 9, 2018, in Las Vegas. USC won 74-54. (AP Photo/Isaac Brekken)

    Oregon’s Roman Sorkin, left, covers a shot from Southern California’s Charles O’Bannon Jr. during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in the semifinals of the Pac-12 men’s tournament Friday, March 9, 2018, in Las Vegas. USC won 74-54. (AP Photo/Isaac Brekken)

  • Oregon’s head coach Dana Altman instructs his team during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Southern California in the semifinals of the Pac-12 men’s tournament Friday, March 9, 2018, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/Isaac Brekken)

    Oregon’s head coach Dana Altman instructs his team during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Southern California in the semifinals of the Pac-12 men’s tournament Friday, March 9, 2018, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/Isaac Brekken)

  • Oregon’s Paul White, right, and Southern California’s Elijah Stewart pull down a rebound during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in the semifinals of the Pac-12 men’s tournament Friday, March 9, 2018, in Las Vegas. USC won 74-54. (AP Photo/Isaac Brekken)

    Oregon’s Paul White, right, and Southern California’s Elijah Stewart pull down a rebound during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in the semifinals of the Pac-12 men’s tournament Friday, March 9, 2018, in Las Vegas. USC won 74-54. (AP Photo/Isaac Brekken)

  • Oregon’s MiKyle McIntosh passes from the court while covered by Southern California’s Shaqquan Aaron (0) and Jonah Mathews (2) during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in the semifinals of the Pac-12 men’s tournament Friday, March 9, 2018, in Las Vegas. USC won 74-54. (AP Photo/Isaac Brekken)

    Oregon’s MiKyle McIntosh passes from the court while covered by Southern California’s Shaqquan Aaron (0) and Jonah Mathews (2) during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in the semifinals of the Pac-12 men’s tournament Friday, March 9, 2018, in Las Vegas. USC won 74-54. (AP Photo/Isaac Brekken)

  • Oregon’s Kenny Wooten, left, and Southern California’s Nick Rakocevic reach for a rebound during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in the semifinals of the Pac-12 men’s tournament Friday, March 9, 2018, in Las Vegas. USC won 74-54. (AP Photo/Isaac Brekken)

    Oregon’s Kenny Wooten, left, and Southern California’s Nick Rakocevic reach for a rebound during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in the semifinals of the Pac-12 men’s tournament Friday, March 9, 2018, in Las Vegas. USC won 74-54. (AP Photo/Isaac Brekken)

  • USC’s Chimezie Metu defends as Oregon’s MiKyle McIntosh shoots during the second half of Friday’s Pac-12 Tournament semifinal in Las Vegas. USC won 74-54. (AP Photo/Isaac Brekken)

    USC’s Chimezie Metu defends as Oregon’s MiKyle McIntosh shoots during the second half of Friday’s Pac-12 Tournament semifinal in Las Vegas. USC won 74-54. (AP Photo/Isaac Brekken)

  • Oregon’s Paul White (13) covers Southern California’s Shaqquan Aaron as he passes behind his back and hits Oregon’s Payton Pritchard, right, in the face during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in the semifinals of the Pac-12 men’s tournament Friday, March 9, 2018, in Las Vegas. USC won 74-54. (AP Photo/Isaac Brekken)

    Oregon’s Paul White (13) covers Southern California’s Shaqquan Aaron as he passes behind his back and hits Oregon’s Payton Pritchard, right, in the face during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in the semifinals of the Pac-12 men’s tournament Friday, March 9, 2018, in Las Vegas. USC won 74-54. (AP Photo/Isaac Brekken)

  • LAS VEGAS, NV – MARCH 09: Nick Rakocevic (L) #31 and Jordan McLaughlin #11 of the USC Trojans hug on the bench late in their semifinal game of the Pac-12 basketball tournament against the Oregon Ducks at T-Mobile Arena on March 9, 2018 in Las Vegas, Nevada. The Trojans won 74-54. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

    LAS VEGAS, NV – MARCH 09: Nick Rakocevic (L) #31 and Jordan McLaughlin #11 of the USC Trojans hug on the bench late in their semifinal game of the Pac-12 basketball tournament against the Oregon Ducks at T-Mobile Arena on March 9, 2018 in Las Vegas, Nevada. The Trojans won 74-54. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

  • Southern California’s Nick Rakocevic (31) reacts to a call while on the bench during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Oregon in the semifinals of the Pac-12 men’s tournament Friday, March 9, 2018, in Las Vegas. USC won 74-54. (AP Photo/Isaac Brekken)

    Southern California’s Nick Rakocevic (31) reacts to a call while on the bench during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Oregon in the semifinals of the Pac-12 men’s tournament Friday, March 9, 2018, in Las Vegas. USC won 74-54. (AP Photo/Isaac Brekken)

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LAS VEGAS — USC pieced together one of its most convincing wins of the season and advanced to the Pac-12 Tournament final.

The Trojans routed Oregon 74-54 behind a career night from their shooting guard and a stifling defense.

Sophomore Jonah Mathews scored a career-high 27 points and buried seven of nine 3-point attempts Friday night. They also held the Ducks to their lowest scoring total this season.

The win put the second-seeded Trojans in the conference tournament title game for the first time since 2009, where they will face top seed Arizona at T-Mobile Arena on Saturday night at 7 p.m.

Throughout their semifinal win over the sixth-seeded Ducks, already the deepest the Trojans had advanced since 2011, Mathews helped carry them, along with senior guard Elijah Stewart, who added 15 points and made three of six 3-point attempts.

“When they’re knocking down shots, our team is at full effect,” senior guard Jordan McLaughlin said.

The tandem combined for more than half of USC’s points and opened with 18 of their first 20 to start the game.

Throughout this season, coaches had reminded Mathews and Stewart that the streaky shooters had rarely been able to score as much in the same game.

“It’s been the running joke that me and him never really play well on the same nights,” Stewart said, “but tonight, it was incredible.”

Oregon often left Mathews open in the corner of the 3-point arc, preferring to double-team forward Chimezie Metu in the low post. Mathews took advantage.

The scoring effort helped ease the burden off McLaughlin and Metu, the Trojans’ top two scorers who led the way in the quarterfinals against Oregon State.

“We all got to step up in our own way,” Mathews said, “and I’m just trying to get to it. It’s March Madness.”

It was a point repeated before tip-off. Not only did McLaughlin and Metu need help elsewhere on the court, but the Trojans were further limited to a seven-man rotation, as backup point guard Derryck Thornton missed a second consecutive game because of an upper respiratory infection.

With more scoring needed, Stewart said his teammates screamed at him before the game, urging him to put up points, too.

“They were like, ‘you’re a senior, we need you to go out and score and be aggressive,’” Stewart said.

USC (23-10) led by as many as 28 in the second half, before Oregon (22-12) whittled it to 14 with 6½ minutes left. The Trojans turned the ball over 20 times, including an uncharacteristic 10 by McLaughlin, as they were swarmed by a full-court press midway through the second half. At one point, they turned it over on three straight possessions. Some passes went out of bounds. The Ducks stole others. It made little difference.

For a second consecutive game, the Trojans held an opponent below one point per possession.

“Our defense once again carried us,” Coach Andy Enfield said.

The Ducks, playing their third game in as many nights, finished with 0.78 points per possession. A night earlier, the Trojans limited Oregon State to 0.77. They are USC’s best defensive performances since a nonconference win over Akron at the Diamond Head Classic in December.

“It’s been up to us to lock down on defense,” Metu said.

It was a point repeated and emphasized by Enfield too. After seemingly every basket Friday night, Enfield hollered at his players, urging them to retreat faster to the other end of the court and set up their zone defense.

“He’s preaching it a lot,” McLaughlin said. “As soon as we score, they’re pushing the ball back down, so we got to get back on defense. When we score, we got to act like we’ve been there before.”

At one point in the first half Friday, USC kept the Ducks scoreless for nearly six minutes. One stretch in the second half saw Oregon miss 15 consecutive shots. The Ducks ultimately made just 33 percent of their shots.

USC forced 14 turnovers, too, knocking loose 10 steals.

“We use our length in the zone,” Mathews said. “It helps us get steals and get out to easy run-outs. Be in the right place at the right time. Anticipate.”

The Trojans, bolstered by their sixth win in seven games, appear increasingly likely to reach the NCAA Tournament, but they could end any concern and grab the automatic berth that goes to Saturday’s winner.

“Our goal was to compete for a Pac-12 championship, and here we are,” Enfield said.

Peep the highlights of the win that sent us to our first conference championship game since 2009! #ItTakesATeam pic.twitter.com/15lNPYOPJi

— USC Men’s Basketball (@USC_Hoops) March 10, 2018

On to the #Pac12Hoops Tournament finals! @USC_Hoops tops Oregon 74-54 to advance.

They will face Arizona Saturday at 7:00 PT/8:00 MT https://t.co/xVpuaKEHar

— Pac-12 Network (@Pac12Network) March 10, 2018

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No. 10 USC rallies to beat North Dakota State

  • North Dakota State guard A.J. Jacobson (21) blocks USC guard Jordan Usher (1) on a drive to the basket during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Monday, Nov. 13, 2017, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Gus Ruelas)

    North Dakota State guard A.J. Jacobson (21) blocks USC guard Jordan Usher (1) on a drive to the basket during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Monday, Nov. 13, 2017, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Gus Ruelas)

  • USC forward Chimezie Metu (4) shoots over North Dakota State forward Rocky Kreuser, left, during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game, Monday, Nov. 13, 2017, in Los Angeles. Southern California won 75-65. (AP Photo/Gus Ruelas)

    USC forward Chimezie Metu (4) shoots over North Dakota State forward Rocky Kreuser, left, during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game, Monday, Nov. 13, 2017, in Los Angeles. Southern California won 75-65. (AP Photo/Gus Ruelas)

  • North Dakota State guard Jared Samuelson (11) guards USC forward Chimezie Metu (4) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Monday, Nov. 13, 2017, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Gus Ruelas)

    North Dakota State guard Jared Samuelson (11) guards USC forward Chimezie Metu (4) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Monday, Nov. 13, 2017, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Gus Ruelas)

  • North Dakota State guard Paul Miller (2) gets by USC guard Elijah Stewart, top right, as he drives to the basket during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Monday, Nov. 13, 2017, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Gus Ruelas)

    North Dakota State guard Paul Miller (2) gets by USC guard Elijah Stewart, top right, as he drives to the basket during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Monday, Nov. 13, 2017, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Gus Ruelas)

  • USC guard Elijah Stewart (30) drives on North Dakota State guard A.J. Jacobson (21) for a basket during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Monday, Nov. 13, 2017, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Gus Ruelas)

    USC guard Elijah Stewart (30) drives on North Dakota State guard A.J. Jacobson (21) for a basket during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Monday, Nov. 13, 2017, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Gus Ruelas)

  • North Dakota State guard Paul Miller (2) gets by USC guard Jonah Mathews, left, during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Monday, Nov. 13, 2017, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Gus Ruelas)

    North Dakota State guard Paul Miller (2) gets by USC guard Jonah Mathews, left, during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Monday, Nov. 13, 2017, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Gus Ruelas)

  • USC forward Bennie Boatwright, right, grabs a rebound in front of North Dakota State forward Spencer Eliason, left, and forward Deng Geu during the first half of Monday’s game at the Galen Center. (AP Photo/Gus Ruelas)

    USC forward Bennie Boatwright, right, grabs a rebound in front of North Dakota State forward Spencer Eliason, left, and forward Deng Geu during the first half of Monday’s game at the Galen Center. (AP Photo/Gus Ruelas)

  • North Dakota State guard Cameron Hunter, back left and USC forward Bennie Boatwright (25) fight for the ball during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Monday, Nov. 13, 2017, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Gus Ruelas)

    North Dakota State guard Cameron Hunter, back left and USC forward Bennie Boatwright (25) fight for the ball during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Monday, Nov. 13, 2017, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Gus Ruelas)

  • USC forward Bennie Boatwright, reacts after a slam dunk during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against North Dakota State , Monday, Nov. 13, 2017, in Los Angeles. Southern California won 75-65. (AP Photo/Gus Ruelas)

    USC forward Bennie Boatwright, reacts after a slam dunk during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against North Dakota State , Monday, Nov. 13, 2017, in Los Angeles. Southern California won 75-65. (AP Photo/Gus Ruelas)

  • USC guard Shaqquan Aaron dunks on a fast break during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against North Dakota State, Monday, Nov. 13, 2017, in Los Angeles. Southern California won 75-65. (AP Photo/Gus Ruelas)

    USC guard Shaqquan Aaron dunks on a fast break during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against North Dakota State, Monday, Nov. 13, 2017, in Los Angeles. Southern California won 75-65. (AP Photo/Gus Ruelas)

  • North Dakota State guard Cameron Hunter, back left and USC forward Bennie Boatwright (25) scramble for the ball during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Monday, Nov. 13, 2017, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Gus Ruelas)

    North Dakota State guard Cameron Hunter, back left and USC forward Bennie Boatwright (25) scramble for the ball during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Monday, Nov. 13, 2017, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Gus Ruelas)

  • North Dakota State guard Paul Miller (2) attempts to get by Southern California forward Bennie Boatwright, left, during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Monday, Nov. 13, 2017, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Gus Ruelas)

    North Dakota State guard Paul Miller (2) attempts to get by Southern California forward Bennie Boatwright, left, during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Monday, Nov. 13, 2017, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Gus Ruelas)

  • USC guard Shaqquan Aaron (0) and North Dakota State forward Deng Geu, right, fight for a rebound during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game, Monday, Nov. 13, 2017, in Los Angeles. Southern California won 75-65. (AP Photo/Gus Ruelas)

    USC guard Shaqquan Aaron (0) and North Dakota State forward Deng Geu, right, fight for a rebound during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game, Monday, Nov. 13, 2017, in Los Angeles. Southern California won 75-65. (AP Photo/Gus Ruelas)

  • North Dakota State guard Paul Miller (2) gets by USC guard Jonah Mathews, left, during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Monday, Nov. 13, 2017, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Gus Ruelas)

    North Dakota State guard Paul Miller (2) gets by USC guard Jonah Mathews, left, during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Monday, Nov. 13, 2017, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Gus Ruelas)

  • USC forward Bennie Boatwright reacts after a slam dunk during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against North Dakota State, Monday, Nov. 13, 2017, in Los Angeles. Southern California won 75-65. (AP Photo/Gus Ruelas)

    USC forward Bennie Boatwright reacts after a slam dunk during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against North Dakota State, Monday, Nov. 13, 2017, in Los Angeles. Southern California won 75-65. (AP Photo/Gus Ruelas)

  • North Dakota State forward Rocky Kreuser slam dunks the ball during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against USC on Monday, Nov. 13, 2017, in Los Angeles. Southern California won 75-65. (AP Photo/Gus Ruelas)

    North Dakota State forward Rocky Kreuser slam dunks the ball during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against USC on Monday, Nov. 13, 2017, in Los Angeles. Southern California won 75-65. (AP Photo/Gus Ruelas)

  • USC guard Shaqquan Aaron, right, reaches in as North Dakota State guard Tyson Ward, left, drives to the basket during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game, Monday, Nov. 13, 2017, in Los Angeles. Southern California won 75-65. (AP Photo/Gus Ruelas)

    USC guard Shaqquan Aaron, right, reaches in as North Dakota State guard Tyson Ward, left, drives to the basket during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game, Monday, Nov. 13, 2017, in Los Angeles. Southern California won 75-65. (AP Photo/Gus Ruelas)

  • USC guard Jordan McLaughlin, left, attempts the steal from North Dakota State guard Chris Quayle (13) during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game, Monday, Nov. 13, 2017, in Los Angeles. Southern California won 75-65. (AP Photo/Gus Ruelas)

    USC guard Jordan McLaughlin, left, attempts the steal from North Dakota State guard Chris Quayle (13) during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game, Monday, Nov. 13, 2017, in Los Angeles. Southern California won 75-65. (AP Photo/Gus Ruelas)

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LOS ANGELES — Three years ago, it was inconceivable that Bennie Boatwright wouldn’t be shooting a boatload of 3-pointers.

And harder to imagine that the junior scored a career-high 28 points with just one made 3-pointer in 10th-ranked USC’s 75-65 victory over North Dakota State on Monday night.

“I credit it a lot to the coaching staff and my teammates for helping me get in the gym and working on my all-around game,” Boatwright said, “and not just being a 3-point shooter.”

The Trojans (2-0) closed the game on a 13-5 run to hold off the pesky Bison (0-2).

USC twice trailed by 10 points in the first half and was down five in the second half before rallying late. The Trojans struggled at the free-throw line, going 17 for 31.

“It was just one of those nights,” said USC’s Jordan McLaughlin, who had 12 points and eight rebounds.

Cameron Hunter scored 24 points to lead the Bison (0-2), who were better in nearly every category. They held the lead for 20 minutes and 10 seconds, but their shooting went cold in the closing minutes and they had 19 turnovers in the game.

“We competed for the better part of it, which was exciting,” Bison coach David Richman said. “Now the next step is learning how to finish. We pride ourselves in being finishers and we need to do a better job of that.”

Hunter hit a 3-pointer to cut USC’s lead to 70-65 but it was one of just two field goals the Bison made in the final 3:43.

Chimezie Metu added 14 points for USC.

Deng Geu’s consecutive dunks gave North Dakota State a 56-51 lead, its last of the game. The Bison tied the score at 58-all on Rocky Kreuser’s dunk before the Trojans took over.

“It was a grind-it-out win, but we’ll take it,” USC coach Andy Enfield said. “We started the game 0 for 5 from the field with five open looks. We missed layups and we missed dunks. You get deflated when you start out like that.”

The Bison pulled away to a 10-point lead in the first half, hitting four straight 3-pointers by different players during a 16-4 run. The Trojans were limited to a field goal and missed four of six free throws during that stretch.

“The first half I feel like we punched right away and we were aggressive right away,” Hunter said. “In the second half I felt we were a little tentative, didn’t have that aggression that we had the first half.”

But Boatwright’s four-point play launched a 12-2 spurt that helped USC tie the score at 33-all at halftime. He had two other baskets and McLaughlin scored his first points of the game in the run. Dylan Miller’s turnover was picked up by McLaughlin who tied the score on a fastbreak layup with one second remaining.

MELTON SITS AGAIN

Sophomore De’Anthony Melton was in street clothes on USC’s bench for the second straight game. The team has said it’s holding him out for precautionary reasons that involve a potential eligibility issue. The FBI investigation of assistant coaches accused of using bribes to influence star players’ choice of schools, shoe sponsors and agents referred to a USC sophomore. Melton has not been accused of any wrongdoing.

 

BIG PICTURE

USC blew out Cal State Fullerton by 42 points in its opener and is boasting its highest ranking since the 1974-75 season. The Trojans won’t face a ranked opponent until at least Nov. 26 when they host No. 16 Texas A&M.

Picked to finish third in the Summit League, North Dakota State will test itself against another Pac-12 team when it visits No. 3 Arizona in December.

ALSO

USC’s Nick Rakocevic sprained his left ankle a minute into the game and is likely out a few days. He limped to the bench and winced in pain as a trainer examined it. … USC plays its first road game of the season at Vanderbilt on Sunday. … National anthem singer and USC student Tiah Barnes took a knee as she finished the song.

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