DAYTON, Ohio (AP) — Bennie Boatwright scored a career-high 24 points as Southern Cal rallied from a 17-point deficit in the second half to beat Providence 75-71 in a First Four game Wednesday night.
The comeback victory was revenge for the Trojans, who lost to Providence by one point in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament last year. They move on to play 6th-seeded SMU at Tulsa, Oklahoma, on Friday.
After Providence led by 15 points at halftime and went up by 17 to start the second half, Southern Cal (25-9) mounted a furious rally. The Trojans closed it to five points at the 10-minute mark, and went up 61-60 on a jumper by Chimezie Metu off a turnover with 6:46 left.
Metu hit both ends of a 1-and-1 to put Southern Cal up 71-64 with 1:23 remaining and kept Providence from getting back into it down the stretch.
Jordan McLaughlin scored 18 points for Southern Cal, and Metu added 15 on 9-for-12 free throw shooting.
Emmitt Holt led Providence with 18 points and 11 rebounds. Jalen Lindsey and Rodney Bullock added 17 each.
The comeback was Southern Cal’s 12th this season of at last 10 points, the most in the nation.
Providence outshot Southern Cal 49 percent to 42 percent, but the Friars outscored them in the second half 46-27.
It looked like a rout in the making at halftime. Providence (20-13) took a 44-29 lead on the strength of a 15-0 run punctuated by two 3-pointers by Bullock and another from Lindsey, who had 15 points in the first half. The Friars were 8 for 15 from 3-point range in the first half.
Southern Cal had just three field goals in the last 11 minutes of the half, and went without one in the last 4 1/2 minutes of the frame with Providence ripping off a 12-3 run in that span.
Providence: Had the game well in hand but went cold in the second half and let Southern Cal muscle back into it.
Southern Cal: An energetic second-half comeback gives the Trojans some buoyancy and momentum as they move into the field of 64.
Kelly Sullivan was at the G Pub in Providence as fans watched the game.
Watch the video above for how fans felt around halftime.