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.
Chima Moneke had 18 points and 12 rebounds as UC Davis won in its first NCAA Tournament appearance, beating North Carolina Central 67-63 in a First Four game on Wednesday night.
The 16th-seeded Aggies rallied in the second half and held off North Carolina Central down the stretch to earn a trip to Tulsa to play No. 1 seed Kansas on Friday.
“Our guys grew up as little hoopers dreaming about playing and having this opportunity,” UC Davis coach Jim Les said. “And so it’s special to be here. And we’re just going to continue to fight, to keep this story going.”
Brynton Lemar scored 15 points and Lawrence White added 14 for UC Davis, which had earned a trip to the tournament by winning the Big West Conference Tournament.
The Aggies (23-12) won despite 18 turnovers that led to 20 points for streaky North Carolina Central. But the Eagles couldn’t overcome poor shooting that deteriorated even more in the second half.
The Eagles pulled within 64-63 with 1:49 left in the game on a 3-pointer by Dajuan Graf. North Carolina Central got the ball back with 37 seconds left, but another 3-point try by Graf was off the mark. Graf had to foul Lawrence White, who made two free throws with 16 second remaining to give the Eagles some breathing room. Lemar hit a foul shot with 4 seconds left to put it away.
Graf paced North Carolina Central (25-9) with 15 points. Kyle Benton and Patrick Cole added 13 each.
— Associated Press