LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. (AP) — Freshman Bennie Boatwright has helped USC to its best start in 15 years.
Boatwright had a career-high 22 points and Southern Cal beat No. 20 Wichita State 72-69 in a first-round game Thursday at the AdvoCare Invitational.
“We feel like that we have a very young, talented team, but need some more experience,” USC coach Andy Enfield said. “We’re certainly not a great team yet, we have a lot of things to work on, but this is a big win for us. It means a lot.”
Wichita State (2-2) played without senior guard Fred VanVleet, who missed his second consecutive game with ankle and hamstring injuries. He twisted his ankle in the season opener Nov. 13 against Charleston Southern and then was limited by hamstring soreness four days later in a game with Tulsa.
USC (5-0) also got 15 points from Jordan McLaughlin. It’s the Trojans best start since winning their first eight games in the 2000-01 season.
Ron Baker had 25 points and Markis McDuffie added 14 for Wichita State.
“We’re banged up,” Baker said. “We’ve got to capitalize on our runs. Everybody played as hard as they could. A couple things didn’t go our way. We turned it over in some tough positions. Gave up offense rebounds at the wrong time. Just didn’t hit our open looks when it came down to it.”
After the Trojans had their lead cut to one, Boatwright’s 3 from the corner gave USC a 64-60 advantage with 4 1-2 minutes left.
Boatwright hit another 3-pointer, and then had a steal before Katin Reinhardt made a 3 to extend the USC advantage to 70-62 late.
“Bennie had it rolling today,” Enfield said.
Baker hit a three with 3 seconds left during a late surge that pulled the Shockers with 71-69. After Julian Jacobs hit of one of two free throws, Wichita State’s Zach Brown had a potential game-tying shot from near mid-court hit off the rim.
McDuffie and Baker combined for all the points during a 12-0 run that put Wichita State up 49-43 7 minutes into the second half. Both hit a long-range jumper during the stretch.
“We’re going to have to do the little things,” Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall said. “We’ve got make sure when a guy is shooting as good as Bennie Boatwright, you’ve got to stand on his toes and make him do something different.”
USC responded and went up 61-54 with 7 minutes left on 3-pointers by Boatwright and Elijah Stewart.
McLaughlin had 11 points as USC took a 30-29 lead at halftime.
“We’re all in as a team,” Boatwright said.
Wichita State had its only first-half lead when McDuffie hit a 3 to make it 29-28 with 1:42 to go.
USC: The last time before Thursday the Trojans beat a Top-25 team was Feb. 27, 2013, an 89-78 victory over than No. 11 Arizona.
Wichita State: Freshman guard Landry Shamet has a foot injury and is also out of the lineup. He averaged 8.7 points and 2.7 rebounds in three games.
After missing the final eight games last season due to shoulder injuries that required surgery, the sophomore guard has scored in double-figure in all five games this season.
Wichita State had its run of winning four consecutive first-round tourney games end. The Shockers stretch of reaching tourney finals end at three straight.
USC: Will play No. 23 Xavier, which beat Alabama 64-45 Thursday, in a Friday semifinal.
Wichita State: Plays Alabama Friday in the consolation round.