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For USC fans keeping score at home, they can make a note of two minutes and eight seconds. That was the time USC reached a familiar milestone: down double-digits in the first half of an NCAA tournament game.
If anything, USC can be happy it is making progress. Baylor’s 36-31 lead over USC in Sunday’s Eastern Regional second-round game was USC’s smallest halftime deficit yet.
On Friday, trailing by eight against SMU, Coach Andy Enfield said his halftime message was simple: “This is awesome!”
He will need more adjustments against the Bears.
Baylor harassed USC with its length. USC outshot the Bears: 52% to 43%. But the Bears grabbed 10 more rebounds, forced three more turnovers and generated 10 more shots.
They took the paint away from USC. Twice, Jonah Mathews airballed close-range shots, trying to loft a shot over a thicket of Baylor defenders' arms. USC forward Chimezie Metu had trouble finding a rhythm until late. He scored seven points. Bennie Boatwright led USC with eight. Elijah Stewart made a pair of three-pointers to help cut the deficit.
Baylor found scoring from an unfamiliar source: King McClure. McClure averages 4.6 points per game but had 14 in Sunday's first half. He made all four of Baylor's three-point attempts
Unlike its previous two games, USC’s defense didn’t suffer a total collapse in the first half. The Trojans allowed a 10-0 run starting about five minutes into the game, but otherwise they encountered their biggest problems on the boards.