Jonah Mathews couldn’t bear to watch and Nick Rakocevic said his heart skipped a beat.
The USC players feared a replay of the scene they witnessed earlier this month when Stanford overcame a 15-point deficit and Daejon Davis hit a 55-foot buzzer-beater to lift the Cardinal to victory.
But with 4,116 fans on their feet at Galen Center on Wednesday and four seconds remaining, Davis’ game-tying three clanked off the rim and USC held on to defeat Stanford 69-64.
“It looked good from where I was sitting,” Rakocevic said.
“So I was like, ‘Man if this happens again…’ but thankfully, he missed it.”
Following Davis’ miss, freshman guard Jordan Usher heaved a pass more than half the length of the floor to Elijah Stewart who punctuated the win, and USC’s resurgence, with a two-handed jam.
“Our confidence is through the roof right now,” said Rakocevic, who started in place of Bennie Boatwright, sidelined because of a blister on his foot, and scored nine points and grabbed eight rebounds.
USC (16-6, 7-2 Pac-12 Conference) has won five straight since losing to the Cardinal (11-10, 5-3) on Jan. 7 and is resembling the team that was picked among the nation’s top 10 during the preseason.
Mathews, a sophomore guard, came off the bench to score a game-high 18 points, including 10 in the first half that helped the Trojans to a 16-point lead.
“He gives us good energy,” coach Andy Enfield said. “And he is playing great on offense.”
But it was defense that propelled USC. The Trojans held Stanford to 44% shooting, forced 16 turnovers and grabbed nine steals. They turned the ball over only seven times.
“If you don’t turn the ball over, if you force turnovers and defend, it’s usually a recipe for having a chance to win the game,” Enfield said.
USC went into halftime with a 15-point lead behind 58% shooting but cooled in the second half, shooting 35%.
Stanford’s Oscar Da Silva made a three-point basket with 1:29 remaining to make it a four-point game and Davis followed with a pair of free throws to bring the Cardinal within two.
But Jordan McLaughlin, who finished with eight points, nine assists and three steals, made a final free throw to give the Trojans a three-point lead, forcing Davis to attempt a deep shot for the tie.
“No game is over until the buzzer sounds,” Mathews said.
“They kept on playing, we kept on playing.
“They closed the gap but we came out with the win.”
Vs. California, Sunday, at Galen Center, 1 p.m., TV: Pac-12 Network. Radio: 830. The Trojans are atop the Pac-12 Conference standings with No. 11 Arizona (16-4, 6-1).