USC hangs on for last-minute win over Northern Arizona, 67-63

Byron Wesley had a career-high 31 points. He had nine rebounds. He seemed to be everywhere doing everything for USC, but it was a clever pass from point guard Pe’Shon Howard to center Omar Oraby that was the winner.

Oraby scored a layup off that pass with 54 seconds left that gave USC a lead finally and the Trojans (2-1) hung on and beat Northern Arizona, 67-63, Friday night at the Galen Center.

There was no real explanation for this USC basketball win though.

The Trojans were two of 12 from three-point range. They missed 17 of their 36 free throws. They trailed by as many as 12 points to the visitors from Flagstaff, Ariz. They had eight turnovers.


But, the Trojans had Wesley. The 6-foot-5 junior guard pretty much did everything.

Wesley scored on dunks and jumpers. He scored just when it seemed the Trojans would be put away for good. And if he wasn’t scoring, he was sneaking inside, under the basket, scrapping for a rebound.

“Byron really improved in the off-season,” USC Coach Andy Enfield said. “He’s a better passer, 31 points, no turnovers. I give Byron a lot of credit, leading by example.”

Wesley said he didn’t realize he had 31 points until he looked at the box score. “I just tried to keep doing stuff and keep us in the game,” he said.

For the second straight game, J.T. Terrell, who had scored 20 points in USC’s opening loss to Utah State, came off the bench. Enfield said he had planned to start Terrell but Terrell needed to “take care of some academic things this afternoon, and we put in some new stuff so we brought him off the bench,” the coach said.

Enfield said he was happy to see that his team seemed to want to win in the second half. “I wasn’t so sure about that in the first half,” he said.

When junior guard Aaseem Dixon made a three-pointer with 2:16 left in the half, Northern Arizona (1-2) had built a 40-28 lead and also managed to keep the Trojans too often playing a half-court offense, which seemed to make USC uncomfortable.

Only by the grace of Wesley’s 16 halftime points on seven-for-seven shooting from the field and six rebounds was it possible to consider USC still in the game. The Trojans trailed, 40-30, after 20 minutes.

They were only four of 11 from the foul line and were 0 for 8 from three-point range. And Wesley’s seven shots were more than the rest of his teammates combined (six).

The Lumberjacks, on the other hand, had made 50% of their threes, seven of 14, and both Dixon and Quinton Upshur had scored 15 points in the half.

Max Jacobsen, Northern Arizona’s leading scorer on the year, gave the Lumberjacks a 42-30 lead to start the second half, and the Trojans continued to miss free throws and mostly get scoring only from Wesley.

But triggered by some good defensive rebounding off Lumberjack misses that allowed the Trojans to get into a running game, they went on a 10-0 run that was capped by a Wesley three-pointer that tied Northern Arizona, 44-44, with 12:20 left in the game. That three gave Wesley 23 points in the game. From there, the Trojans built as much as a seven-point lead, lost almost all of it, and then celebrated Howard’s nifty pass to Oraby.