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USC’s Bennie Boatwright set to close out career at Galen Center and close in on mark

USC forward Bennie Boatwright looks to pass out of the double-team defense of Oregon forward Louis King (2) and guard Payton Pritchard during the second half Thursday.

Bennie Boatwright watched as teammate Elijah Stewart set the USC record for career three-pointers last season with 245. It pleased Boatwright then and now, even as he has Stewart’s number in his sights.

“I’m happy for him that he got the record,” Boatwright said.

Stewart can take comfort in one thing: Boatwright isn’t exactly gunning for him. He said after USC’s 66-49 win over Oregon on Thursday that he wasn’t aware he had vaulted into third place with 220 three-pointers. But, at the same time, Boatwright is on such a roll shooting the ball that it may not matter what his mind-set is regarding the chance to eclipse Stewart in the record book.

On Saturday at California, Boatwright set a USC record and tied a Pac-12 record with 10 threes. Thursday, he followed up that historic performance with six more. He’s made 16 of 22 from deep in the last two games and now needs 26 threes to overtake Stewart with four regular-season games to go, plus the Pac-12 tournament and any other postseason tournament the Trojans could play their way into down the stretch.

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Saturday is Boatwright’s senior day at Galen Center, and the Mission Hills native expects 30 to 40 family and friends in the crowd to send him off. Because of the emotion of that moment, combined with the way he’s been shooting, anything feels possible against the Beavers in a game that could move the Trojans into third place in the Pac-12 standings.

“Last home game here, going to be bittersweet,” Boatwright said.

Boatwright hasn’t had much of a chance to reflect on his four years at USC. Senior Day appeared to sneak up on him and Shaqquan Aaron, because of the fact that the Trojans end their home schedule so early before spending the last two weeks of the regular season on the road at UCLA, Utah and Colorado.

Off the top of his head, Boatwright said a couple moments stick out for him at Galen Center, and they happen to span his career. First came USC’s 103-101 upset over No. 7 Arizona in four overtimes during his freshman year in 2016. Next came his game-winning three-pointer to beat Arizona State 69-67 this season.

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He’s got one more shot to make a Galen Center memory Saturday, and his teammates would love to help him.

“I remember my freshman year when we were playing together and it seems like yesterday,” junior center Nick Rakocevic said. “The fact that it’s the last time I’ll be playing with him at Galen, it’s just, it’s tough. But we want to send him off the proper way, him and Shaqquan, make sure that we get the win and most of all have fun.”

The last two games, Boatwright has been having all of the fun. Now that he understands his strengths and weaknesses as a shooter, he knows which shots are his and brings supreme confidence into the release.

“He’s not a great three-point shooter off the dribble,” USC coach Andy Enfield said. “In fact, his percentages are extremely low. He’s figured out that he needs to stop taking tough shots. The threes he missed [Thursday], his feet weren’t set. His percentages are up this year from the field and the three-point line because his shot selection has improved dramatically, and he’s playing the game the right way.”

UP NEXT

VS. OREGON STATE

When: Saturday, 3 p.m.

Where: Galen Center.

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On the air: TV: Pac-12 Networks; Radio: 1110.

Update: The Beavers’ faint NCAA tournament hopes took another hit Thursday night in a 68-67 loss to UCLA at Pauley Pavilion. Oregon State (16-9 and 8-5 Pac-12) sits in third place, but USC (15-12 and 8-6) would take over that spot with a win Saturday. … The Beavers are led by forward Tres Tinkle, who missed their 79-74 overtime win against USC earlier this season in Corvallis because of an injury.

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brady.mccollough@latimes.com

Twitter: @BradyMcCollough


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