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USC Sports

USC goes out with an NIT whimper

Chimezie Metu cheered throughout the game, but USC’s leading scorer proved no help sitting in the stands.

Metu could only watch with his hands on his head as the clock wound down Monday night, the Trojans throwing up one last haphazard shot in an attempt to continue their season.

Western Kentucky defeated USC 79-75 in front of 2,130 at Galen Center in the second round of the National Invitation Tournament.

Metu, who averaged 15.4 points and 7.6 rebounds, did not play in the NIT after telling teammates that he wanted to avoid injury as he prepared for the NBA draft.

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USC ended the season with a 24-12 record.

Senior guard Elijah Stewart made four of seven three-point shots and scored a team-best 20 points in his final appearance at Galen Center.

Senior guard Jordan McLaughlin notched a double-double with 13 points and 14 assists.

“It’s going to be kind of sad to let it go,” Stewart said after the game. “But it’s just part of growing up and we’ve got to move on.”

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McLaughlin said of his USC career ending, “It’s tough. It hasn’t really hit me yet but I’m sure it will eventually.”

Coach Andy Enfield said that Metu was not allowed to sit on the bench per USC rules.

“The decision was made by the administration,” Enfield said. “The policy is that if you’re not playing, to not sit on the bench because he was eligible and he wasn’t injured.”

Playing under the NIT’s experimental rules, including a quarter system and extended three-point line, USC opened a seven-point lead over Western Kentucky (26-10) in the second quarter but went into halftime trailing 40-39 despite making 55.6% of its shots.

Stewart sent the Trojans on a run late in the third quarter when he threw down a dunk off an alley-oop pass from McLaughlin, then hit a three-point shot before the buzzer to cut USC’s deficit to 59-58.

USC opened a six-point lead in the fourth quarter behind three-point baskets from Stewart and Jordan Usher, who finished with 13 points.

But the Trojans surrendered the lead with 2:57 to play, and two desperation three-point shots fell short of the rim in the final seconds.

lindsey.thiry@latimes.com

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Follow Lindsey Thiry on Facebook and Twitter @LindseyThiry


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