This victory didn’t come easily for USC.
The Trojans gave up a double-digit second-half lead, survived the loss of their leading scorer — sent to the locker room with two technical fouls — and came back in overtime after a long video review that seemed to go the wrong way ended regulation.
They beat Dayton, 63-61, in overtime Sunday at the Galen Center. The key play came with 2 minutes 50 seconds left when guard Jio Fontan created a spinning move worthy of “Dancing With the Stars” to score in the lane. He was also fouled and made a free throw that put the Trojans ahead 62-58.
Fontan said he will be getting an X-ray on Monday on his left hand, which he said he hurt during the first half. But he kept the pain away by playing nonstop defense on Dayton’s pro prospect point guard, Kevin Dillard. Fontan harassed Dillard into one-for-10 shooting from the field.
And Fontan also kept his team focused when it played the last 10:29 without leading scorer Eric Wise. Wise, who had been part of a double technical foul call earlier in the game, earned a second with 5:29 left in regulation. Wise had already scored 19 points when he apparently said some bad words while the referees were listening. That meant Wise was gone from the game.
“I think we have an immature group, A to Z,” USC Coach Kevin O’Neill grumbled. “Two technical fouls in a two-point game? Unobliterated immaturity. We have too many guys with too many issues.”
The word “unobliterated” may not often be heard, but O’Neill’s point was clear. He was furious with Wise, a fifth-year senior, for the second technical.
Fontan said Wise, who left Galen Center without speaking to the media, didn’t direct his bad words to anyone in particular. But when Wise was ejected, the Trojans (5-8) were leading 49-42.
Regulation ended with the score 53-53. Dayton’s Devin Oliver scored a tying layup at the buzzer. The basket was reviewed for about three minutes and the shot seemed to have been released a moment late. But officials ruled it counted.
Fontan, who had an up-close view, said, “Live, I thought that shot was good. Once I saw the replay, I didn’t.” Fontan also said it took heart and effort for his team to recover and win the five overtime minutes.
Even without playing for so long, Wise was the leading scorer in the game with his 19. Though he made only one basket, Dillard led the Flyers (9-4) with 13 points. He hit 11 of 12 free throws.
After his opening tirade, O’Neill said, “I thought we did a lot of good things.” But he didn’t name any of them, other than the defensive work Fontan performed. And O’Neill quickly pointed to the Trojans’ 17 turnovers (five from Fontan) as a problem. “We turned it over too much,” he said. “That’s a fact.”
Fontan had seemed to give USC the win in regulation when he made his first basket of the game with 5.5 seconds left. But Oliver’s barely-buzzer-beater brought the overtime.
Dayton Coach Archie Miller pointed to his team’s turnovers (also 17) as a problem. “We can’t have 17 turnovers on the road,” he said.
The home team, though? Seventeen still worked.