Elijah Stewart hit a 3-pointer with 37 seconds left for No. 11 seed Southern California as the Trojans upset sixth-seeded SMU 66-65 Friday in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
SMU’s Shake Milton missed a floater at the buzzer.
Stewart had 22 points for the Trojans (26-9). Bennie Boatright and Chimezie Metu each added 14 for USC, which advances to play Baylor in the second round of the East region on Sunday.
USC also rallied from a big deficit in the second half in its First Four win over Providence.
Semi Ojeleye had 24 points and 10 rebounds and Sterling Brown had 17 points for SMU (30-5), which had won 16 straight.
SMU was in the NCAA Tournament after being banned from postseason play a year ago for multiple violations, including academic fraud and unethical conduct.
“We ran the play previously before, and I was open,” Stewart said. “And then we had the media timeout. We discussed it. We ran the same play again, and I was open, and I just let muscle memory take place.”
USC advanced to play third-seeded Baylor in the second round of the East region on Sunday.
“There used to be a show on TV when I was little talking about the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat,” SMU coach Tim Jankovich said. “I think it was Wide World of Sports. I can certainly relate to that show right now.”
Stewart noticed that SMU wasn’t sure what it was going to do in the final sequence.
“I noticed that two players were arguing about who was going to take the last shot,” Stewart said. “Usually, when something like that happens, like whoever shoots it, it just messes with you. The floater was short, and I felt like if — like it could have went either way, honestly. I was just — I had my eyes closed.”
“Today is obviously an incredible heartbreak,” Jankovich said. “If ever there was a team to deserve some great things, some more great things to happen, particularly this time of year, it was these guys.”
USC: USC also rallied from a big deficit in the second half in its First Four win over Providence on Wednesday night. Against SMU, the Trojans trailed by 10 in the second half.
SMU: Getting back to the NCAA Tournament was a big deal for the Mustangs, who qualified in 2015. SMU won the American Athletic Conference regular season and postseason titles.
SOUTHERN CAL (26-9): Boatwright 6-10 0-0 14, Metu 3-5 8-9 14, Melton 2-3 0-1 4, Stewart 8-15 0-0 22, McLaughlin 2-7 1-2 5, Buggs 0-1 1-2 1, Rakocevic 1-2 0-0 2, Aaron 0-1 0-0 0, Mathews 2-6 0-0 4. Totals 24-50 10-14 66.
SMU (30-5): Moore 2-5 1-2 5, Ojeleye 8-20 6-6 24, Foster 3-4 1-2 8, Milton 4-12 0-0 11, Brown 7-12 0-1 17, Emelogu 0-4 0-0 0. Totals 24-57 8-11 65.
Halftime—SMU 38-30. 3-Point Goals—Southern Cal 8-29 (Stewart 6-13, Boatwright 2-5, Buggs 0-1, Melton 0-1, Aaron 0-1, Mathews 0-3, McLaughlin 0-5), SMU 9-23 (Brown 3-4, Milton 3-8, Ojeleye 2-6, Foster 1-2, Emelogu 0-3). Fouled Out—None. Rebounds—Southern Cal 30 (Metu 7), SMU 29 (Ojeleye 10). Assists—Southern Cal 14 (McLaughlin 7), SMU 11 (Milton 5). Total Fouls—Southern Cal 16, SMU 15.