Baylor knew Southern California would keep coming.
Unlike Providence and SMU, the Bears had answers.
Johnathan Motley had 19 points and 10 rebounds, Manu Lecomte scored all 12 of his points in the final 5 minutes, and Baylor defeated USC 82-78 on Sunday in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
The Bears advanced to play South Carolina in the Sweet 16 in Madison Square Garden in New York.
South Carolina upset No. 2 seed Duke 88-81 Sunday. The other teams in the East Regional are Wisconsin, which knocked off No. 1 seed Villanova, and No. 4 seed Florida.
The 11th-seeded Trojans had rallied from second-half deficits to win their first two NCAA Tournament games, but Lecomte was the spark that held the Trojans at bay. The point guard from Belgium didn’t score until a four-point play that gave the Bears a 69-67 lead with 4:40 remaining. It started his run of eight points in 45 seconds, and third-seeded Baylor never trailed again.
“I just had to pick it up,” Lecomte said. “I was struggling a little bit in the first half and I just had to pick it up. My teammates and my coaches did a great job. They kept believing in me, they kept me in the game, they trusted me with the ball in my hands, and I just had to go out there and make plays.”
Terry Maston scored 19 points and King McClure added 17 and for the Bears (27-7).
The Bears won despite Motley’s foul trouble. He fouled out with 1:39 remaining and the game still in doubt.
“I thought if I could be out there, we had a good chance to win,” Motley said. “And they kept telling me, ‘We got you, we got it, we’re going to finish this game,' and they did.”
USC coach Andy Enfield said Baylor’s depth was the difference.
“They went small with Motley out of the game and they relied on other people and they stepped up,” he said. “Their point guard stepped up and scored down the stretch and Maston had a big game. When your leading scorer goes out, it’s an opportunity for other players sometimes to score the ball, and that’s what they did.”
Chimezie Metu scored 28 points and Bennie Boatwright added 16 for USC (26-10), which was trying to make its first Sweet 16 appearance since 2007.
“This was a game that was there for the taking if we would have executed down the stretch,” Enfield said.
The Trojans posted a school record with 26 wins and they have no senior starters. Coach Andy Enfield has reinvigorated the program since arriving on campus in 2013. Last season’s trip to the NCAA Tournament was the school’s first since 2011. The Trojans were trying to become the fourth team that played in the First Four to reach the Sweet 16.
The Bears got off to a 20-1 start and were ranked No. 1 in the country before reeling down the stretch. They got back on track in a 91-73 win over New Mexico State in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. They went back to their recipe for success – physical dominance – by outrebounding the Trojans 34-23 on Sunday.
SOUTHERN CAL (26-10): Metu 11-14 6-6 28, Boatwright 6-11 0-0 16, Stewart 4-7 1-2 12, Melton 2-8 2-2 7, McLaughlin 5-10 0-0 11, Rakocevic 2-2 0-0 4, Mathews 0-3 0-0 0, Aaron 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 30-55 9-10 78.
BAYLOR (27-7): Motley 9-12 1-2 19, Lual-Acuil 1-3 0-0 2, McClure 6-10 0-0 17, Lecomte 4-11 3-3 12, Wainright 2-5 2-2 7, Maston 7-13 5-6 19, Omot 0-0 0-0 0, Freeman 0-4 0-0 0, Lindsey 2-3 2-2 6. Totals 31-61 13-15 82.
Halftime—Baylor 36-31. 3-Point Goals—Southern Cal 9-22 (Boatwright 4-9, Stewart 3-6, Melton 1-3, McLaughlin 1-3, Mathews 0-1), Baylor 7-19 (McClure 5-8, Wainright 1-2, Lecomte 1-6, Lindsey 0-1, Freeman 0-2). Fouled Out—Motley. Rebounds—Southern Cal 20 (Metu, Boatwright 5), Baylor 31 (Motley 10). Assists—Southern Cal 19 (McLaughlin 6), Baylor 16 (Lecomte, Wainright 5). Total Fouls—Southern Cal 18, Baylor 16.