USC overcomes comedy of errors to beat Washington in Pac-12 tourney

LAS VEGAS — Sometimes you win with incredible shooting. Sometimes you win by playing with elite execution and effort.

And sometimes, you just win in spite of yourself.

That was the case for USC on Friday, as the third-seeded Trojans barely escaped the Pac-12 Tournament quarterfinals with a 65-61 victory over No. 6 Washington.

USC (26-6) committed a stunning 23 turnovers, with 17 coming in the second half. By that measure alone, USC should have been one-and-done in the desert, especially considering the staggering miscues in the final minute.

“Our veterans had a lot of turnovers; it’s uncharacteristic to have that many,” head coach Andy Enfield said. “Three times the ball went right through our hands. We stepped out of bounds twice. If they want to win more games in this tournament and the NCAA, we have to do a better job.”

Max Agbonkpolo threw an inexplicable pass straight to Washington guard P.J. Fuller, who quickly scored a layup to make it a two-point game with 34.7 seconds left.

Enfield quickly called a timeout to regroup his team, but on the ensuing in-bounds play Drew Peterson lowered his shoulder into Washington forward Emmitt Matthews Jr.’s chest and was called for an offensive foul. So Husky ball, 27.5 seconds to play, one possession separating the teams.

After a Washington timeout, Pac-12 leading scorer Terrell Brown Jr.’s drive at the rim rolled off the iron and was knocked out of bounds. After a review, it was determined the ball was last touched by USC forward Isaiah Mobley.

But Matthews’ driving floater missed everything as Mobley stayed with him from the perimeter and Reese Dixon-Waters grabbed the rebound, hitting two free throws for USC to ice the game.

USC advances to face second-seeded rival UCLA (24-6) in a semifinal on Friday at 8:30 p.m. The teams split their two regular-season games.

The Trojans held Washington (17-15) to 23.5% shooting in the second half, aided in large part by the Huskies’ insistence on driving wildly at the rim instead of running the offense that helped UW build an eight-point lead early in the second half.

Brown led all scorers with 23 while Boogie Ellis led USC with 17, the only Trojan to hit double-digits. Mobley added nine points and six assists.

There was little USC could do in the early going to stop Brown, who scored Washington’s first nine points and dropped 21 in the first half. He had everything going from him, losing Joshua Morgan with a spin move to get an and-one and even making two 3-pointers, his one weakness as a scorer.

But Brown went 1 for 12 in the second half as USC tried to employ longer defenders against him and he wildly attacked the rim.

USC’s offense did not have a smooth start, with four early turnovers leading to seven Washington points. On consecutive possessions, the Huskies were able to lure the Trojans into traps in the same spot on the court to draw turnovers.

After the fourth giveaway, Enfield turned to point guard Ethan Anderson. His presence had an instant calming effect for the Trojans, who committed just two turnovers for the final 12 minutes of the half.

Anderson was able to get the offense going, throwing the ball up ahead from the opposite key to Mobley for a layup and the first points of the game for USC’s leading scorer.

USC finished the half with better shooting marks than the Huskies and more second-chance and transition points. But Washington was the beneficiary of several whistles that vexed the Trojans, and with a perfect 11-for-11 mark from the line, the Huskies were able to take a 39-36 lead at the break.

That lead stretched to eight to open the second half as Brown hit a wild layup around Ellis as his body carried him past the rim. Enfield called a quick timeout two minutes into the half, hoping to regroup.

The strategy worked, to an extent. Two 3-pointers from Ellis and a three-point play from Agbonkpolo as he was fouled on a put-back hook shot gave the Trojans their first lead since the 9:28 mark of the first half.

But the good vibes emanating from that run quickly soured as the Trojans committed six turnovers in the next five minutes.

“Just taking our time with the ball, playing on two feet,” Ellis said of how USC can reduce turnovers moving forward. “Just playing at our pace, not getting sped up by the defense.”