A streaky offense down the stretch would give the USC Trojans men’s basketball team an early exit out of March Madness. The Michigan State Spartans defeated the Trojans 72-62 in the first round of the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament.
Junior forward Joshua Morgan led the Trojans with 14 points, sophomore forward Kobe Johnson secured nine rebounds. Spartans senior Joey Hauser scored 17 points and eight rebounds.
USC senior guard Boogie Ellis, who averages 17.7 points per game, scored six points during the matchup.
“I let my teammates down today, I didn’t make shots and they made things tough for me,” Ellis said. “I played too fast today.”
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The Spartans started the game with a 9-4 lead. Shots from Morgan and senior guard Drew Peterson brought their deficit to two points.
USC’s man-to-man defense helped contain the Spartans, but the Trojans struggled with their shot accuracy and went scoreless for almost four regulated minutes. That allowed the Spartans to go on a six-point run.
Midway through the first half, Morgan found his stride on offense by making close-ranged shots. A free throw by freshman forward Kijani Wright would tie the game at 28. Johnson sank a three-pointer to give the Trojans the lead. Spartans junior guard A.J. Hoggard make shots in the final seconds to tie with USC at 34 by halftime.
Morgan was the only player who was in the double digits in points with 10, Peterson had seven points.
Ellis made shots early in the second half. However, the Spartans added more physical defensive pressure while landing their shots.
“A lot of timely shot making by Michigan State and some timely misses on our part I felt was the difference in the game in the second half,” USC men’s basketball head coach Andy Enfield.
Johnson and Morgan made two consecutive dunks with 12:37 left in regulation, bringing the Trojans within four points.
A jumper by Drew would peg the Trojans at 49 points and their offense went cold for five minutes. During that time, Michigan State went on a seven-point run. Johnson sank back-to-back three pointers, but the Spartans’ offense remained consistent.
“I think you get to a point where you’re down late and you’re trying to make plays,” Peterson said. “Sometimes you happen to make the wrong read or try and force passes in there—like me in one of the fast breaks—or you just happen to lose the ball … the ball didn’t go our way in that aspect.”
The Trojans end their season with a 22-11 overall record and a 14-6 Pac-12 record.