USC vs. Providence: Score and Twitter Reaction from March Madness 2016

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured ColumnistMarch 18, 2016

RALEIGH, NC - MARCH 17:  Kris Dunn #3 of the Providence Friars celebrates with teammates Rodney Bullock #5 and Kyron Cartwright #24 after defeating the USC Trojans with a score of 70 to 69 during the first round of the 2016 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at PNC Arena on March 17, 2016 in Raleigh, North Carolina.  (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
Grant Halverson/Getty Images

All it takes in the NCAA men's basketball tournament is one shining moment for a team to forget about a finish filled with chaos and sloppy play. The Providence Friars got their moment Thursday when they stunned the USC Trojans in the final seconds to register a 70-69 victory in the round of 64.

Rodney Bullock hit the shot every kid dreams of on Providence's last gasp to give his team a one-point win after a final two minutes that were filled with missed free throws, poor shot selection and lackluster play from both sides at PNC Arena in Raleigh, North Carolina:

The first round of the NCAA tournament is often defined by bracket-busting upsets (hello, Yale over Baylor and Arkansas-Little Rock over Purdue), but matchups between No. 8 seeds and No. 9 seeds provide the chance for entertaining showdowns with evenly matched teams. Fans couldn't have asked for a more evenly matched game than the one they saw between the Friars and Trojans.

Had the Trojans converted their free throws down the stretch or not gotten lost on the game-winning inbounds pass, they would have gotten their shot at the North Carolina Tar Heels, but those are the cruel bounces of March Madness:

Bleacher Report @BleacherReport

USC thought they had it… https://t.co/zwm7RRWeyx

In addition to the winning shot, Bullock posted a double-double with 16 points and 10 rebounds. Superstar Kris Dunn fought through foul trouble for most of the game but managed to chip in with 16 points and four assists, while Ben Bentil scored a team-high 19 points and grabbed nine boards. 

As for USC, four starters scored in double figures, but the team was a dismal 7-of-13 from the free-throw line and missed multiple front ends of one-and-ones near the finish.

The Trojans also committed 12 costly turnovers, compared to Providence's six, many of which came early, as Ryan Kartje of the Orange County Register pointed out:

Ryan Kartje @Ryan_Kartje

That’s seven turnovers for USC in the first 14 minutes. Most of them have been sloppy mistakes.

Despite the turnovers, Jordan McLaughlin did his best to land on the highlight reel:

The Trojans battled through the sloppy play and took a 36-35 lead into the halftime locker room. However, Providence tangled with foul trouble throughout the opening 20 minutes but was still well within striking distance, as Kevin McNamara of the Providence Journal realized:

Kevin McNamara @KevinMcNamara33

Interesting that Cartwright is playing with two fouls, Dunn is sitting. And Friars are holding off @USC_Hoops

USC built some early momentum in the second half when Julian Jacobs threw down a baseline slam:

Providence had Dunn back on the floor after he sat for large stretches with foul trouble, and he drilled a three-pointer to give the Friars a 44-43 lead with just more than 15 minutes remaining in the game. Despite the make, McNamara was critical of Providence's offensive strategy in the opening minutes of the second half:

Kevin McNamara @KevinMcNamara33

Some awful offense vs. USC zone, Friars settling for jumpers.

The Trojans extended their lead to 49-46, and McNamara provided some statistics to show why Providence was making a poor choice by settling for jumpers:

Kevin McNamara @KevinMcNamara33

Friars 2nd half shooting: 4-15, 1-7 on 3's. Need to find ways to penetrate this @USC_Hoops Zone

ESPN's Ryen Russillo wondered why more collegiate teams don't play zone like USC did against the Friars, especially because Providence's offense looked lost at times:

Russillo @ryenarussillo

I don't understand why CBB coaches are so stubborn about playing zone sometimes. A lot of these teams are helpless against it.

Even though USC had the lead, there was reason for concern when Chimezie Metu picked up his fourth foul. Zach Helfand of the Los Angeles Times noted it was business as usual:

Zach Helfand @zhelfand

Death, taxes, and Chimezie Metu flirting with fouling out.

Foul trouble or not, the Trojans took a 60-56 lead into the under-eight-minute timeout. Conquest Chronicles of SB Nation pointed to the ball movement as a reason why:

Conquest Chronicles @CChroniclesSBN

The Trojans passing this half has been great. Lot of wide open shots.

Making things worse for Providence was the fact Dunn picked up his fourth foul on a questionable call with approximately seven minutes left, as the Student Section noted:

The Comeback NCAA @TheComebackNCAA

That is not a foul on Dunn. Wow.

As they did all game, the Friars hung tough and were down only 64-61 at the under-four-minute timeout. Dunn came back just in time and drilled a deep three with less than 90 seconds left to cap a Providence spurt and tie the game at 68-68:

The late-game collapse looked familiar to some USC fans, as Zac Ellis of Sports Illustrated shared:

Zac Ellis @ZacEllisVU

USC fan behind me disgusted after that mini-Providence run. “Gah, it’s like watching SC football."

Bennie Boatwright gave USC a one-point lead when he made a free throw with less than a minute remaining. Both teams missed scoring opportunities on the ensuing possessions, and Elijah Stewart then missed the front end of a one-and-one on the line for the Trojans, giving Providence the ball with 27 seconds left.

Bryan Fischer of Bleacher Report reflected on the back-and-forth:

Bryan Fischer @BryanDFischer

USC’s last three possessions: Dunk, layup, foul. Got a single point. Providence hasn’t made anything since 1:27. Not a strong close.

That pattern continued when Bentil was blocked near the rim and hit the ball on its way out of bounds, which gave it back to USC. Naturally, Jacobs missed the front end of his one-and-one, and the Friars had yet another chance to win it in the final seconds.

Providence finally came through with a beautiful inbounds play under the basket. Bullock converted the layup after the USC defense was too focused on stopping Dunn. However, Dan Wolken of USA Today placed the blame on the Trojans rather than crediting Providence:

Dan Wolken @DanWolken

Yeah, let’s not give Providence credit for a brilliant inbounds play. That was 80% a USC screwup.

The Friars will gladly take it and live to fight another day in the NCAA tournament.

What's Next?

Congratulations, Providence: Your prize for the thrilling victory is a date with No. 1 seed North Carolina in the second round Saturday. The Tar Heels are a No. 1 seed for a reason, and they are loaded with talented playmakers, including Brice Johnson and Marcus Paige.

However, Providence has already played some of the best teams in the country this season, including victories over Arizona and Villanova and losses to Xavier and Michigan State (and Villanova in the two rematches). It likely won't be intimidated, and North Carolina didn't look unbeatable when it was only one point ahead of Florida Gulf Coast at halftime Thursday.

The Friars will also have momentum on their side after their narrow first-round victory and know they can come through with critical plays with the outcome hanging in the balance.

Postgame Reaction

Providence coach Ed Cooley was asked what the final play was called and added some humor with his response, per Chip Patterson of CBS Sports: “Carolina…Nah, I'm just joking. We got another game I'm not telling you.”

Bullock reflected on the game-winner, per Patterson: “Kris and Ben took a lot of the attention away. Drew saw me and I got it in.”

USC coach Andy Enfield discussed his team’s failure to cover all the options, per Patterson: “It looked like we took their 1st and 2nd option away. But one of our guys made a mistake and we left a guy open.”

The Trojans were particularly disappointed. Katin Reinhardt said, per Helfand, “Nobody wants to lose like that. It’s one of the worst ways to lose.”

Nikola Jovanovic echoed similar sentiments, per Inside USC: “I feel terrible. I didn't know a loss could hurt that much.”

The reality of March Madness is every team except for one will likely feel devastated like that when it’s all over. Still, the elation and memories of hitting a game-winner and walking off the court one step closer to a title will probably stay with Providence for far longer than its tournament run.

Check out Bleacher Report's live updating bracket to track your picks along the road to the Final Four.


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