FRESNO — Playing in front of a Selland Arena crowd of 9,219 and a national ESPN audience, USC's four-game winning streak came to an end Wednesday night with a 79-76 defeat to Fresno State in the first round of the National Invitation Tournament.
In a battle of two guards named Harris down the stretch, Fresno State's Carl Ray Harris proved to have more firepower with a game-high 30 points as the Bulldogs overcame two late three-point baskets by USC's Burt Harris.
USC, which had won five of its last six games, ends the season at 16-12. Fresno State (20-10) will play the winner of Brigham Young and Arizona State in the second round.
The Trojans led, 73-71, with three minutes remaining but were unable to keep pace as Mark Boyd and Stais Boseman missed key attempts, while Carl Ray Harris made the plays for Fresno State.
"Obviously, it was an unbelievable basketball game," USC Coach George Raveling said. "The key to the game was Fresno State was able to make the plays at the end of the game a lot better than we did."
The difference was Carl Ray Harris, who scored six points and added a clinching assist in the final 2:33.
Harris tied the score, 73-73, with jump shot, then gave the Bulldogs the lead with 1:33 to play when he made two free throws, before making a difficult jumper over Boseman to give Fresno State a 77-73 lead with 16.3 seconds remaining.
USC responded with a three-point basket by Burt Harris with 11.2 seconds left, but Carl Ray Harris answered by passing to a wide-open Lee Mayberry for a dunk seven seconds later. Burt Harris' desperation shot was short just before the buzzer.
"Carl Ray Harris is obviously a big-time player," Raveling said. "You could tell by his performance tonight. You can always tell a big-time player by the way they take the shots at the end of the game."
For most of the season, home attendance has been a problem for Fresno State, but that was not an issue Wednesday. Especially with USC, the dreaded Pacific 10 Conference school Bulldog fans love to hate, in town.
With every chance they had, Fresno State fans reminded anyone wearing USC's cardinal and gold of the Bulldogs' football victory over the Trojans in the Freedom Bowl two years ago.
Despite the crowd, USC got off to a fast start with freshman Boseman in the starting lineup in place of Brandon Martin, who did not play because of a stress fracture in his right foot. Boseman's defense helped USC to a 41-40 halftime lead.
Burt Harris led USC with 20 points, three assists and three steals. Boyd added 17 points and seven rebounds. Tremayne Anchrum had a career high nine assists and added seven rebounds.