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Last Lead Is Best Lead for Trojans : College basketball: USC makes 18 free throws in second half, including two by Boseman with 2.7 seconds left, to defeat UC Irvine, 82-79.

December 17, 1995|LONNIE WHITE | TIMES STAFF WRITER

From the tip, USC and UC Irvine battled jump shot for jump shot, rebound for rebound and turnover for turnover Saturday at the Sports Arena.

The lead changed 16 times before USC slowly took command, but the Trojans weren't able to breathe easy until Stais Boseman made two free throws with 2.7 seconds left for an 82-79 victory over the Anteaters before 2,931.

Brandon Martin, a 6-foot-4 senior, made the key defensive play for USC when he forced Irvine's Kevin Simmons, a 6-8 forward, to miss a 12-foot bank shot with four seconds remaining and the Trojans ahead, 80-79.

"We knew that they were going to go to either [Irvine's Raimonds Miglinieks] or [Simmons]," said Martin, who made four of five field-goal attempts and tied Boseman with a team-high 15 points. "I tried to force [right-handed Simmons] to go to his left. The only problem I had with his height advantage was him shooting over me because he was not stronger than me to post me up."

After Simmons, who finished with 23 points and 11 rebounds, missed, he fouled Boseman going for the rebound. Irvine's final chance fell short when Miglinieks missed a desperation halfcourt shot after Boseman's free throws.

"This was a hard-fought game to the very end," said USC Coach Charlie Parker, whose team improved to 5-1. "It was a very physical game. It was a strange game too."

Irvine shot only 45.9% from the field to the Trojans' 50%, but the Anteaters held an edge in rebounding, 35-27. USC had 18 turnovers to the Irvine's 17, but the Trojans' free-throw shooting in the second half was the difference.

Behind Martin's six-for-eight effort, USC made 18 of 24 free throws (75%) in the second half after making only eight of 14 (57.1%) in the first 20 minutes. Irvine made only 16 of 28 for the game, including eight of 15 in the second half.

"USC didn't let us win this game," Irvine Coach Rod Baker said. "They made some big plays down the stretch. They shot free throws better in the second half than in the first. The more they play together and get everybody involved, the better they'll get."

USC shot 55.6% from the field, but trailed at halftime, 44-41, thanks to a last-second three-point basket by Brian Keefe.

Irvine (3-2), which is off to its best start since 1987, did not shoot well to begin the game, but the Anteaters were able to follow their misses and turn offensive rebounds into easy baskets.

Junior Paul Foster, a 6-8 forward who entered the game averaging only 4.8 points, capitalized the most with 12 points in nine first-half minutes off the bench.

In the second half, however, USC went to a 3-2 zone, which slowed the Anteaters' inside scoring as they were able to get only three offensive rebounds after grabbing 10 in the first half.

"They still came at us the same, but we just wanted the ball more in the second half," said Jaha Wilson, who had his third double-double of the season with 15 points and 10 rebounds. "There never was a time in the game that we felt that we were going to lose."

USC received an emotional lift in the first half when senior Tremayne Anchrum played in his first game since USC's National Invitation Tournament game at Fresno State on March 15, 1994. Anchrum sat out all of last season and the first five games this season after two operations on his right knee.

"It felt like I was a freshman out there. . . . I had butterflies," said Anchrum, who did not score in three first-half minutes. "The game is a little faster and more physical than I had been used to in practice."

USC had five players score in double figures, including 11 points from Ty Reuter and Cameron Murray.

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