USC guard J.T. Terrell (20) drives to the basket against Washington guard… (Mark J. Terrill / Associated…)
This was unusual.
With 35.8 seconds left in the game and Jio Fontan at the foul line, USC's basketball team earned a standing ovation.
After racing to a large early lead, surviving some nervous time with Fontan on the bench with four fouls and letting its big advantage dwindle into single digits, USC beat Washington, 71-60, Sunday night at the Galen Center.
This gave the Trojans (11-13, 6-5 Pac-12) their first three-game winning streak of the season and tied them for fifth in the conference. Washington (13-11, 5-6) lost both ends of its trip to Southern California after falling to UCLA on Thursday on a last-second shot.
USC will next play two of the other three teams tied for fifth — Thursday at Stanford and Sunday at California.
J.T. Terrell led the Trojans with 18 points (making four of seven from the three-point line), and senior Eric Wise had 12 points and eight rebounds.
Most important, according to interim Coach Bob Cantu, the Trojans protected their home court in a conference in which they are within two games of first place.
"We shot the ball really, really well in the first half," Cantu said. "They came back a little bit in the second half, but we won. That's all that matters."
The only down note was that Ari Stewart left the game because of a sprained left hand. He will have it X-rayed Monday.
The Trojans led by as many as 19 points in the first half, 35-16, when Terrell brought the crowd to its feet with a three-pointer on a fastbreak.
Terrell described USC's quick start as coming because, "We're playing with no leash."
Cantu said the same thing in a different way. "We're getting out in the open court, playing free and pushing the ball," he said. "Just letting the guys play a little more."
USC kept hold of a double-digit lead into the second half, but with 15:52 left Fontan got his fourth foul. His second and third had come less than three minutes earlier and Fontan went to the bench slapping his head.
With just under 12 minutes left, Washington's Andrew Andrews stole the ball from Fontan's replacement, walk-on Chass Bryan, and made the layup to pull the Huskies to within 49-43 with 11:48 left.
Wise kept USC in front though, scoring seven straight points for his team, including a layup and a free throw with 10:27 left that put USC up 52-43. On the other end Wise blocked the shot of 7-foot Aziz N'Diaye and caused a Washington turnover that became a Terrell three-pointer and a 55-43 USC lead with 8:56 left.
A Shawn Kemp Jr. dunk with 6:53 left drew Washington to within 58-51, but Bryan responded with his second three-point basket and gave USC a double-digit lead again with 6:27 left. After that basket, Fontan came back in.
"It was tough on the bench," Fontan said, "but I had all the faith in Chass."
So did Cantu. "Chass gave us big minutes," Cantu said. "He's like a lot of our guys, playing with confidence."
Fontan did get some grief from his teammates for missing his team's final free throw. The Trojans had been a perfect 14 for 14 from the line. "I heard about that," Fontan said.
But he could say that with a smile that comes only with a win.