Point guard Mike Gerrity delivered his second dominating performance in his second appearance for the Trojans, and USC mounted a second-half comeback to topple Western Michigan in the first round of the Diamond Head Classic, 55-51.
Gerrity, a senior transfer from Charlotte who made his USC debut in the Trojans' upset win over No. 8 Tennessee on Saturday, had 17 points on 7-of-11 shooting, three assists, and two steals in the tournament opener in Oahu.
The Trojans held Western Michigan (4-5) to just 24 points in the second half. Only five Broncos scored, with just two — Martelle McLemore (21) and David Kool (11) — in double figures.
But the most important number for USC today was eight, as in eight turnovers. The Trojans (6-4) had averaged more than 17 a game so far this season — an alarming number, especially when viewed alongside their opponents' average of fewer than 11. The eight turnovers today allowed USC to capture the victory despite shooting just 40 percent from the field
Center Nikola Vucevic added 10 points and eight rebounds before fouling out late, while guard Dwight Lewis and forward Marcus Johnson each added 10 for the Trojans. Forward Alex Stepheson, who put up 19 against the Volunteers, had just two points in 29 minutes Tuesday.
USC was down double figures nearing the end of the first half before Gerrity punched in a lay-up to make it 27-18 at the break.
At one point in the second half, Gerrity had scored 11 of USC's last 15 points to trail just 42-38. From there, backup guard Donte Smith hit a three-pointer, produced a steal on the opposite end, and drew a foul on a lay-up to give USC the 44-42 lead.
But what won the game for the Trojans was a tremendous stop on the defensive end with about a minute remaining. A three-point play by Gerrity gave USC a 53-50 lead, and the Trojans held tight on Western Michigan for duration of the possession. Lewis tipped the rebound out to guard Marcus Simmons, who delivered a dangerous pass to Gerrity across the half-court line to secure the victory.
USC now plays St. Mary's in the second round of the classic tomorrow at 2 p.m. PST. The Gaels (10-1), led by center Omar Samhan and Aussie guard Matthew Dellavedova, beat Northeastern 78-67 this morning.