PARADISE ISLAND, Bahamas (AP) — Southern California coach Andy Enfield wanted a time-out. No one noticed.
And that was a most fortunate break for the Trojans.
Down by five points midway through the first half and seeing that a play was falling apart, Enfield was shouting and signaling for time, his pleas somehow not getting acknowledged by either his players or the referees. USC wound up scoring on the play to start a huge run that allowed the Trojans to beat Xavier 84-78 on Saturday in the seventh-place game at the Battle 4 Atlantis.
“We’re a very good basketball team when we play hard and make good decisions,” Enfield said. “That was a crucial point in the game and we went on a big run.”
They needed it, too.
Up by 24 with 8:46 remaining, and still up by 23 with 4:03 left, USC got outscored 29-11 in the next 3 1/2 minutes to see a blowout become a five-point game. But they held on, salvaging something from their weekend in the Bahamas.
“This was a very good win for us against an excellent Xavier team,” Enfield said. “I thought we played exceptionally well in the first half and early in the second half, and held on at the end. We’re fortunate to get out with a victory.”
Pe’Shon Howard scored 23 points for the Trojans (5-3), who, from the moment that Enfield didn’t get the time-out he wanted, scored the next 13 points to start what turned into a 31-11 run over a 12-minute span.
Byron Wesley scored 15 points, Julian Jacobs scored 14 and Nikola Jovanovic added 12 for USC.
“It felt kind of like practice,” Howard said of USC’s big run. “It felt good to kind of put one together.”
Semaj Christon scored 17 of his 21 points in the second half for Xavier (5-3). Myles Davis scored 16, Matt Stainbrook added 14 and Isaiah Philmore scored 10 for the Musketeers.
For a while, it was looking like a USC blowout.
In the final minutes, the Musketeers made things more than a little interesting.
Xavier was down 72-49 after Howard scored with 4:03 left, then ripped off 13 unanswered points in the next 94 seconds to get within 10 on Stainbrook’s layup with 2:29 left.
Davis’ 3-pointer with 1:18 remaining cut USC’s lead to nine, and Christon added another with 20.3 seconds left to get the Musketeers within 83-78. But Xavier ran out of time.
“Too little, too late,” Xavier coach Chris Mack said. “We mounted a little bit of a comeback toward the end, but when you put yourself in a hole like we did, we just did not have what we needed to be the team that came out on top. USC fully deserved that victory.”
Philmore scored five quick points as Xavier took a 23-18 lead, and with things not to his liking at that moment, Enfield wanted to talk about things. Play was on the other end of the floor at the time, and even though the makeshift arena inside a ballroom at the Atlantis Resort was relatively quiet, no one figured out what Enfield wanted.
Timing was everything. And three minutes later, when Howard dropped a nifty no-look pass toward the right block and setting up D.J. Haley for a dunk, the Trojans had a 31-23 lead.
Jacobs had a dunk to give USC its first double-digit lead with 1:52 left in the half, and the margin didn’t dip below 10 again until the huge late run.
“I think the sense of urgency, definitely, is what propelled us in those last four minutes,” Stainbrook said. “I don’t think that we didn’t play hard the whole game. I felt like from the minute we walked out on the floor to warm up, we were playing hard.”
Added Philmore: “We played hard but we didn’t really play smart.”
Both teams now get a few days off before getting back on the floor. Xavier does not return to action until Dec. 7 against Bowling Green. USC plays Boston College one day later.