NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Southern California took a risk going on the road this early in the season to visit a Southeastern Conference team, especially a program coming off back-to-back NCAA Tournament berths in an old, quirky gym.
The gamble paid off for coach Andy Enfield and the Trojans.
Jordan McLaughlin scored a career-high 35 points, and 10th-ranked USC rallied from a 10-point deficit midway through the second half to a 93-89 overtime victory over Vanderbilt on Sunday night.
"It's a great win for us, it's a quality win," Enfield said. "Vanderbilt is an excellent team, and to go on the road this early was going to test our team and it did."
McLaughlin tied it by hitting his fifth 3-pointer of the game with 25.8 seconds left in regulation. He then scored the first five points of overtime as the Trojans (3-0) escaped with a victory in their first road game this season.
Vanderbilt coach Bryce Drew said his team knew McLaughlin hadn't hit a single 3 through the first two games, so the Commodores focused on defending Bennie Boatwright, the Trojans' leading scorer, and dunk threat Chimezie Metu.
"We wanted to see how many 11 (McLaughlin) could hit, and unfortunately he hit one too many tonight," Drew said.
McLaughlin was surprised to see Vanderbilt go under late in regulation, worried more about Metu.
"I thought they were going to make some changes down the stretch," McLaughlin said. "They went under, and I got a clean look at it."
USC first rallied from a 14-point deficit to lead 35-34 at halftime, and the Trojans trailed 62-52 with 9:36 left. Boatwright started an 8-0 run with a 3-pointer, followed by a three-point play by McLaughlin to set up a thrilling finish and comeback in a game with six ties and eight lead changes.
Metu added 23 points for the Trojans in the program's first visit to Memorial Gym since Dec. 5, 1975. Boatwright finished with 14 before fouling out late in regulation.
Vanderbilt (2-2) had a chance to win in regulation with Riley LaChance getting the same look just before the buzzer as a shot he knocked down with 47 seconds left. But the Trojans defended differently, and LaChance's shot hit the front rim.
"Jordan is an excellent defender," Enfield said. "He gets a lot of steals, gets his hands on a lot of balls, and he guards the basketball, he keeps it in front of him. That's not surprising. That's expected at this point as one of the best guards in the country."
The Trojans never led by more than five until overtime.
The Commodores had every chance to finish off the win as they hit 12 of 14 free throws over the final 7:01 of regulation. But Fisher-Davis went cold with the Trojans determined to keep him from getting clean looks, and the Commodores just couldn't match McLaughlin, who kept hitting shot after shot.
USC: The Trojans now are 5-1 all-time against Vanderbilt. ... Boatwright, who came in averaging 20.5 points per game, didn't score until 3:09 left in the first half. He fouled out with 1:16 left. ... The only area where the Trojans made Vandy pay was off turnovers, converting 18 turnovers into 20 points. ... McLaughlin's five 3s matched his career high.
Vanderbilt: Rebounding was supposed to be the Commodores' biggest issue with center Luke Kornet gone. Against the Trojans, the Commodores dominated the boards with a 38-28 edge.
An impressive road win against another Power Five program will only help the Trojans, especially come March.
HELLO, MEMORIAL GYM
This was the first visit by Enfield to a gym where the benches are on the end lines with a raised floor. Enfield, who took advantage of the expanded coaching box up the sideline, called it a tough place to play.
USC: Host Lehigh on Wednesday night.
Vanderbilt: Play Virginia Thursday in the NIT Season Tip-off in New York.