No. 19 Auburn rallies late, falls 74-71 at USC

Zach Bland / AU Athletics

LOS ANGELES – K.D. Johnson's halfcourt shot bounced off the rim at the buzzer denying No. 19 Auburn a chance for overtime in Sunday's 74-71 loss to Southern California at Galen Center. 

"I thought we played better tonight," Auburn coach Bruce Pearl said. "We gave ourselves a chance."

Trailing 71-65 with 9 seconds remaining, Chris Moore hit a pair of free throws, then Johnson stole USC's inbounds pass, got fouled and made both free throws to pull the Tigers within two points with 8.4 seconds to play. 

Auburn fouled USC's Boogie Ellis, who made one of two free throws to give the Trojans a 72-69 lead with 7.5 seconds left. 

Johnson got fouled while driving with 2.8 seconds to play. He made both free throws to pull Auburn within a point at 72-71. 

Auburn fouled Ellis again before any time expired. Ellis, the game's leading scorer with 28 points, made both free throws and Johnson's halfcourt attempt came close but wouldn't fall. 

"On that last possession, K.D. didn't get as clean a look as he might have gotten," Pearl said, referencing Auburn's lineup changes. "I thought we did a lot of great things down the stretch to give ourselves a chance to win the game."

Johni Broome led Auburn with 16 points and eight rebounds, making 7 of 8 shots including a 3-pointer before fouling out.

Tre Donaldson scored a career-high 12 points and made four steals but fouled out in 16 minutes, exacerbating Auburn's point guard struggles with Wendell Green Jr. limited to 12 minutes after injuring his ankle late in the Tigers' win over Georgia State.

"I've worked my tail off, I've waited for my opportunity," Donaldson said. "At the end of the day I give all glory to God."

Auburn outrebounded USC 32-19 leading to a 16-9 advantage in second-chance points.

"It's steppingstone," Broome said. "We've been emphasizing that the whole year. We've seen we can do it, now we've just got to be consistent with it."

With one point guard injured and another in foul trouble, Auburn struggled with turnovers, committing 23.

Southern Cal (9-3) used a 9-0 run to erase Auburn's four-point halftime lead before Yohan Traore and Zep Jasper hit back-to-back corner 3-pointers to put the Tigers in front 49-48. 

Miscues cost Auburn from there. The Tigers committed 14 second-half turnovers. 

"The real shift in the second half was when USC was pressing us and we turned the ball over a couple times attacking pressure," Pearl said. "Usually, that makes us better. I'm disappointed that we didn't do a better job there."

Trailing 33-25 late in the first half, Auburn closed the half on a 14-2 run, scoring the final 10 points. 

Dylan Cardwell, who had four rebounds in four first-half minutes to help the Tigers outrebound USC 15-9 in the half, scored on a putback to put Auburn up 39-25 at intermission.

Broome led the Tigers with 11 points in the half on 5-of-6 shooting while Donaldson scored a career-high 10 points, making 4 of 5 shots including both of his 3-point attempts. 

Donaldson added three steals in the half to spark the Tigers' comeback, helping Auburn outscore USC 14-6 in points off turnovers in the first half. 

"Wendell Green tried to go and really couldn't," Pearl said. "Tre Donaldson came in and did a great job but got it foul trouble."

Allen Flanigan scored nine points and led Auburn with five assists. Jaylin Williams added eight points. 

Auburn (9-2) concludes its West Coast tour Wednesday at Washington at 8 p.m. CT in Seattle. 

"I'm pleased with this team right now, if we can continue to grow," Pearl said. "We've made a lot of progress since last week against Memphis."

Jeff Shearer is a Senior Writer at Follow him on Twitter: @jeff_shearer

USC POSTGAME NOTES>> For the ninth time this season, Auburn went with the starting five of Wendell Green Jr., Zep Jasper, Chris Moore, Jaylin Williams and Johni Broome (7-2).

>> USC improved to 3-0 in the all-time series with Auburn. This was Auburn's first road game this season after playing on neutral courts in Cancun and Atlanta in non-conference play. It was also the Tigers' second-ever trip to the USC campus since 1972.

>> For the first time this season, Johni Broome reached double figures in the first of play with 11 of his team-high 16 points on 7-of-8 shooting from the field at USC.

>> The Tigers turned in its third-best shooting performance in the first half (15-of-28, 53.6%) this season behind 58.6% versus Bradley on Nov. 22 and 56.3% against Colgate on Dec. 2.

>> Tre Donaldson came off the bench and scored seven of his 10 first-half points in the first 6 minutes of action at USC. He ended the game with 12 points including two 3-pointers. Donaldson also made four of the team's seven steals in the contest.

>> Allen Flanigan recorded nine points off the bench at USC. He also dished out a team-high five assists which was one short of his career high in the category.

>> The Tigers made 15 assists in the ballgame – the fourth most of the season behind Flanigan (5) and K.D. Johnson (4).

>> The Tigers, who continue to lead the nation in blocked shots per game, made four stops against USC. It was AU's 64th-straight game with a block. The Trojans, who ranked third in the same category coming into the contest, made one stop.