LOS ANGELES — Bennie Boatwright scored a career-high 28 points, and No. 10 USC closed the game on a 13-5 run to hold off pesky North Dakota State 75-65 on Monday night at the Galen Center.
The Trojans (2-0) twice trailed by 10 points in the first half and were down five in the second half before rallying. They struggled at the free-throw line, going 17 of 31.
Cameron Hunter scored 24 points to lead the Bison (0-2), who were better in nearly every category. They held the lead for 20 minutes and 10 seconds, but their shooting went cold in the closing minutes and they turned the ball over.
Hunter hit a 3-pointer to cut USC’s lead to 70-65 but it was one of just two field goals the Bison made in the final 3:43.
Chimezie Metu added 14 points for USC.
Deng Geu’s consecutive dunks gave North Dakota State a 56-51 lead, its last of the game. The Bison tied it at 58-all on Rocky Kreuser’s dunk before the Trojans rallied.
North Dakota State pulled away to a 10-point lead in the first half, hitting four straight 3-pointers by different players as part of a 16-4 run. The Trojans were limited to a field goal and missed four of six free-throw attempts during that span.
But Boatwright’s four-point play launched a 12-2 spurt that helped USC tie the score 33-33 at halftime. He had two other baskets and Jordan McLaughlin scored his first points of the game in the run. Dylan Miller’s turnover was picked up by McLaughlin who tied the game on a fast-break layup with one second remaining.
USC blew out Cal State Fullerton by 42 points in its opener and is boasting its highest ranking since the 1974-75 season. The Trojans won’t face a ranked opponent until at least Nov. 26 when they host No. 16 Texas A&M.
Picked to finish third in the Summit League, North Dakota State will test itself against another Pac-12 team when it visits No. 3 Arizona in December.
USC plays its first road game of the season at Vanderbilt on Sunday.