LOS ANGELES (AP) — Southern California needed more than 30 minutes to find the gear it was looking for, and the Trojans were rewarded at both ends of the floor.
Making 16 of 25 shots in the second half, the Trojans turned a close game into a run-away as they pulled away late to defeat a pesky UC Davis squad 73-55 Sunday night.
"We were playing harder, shot the ball a little bit more as a team," said Derryck Thornton, who had 16 points for the Trojans. "I think guys in general are getting more open shots so percentages are starting to go up."
Bennie Boatwright led the way with 19 points for the Trojans, and Elijah Weaver chipped in 14 points as USC (7-6) shot 64 percent in the second half.
"What we were doing was starting to work," said Weaver. "Certain defensive schemes started to work better. We started to focus in and started to lock them down."
USC outscored UC Davis 22-6 over the final nine minutes, holding the Aggies scoreless over the final 4:15.
"In the last timeout, I pulled my guys aside and said, 'Let's get a stop, let's finish the game,'" said Weaver. "And (Thornton) was telling us if we get stops we don't have to score. If we get stops, we'll win the game."
Leading 51-49 with 8:50 to play, USC reeled off four consecutive baskets, taking a 60-49 lead on Weaver's 3-pointer. After the Aggies answered with consecutive baskets by TJ Shorts II, Thornton hit a 3-pointer and Boatwright added a fadeaway jumper for a 65-53 lead with 5:20 to play.
"When we turned it up, they turned it up another notch," said UC Davis coach Jim Les. "They made some tough shots and got it going."
Shorts scored 14 points and Silas Schneider added 13 to lead UC Davis (3-10), which fell to 0-7 on the road this season. The Aggies were held to 40 percent shooting, managing to make just 4 of 17 3-pointers.
"I think we're improving as a basketball team, especially the last week-and-a-half, two weeks," said Trojan Coach Andy Enfield. "We're improving in practice and we're improving in games. The last two games we've held teams to 49 and 55 points. We've had 24 and 20 assists. So we know the formula for success we just have to go out and execute it."
Southern California finished its nonconference schedule with its second straight victory after losing four in a row.
"We've been fighting a lot through a lot this season," said Thornton. "We've had injuries, ups and downs, so it feels good before conference to end with a bang."
The Trojans erased a 28-21 deficit with an 11-2 run, capped by Boatwright's 3-pointer with 36 seconds left in the first half for a 32-30 lead.
This was the first meeting between these two schools.
UC Davis: The Trojans were the second Pac-12 opponent on the Aggies schedule. The defending Big West Conference champions, who went 22-10 a year ago, nearly upset Arizona before falling 80-78 in Tempe, Arizona, on Dec. 22. Last year, the Aggies also beat Washington State 81-67.
USC: The Trojans' six nonconference losses so far have come against teams with a combined 59-12 record. USC won its 36th straight game when it held an opponent to 70 points or less. Sophomore forward Jordan Usher has been suspended indefinitely "for conduct issues," said Enfield. He declined to elaborate.
UC Davis: The Aggies finish up their nonconference schedule against Holy Names at home on Saturday. They open their Big West schedule at UC Irvine on Jan. 10.
USC: The Trojans open the Pac-12 Conference schedule at home against California on Thursday night, followed by a home game against Stanford on Sunday night.