Almost two hours later, the senior from Los Angeles, who played the last three seasons at Maryland, drained a 3-pointer from about three steps behind the line at the buzzer to beat the Flyers 79-76 in overtime. Vee Sanford had a hand in Howard’s face and almost blocked the shot.
Instead, 357 days after Kevin Dillard missed a 3-pointer that would have beaten the Trojans at the buzzer in overtime in Los Angeles, the Flyers (9-3) headed home for the holiday with the worst sort of a Christmas gift. The first home loss of the season was a lump of coal, a punch in the gut, whatever you want to call it.
Sanford could only put his head in his hands and walk away as the Trojans mobbed Howard in the corner after the winning shot.
“You’ve got a horrible feeling in your stomach going home for Christmas break,” senior Devin Oliver said. “It’s tough.”
Oliver’s miss on a reverse layup with four seconds left gave the Trojans the chance to take the last shot. Oliver and Khari Price also had shots in the final seconds of the second half to beat USC.
Still, the loss is better pinned not on those misses, but on Dayton’s 17 misses from long range. It made 6-of-23 3-pointers (26 percent), its second-worst performance of the season. Jordan Sibert made 5-of-9 3-pointers and scored 21 points. The rest of the team made 1-of-14 3-pointers.
Meanwhile, USC used its height to outscore Dayton 52-32 in the paint and shoot 49 percent from the field.
“The players are disappointed, and they should be,” coach Archie Miller said. “Today was a great opportunity to play an opponent like USC with that type of crowd. We just weren’t good enough defensively for much of the game. Our big problem was guarding straight-line drives. Our positioning gave them straight-line drives, which led to some offensive rebound problems. They were able to get what they wanted on that end of the floor.”
Dayton led for most of the game and never trailed by more than three. There were 14 lead changes and 10 ties.
The Flyers led 37-32 at halftime on the one last-second shot they made. Dyshawn Pierre had only 0.4 seconds to catch the ball and hit the shot.
Dayton stayed on top until USC (8-4) tied the game with 10:12 to go on a 3-pointer by J.T. Terrell. Dayton surged ahead twice in the last two minutes on free throws, but USC’s leading scorer on the season, guard Bryon Wesley, who led all scorers with 26 points, tied the game with 33 seconds to go on a layup.
The Flyers had some golden opportunities in the first 90 seconds of overtime. Sibert missed two layups in traffic, and Pierre missed two free throws. Then with 52 seconds left, Oliver had a chance to put the Flyers ahead, but he could only tie the game by making 1-of-2 free throws.
That proved big seconds later.
“It would be nice to get that win,” Pierre said. “I think the coaches are proud of us still, but we have a lot of work to do when we get back from Christmas break.”