Shorthanded No. 16 USC falls at home to veteran UC Irvine

He hadn’t made a three-pointer all night. But Devin Tillis hit the shot when it counted.

The UC Irvine forward hit a game-clinching three-pointer with 37.4 seconds remaining to seal Irvine’s 70-60 upset of No. 16 USC at Galen Center on Tuesday.

The Anteaters (2-1) overcame career-highs from freshman Isaiah Collier (23 points) and junior Harrison Hornery (17 points) with a starring performance from redshirt senior guard Justin Hohn, who poured in a career-best 25 points on 10 of 16 shooting. Tillis finished with eight points and 10 rebounds.

USC was without senior guard Boogie Ellis, who missed the game due to a sprained right ankle. Forward Kobe Johnson also missed a second consecutive game with left knee discomfort.

Ellis’ absence was glaring compared to Irvine’s experience. The Anteaters started five upperclassmen, the youngest being junior center Bent Leuchten, who started 26 games last year and finished with 19 points and six rebounds on Tuesday. Irvine returned three starters from last year’s team that upset then-No. 21 Oregon in Eugene on Nov. 11, 2022, and won the Big West.

The cohesion showed as Irvine shook off an ugly first half to start the second on a 7-0 run. The Trojans, who had just one returning upperclassman in the starting lineup with Ellis injured, were forced to call a timeout as the Anteaters’ lead ballooned to 10.

USC’s early-season growing pains were evident in several of Collier’s seven turnovers. He fired a pass out of bounds with 12:14 remaining in the second half with the Trojans trailing by six points and immediately signaled to Joshua Morgan that he should have run the wide-open baseline in the situation. The teammates remained out of sync in crunch time. With USC trailing by three with less than two minutes remaining, Collier zipped the ball to Morgan under the basket that slipped through the forward’s hands.

Collier’s seven turnovers were a career worst and he finished with just one assist.

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