TULSA, Okla. — Chimezie Metu cradled a basketball in his right arm and ran from one end of the BOK Center court to the free-throw line on the opposite end, screaming.
It was an excruciating moment.
With the Trojans trailing Baylor by two points with less than 30 seconds left in the second round of the NCAA Tournament, Metu, USC’s 6-foot-11 sophomore forward, stood in front of the basket when he met Manu Lecomte, a junior guard for the Bears, mid-air. Lecomte had driven baseline and lunged toward the hoop. Metu jumped and pinned the ball against the glass with his right hand.
An official whistled him for goaltending. The ball had began a descent. Metu looked to be a half-second too late.
Baylor went ahead by four points.
In the final minutes of a painful, season-ending 82-78 loss in the round of 32 on Sunday evening, the 11th-seeded Trojans were unable to pull ahead.
“We just couldn’t get a stop,” Metu said.
Before the goaltending call, a jump hook by Metu, as well as a pair of free throws with 52 seconds remaining, brought the Trojans within one possession of tying or pulling ahead.
Instead, it capped an exhausting week for the Trojans, who were playing their third game in five days, as they fell short of reaching the round of 16 for the first time in a decade and brought an end to one of the winningest seasons in program history.
“It easily could’ve gone our way,” USC coach Andy Enfield said, “but it didn’t.”
The Trojans, who finished the season with a 26-10 overall record, again rallied from a halftime deficit and re-took the lead in the second half.
Two days earlier, when the Trojans escaped with a dramatic 66-65 opening-round win over SMU, they trailed by eight points at halftime and were down by as many as 12 points. The Trojans recovered for its first lead in the final minute outlasted the Mustangs despite leading for only 76 seconds.
In a 75-71 win over Providence in a play-in game last Wednesday in Dayton, Ohio, the…