SAN DIEGO — With San Diego State on its fifth game in seven days, Xavier Thames made sure the Aztecs did not have to play any longer than necessary.
Thames scored the winning basket with 1.8 seconds left and scored 12 points to spark the Aztecs to a 56-54 win over Southern California on Thursday night.
Five seconds earlier, Maurice Jones banked in a long 3-pointer to tie the game at 54. After a timeout, Thames took the inbounds pass and dribbled the length of the floor to score on a layup over Dewayne Dedmon.
"Once I saw the big man (Dedmon), I knew I could get past him," Thames said. "I knew I had an easy chance at a layup. It was a blessing that I made it."
Tim Shelton screened Eric Strangis on the play to open a lane for Thames.
"It was the exact play we drew up in the huddle," Thames said. "We work on that play every day at practice. It worked to perfection."
Shelton said the play, called a "Five Crack," was designed to create a scoring chance for Thames.
"We were focused, realizing this opportunity that we had," Shelton said. "They made a big shot, and we didn’t want the game to go into overtime. We were there to win it."
USC’s Jones missed a potential tying 3-point shot at the buzzer two nights earlier when the Trojans (1-2) lost to Nebraska in double overtime.
"It’s like we parted the Red Sea and let (Thames) lay it up," Jones said. "We can’t keep losing games like that."
Jamaal Franklin scored 14 points to lead San Diego State (4-1), which was coming off a loss at Baylor after hosting a three-game tournament from Friday through Sunday.
"This was an important win for us," coach Steve Fisher said. "It was a well-deserved victory. I thought both teams competed like crazy. I think USC is as good a defensive team as we’ll play all season. They give you nothing easy."
Jones led USC with 15 points, and Garrett Jackson added 13.
"It’s a tough loss, a tough loss," Trojans coach Kevin O’Neill said. "I’m proud of how we played. We fought hard. We had our chances."
San Diego State, which made 13 of 14 free-throw attempts, took its biggest lead, 54-45, with 2:46 to play on a steal and basket by DeShawn Stephens. Jackson made consecutive 3-pointers to pull USC within 54-51 with 1:27 left.
USC built a 25-21 lead at halftime as San Diego State shot just 29.1 percent from the field, including 1 for 10 from 3-point range.
The second half opened with nine lead changes and four ties before Chase Tapley hit a 3-pointer to put San Diego State up for good at 41-38 with 11:41 left.
San Diego State is 2-10 overall against USC and snapped a five-game losing streak to the Trojans. This was the first meeting between the teams since December 1999.
The Aztecs extended their winning streak at home against unranked opponents to 47 games and improved to 32-2 at Viejas Arena since the start of the 2009-10 season.
AROUND THE NATION
• UCONN EXTENDS WIN STREAK — At Hartford, Conn., Alex Oriakhi had 16 points and eight rebounds to lead No. 4 Connecticut (3-0) to its 14th win in a row, 80-60 over Maine (1-1).
• GATORS BOUNCE BACK — At Gainesville, Fla., Kenny Boynton scored 20 points, Erving Walker added 17 and No. 7 Florida (2-1) rebounded from a loss at No. 3 Ohio State with a 91-55 blowout of North Florida (1-2).
• WILDCATS REPEL RED STORM — At New York, Solomon Hill scored 15 points to help No. 15 Arizona (4-0) rally for an 81-72 victory over St. John’s (3-1) in the 2K Sports Classic semifinals.
• HARDAWAY SPARKS MICHIGAN — At Ann Arbor, Mich., Tim Hardaway Jr. scored 16 points, leading No. 17 Michigan (3-0) to a 59-55 win over Western Illinois (0-2).
• NO. 19 TEXAS A&M TUMBLES — At New York, Dee Bost scored 20 points and Mississippi State (3-1) gained a 69-60 victory over No. 19 Texas A&M (2-1) in the 2K Sports Classic semifinals.
• MIZZOU SHOOTS PAST NIAGARA — At Columbia, Mo., Marcus Denmon scored 22 points, and the No. 24 Tigers (3-0) rode a hot-shooting first half to a 83-52 win over Niagara (1-1).
• WOLF PACK GET FIRST WIN — At Reno, Malik Story scored 18 points and Olek Czyz had 17 as UNR (1-2) gained a 78-54 victory over Pacific (1-1). Jerry Evans Jr. and Kevin Panzer added 11 points each for the Wolf Pack.