LOS ANGELES (AP) Three years ago, it was inconceivable that Bennie Boatwright wouldn't be shooting a boatload of 3-pointers.
And harder to imagine that the junior scored a career-high 28 points with just one made 3 in 10th-ranked Southern California's 75-65 victory over North Dakota State on Monday night.
"I credit it a lot to the coaching staff and my teammates for helping me get in the gym and working on my all-around game," Boatwright said, "and not just being a 3-point shooter."
The Trojans (2-0) closed the game on a 13-5 run to hold off the pesky Bison (0-2).
USC twice trailed by 10 points in the first half and was down five in the second half before rallying late. The Trojans struggled at the free throw line, going 17 for 31.
"It was just one of those nights," said USC's Jordan McLaughlin, who had 12 points and eight rebounds.
Cameron Hunter scored 24 points to lead the Bison (0-2), which were better in nearly every category. They held the lead for 20 minutes and 10 seconds, but their shooting went cold in the closing minutes and they had 19 turnovers in the game.
"We competed for the better part of it, which was exciting," Bison coach David Richman said. "Now the next step is learning how to finish. We pride ourselves in being finishers and we need to do a better job of that."
Hunter hit a 3-pointer to cut USC's lead to 70-65 but it was one of just two field goals the Bison made in the final 3:43.
"The first half I feel like we punched right away and we were aggressive right away," Hunter said. "In the second half I felt we were a little tentative, didn't have that aggression that we had the first half."
Chimezie Metu added 14 points for USC.
Deng Geu's consecutive dunks gave North Dakota State a 56-51 lead, its last of the game. The Bison tied it at 58-all on Rocky Kreuser's dunk before the Trojans took over.
"It was a grind-it-out win, but we'll take it," USC coach Andy Enfield said. "We started the game 0 for 5 from the field with five open looks. We missed layups and we missed dunks. You get deflated when you start out like that."
The Bison pulled away to a 10-point lead in the first half, hitting four straight 3-pointers by different players in a 16-4 run. The Trojans were limited to a field goal and missed 4 of 6 free throws in that span.
But Boatwright's four-point play launched a 12-2 spurt that helped USC tie the game 33-all at halftime. He had two other baskets and McLaughlin scored his first points of the game in the run. Dylan Miller's turnover was picked up by McLaughlin who tied the game on a fastbreak layup with 1 second remaining.
MELTON SITS AGAIN
Sophomore De'Anthony Melton was in street clothes on USC's bench for the second straight game. The team has said it's holding him out for precautionary reasons that involve a potential eligibility issue. The FBI investigation of assistant coaches accused of using bribes to influence star players' choice of schools, shoe sponsors and agents referred to a USC sophomore. Melton has not been accused of any wrongdoing.
ONE AND DONE
USC's Nick Rakocevic sprained his left ankle a minute into the game and is likely out a few days. He limped to the bench and winced in pain as a trainer examined it.
National anthem singer and USC student Tiah Barnes took a knee as she finished the song.
Picked to finish third in the Summit League, North Dakota State will test itself against another Pac-12 team when it visits No. 3 Arizona in December.
USC blew out Cal State Fullerton by 42 points in its opener and is boasting its highest ranking since the 1974-75 season. The Trojans won't face a ranked opponent until at least Nov. 26 when they host No. 16 Texas A&M.
North Dakota State concludes its season-opening, three-game road trip at Missouri State on Friday.
USC plays its first road game of the season at Vanderbilt on Sunday.