USC Women Take Down No. 16 Cal 77-70 With Winning Surge
Jan. 24, 2014
BERKELEY, CALIF. -- The USC women's basketball team showed endless fight to go along with the winning touch it has created of late in an impressive comeback win that saw the Trojans combat the foul count and an 11-point deficit in crafting a 77-70 victory over No. 16 host California tonight in Berkeley. Ariya Crook was near unstoppable for the Trojans, scoring a whopping 34 points -- the most by a Trojan since 2002 -- while Cassie Harberts provided a double-double for the USC cause. The Women of Troy stay solid in the No. 2 spot in the Pac-12 standings with the win, improving to 14-6 overall and 7-1 in Pac-12 play. No. 16 Cal goes to 13-5, 5-2.
Teams were relatively hot at both ends in the first half, with USC going 50 percent from the floor and Cal at 53 through the first 20 minutes. That slight edge in the Bears' favor had Cal holding a 41-35 lead at the break with a 17-13 advantage on the boards. USC's Ariya Crook and Cal's Afure Jemerigbe were both in the books with double digits by then, holding 14 and 13 points apiece, respectively.
In the second half, the foul count was slanted heavily against USC for much of the half, but the Trojans just gritted their teeth and dug in for the long haul. Cal had a six-point lead on the Trojans with 6:30 to go, but USC kicked out on a 14-2 scoring blitz from there for a lead the Women of Troy would not relinquish. By the final buzzer, USC had wrapped the win on 42 percent shooting overall to beat out Cal's 36 percent. Cal won out on the boards 45-37 thanks in part to double-doubles from Brittany Boyd and Gennifer Brandon, but it was the fighting spirit from the USC contingent that sealed the deal for the Trojans. Ariya Crook's career-high 34 points came with five 3-pointers nailed and a smooth 7-of-8 effort from the free-throw line. Cassie Harberts added 15 points and 10 rebounds for the Trojans, while Brianna Barrett's 6-point contribution came from the free throw line, including two big makes to follow a huge steal in the final seconds. Cal had Boyd and Afure Jemerigbe finish with 17 points apiece, with Reshanda Gray adding 13 and Gennifer Brandon with 11.
During the Trojan rally to victory, Crook not only scored the most points by a Trojan since 2002, she took over at No. 8 all-time in career 3-pointers, now holding 107. Cassie Harberts, too, climbed the career ladders in taking over at No. 8 all-time in career rebounds (817), and is now just 2 points away from No. 9 all-time in career scoring (currently holds 1,606 points).
The Bears' first 3-pointer of the game knocked the Trojans back by four points before Brittany Boyd made it a 20-14 Cal advantage with 10:22 on the clock in the first half. Cal's Afure Jemerigbe had the hottest hand of all, with her 11th points of the game carrying Cal to a 10-point lead in the final five minutes. Despite a bevy of fouls, the Trojans fought on and worked closer to finish up the half as a 41-35 score in Cal's favor.
A three from Ariya Crook cut it to a three-point game with her second bomb of the game. She'd plant a couple more in the next stretch, and Desiree Bradley joined the 3-point party to lock up the game at 51-51 with 14:10 on the clock. A long jumper from Jordan Adams got USC its first lead since the 18:20 mark of the first half, getting the Trojans up 53-51. Cal crept up again and snuck into the lead as the foul count tipped heavily against the Trojans. USC was tagged with 6 fouls to just 1 for the Bears in the first eight minutes of the half. Thirty seconds later, the Bears were in the bonus, and soon up 58-53 thanks to another successful visit to the stripe.
Crook kept coming. She's set a new career high for herself when she planted her fifth 3-pointer of the game, getting up to 28 points with that basket while cutting it to a two-point game, down 60-58 with 8:40 to go. By then, the Bears were comfortably in double bonus, while having committed only four fouls themselves. The Women of Troy remained game for the uphill battle, however. USC went to the line for the first time in almost 10 minutes, with Harberts icing four straight tosses before hitting Bradley for a game-tying 3-pointer to make it 66-66 with 4:30 remaining.
Harberts had the go-ahead move and finish in the paint next, and USC was up 68-66 entering the last 3:30 of regulation. Harberts would haul in her 10th rebound of the game to make it a doubble-double and give USC another opportunity. Crook converted a bucket in the lane next, and USC was up to its biggest lead, holding a 70-66 edge that would hold up through a couple defensive stops by the Trojans. With 25 seconds left, Crook went to the line and nailed two to make it 72-66. Brittany Boyd countered with a three-point play for the Bears, and it was a three-point game with 20.7 ticks on the clock. Barrett was next to the stripe, sinking the back end for a four-point edge. Boyd hit the line for the Bears with just one going in, and Crook went back the other end for a couple tosses with 13.5 on the clock. After two makes and USC up 75-70, Barrett came up big with a steal on the next defensive series, and the Bears had no hope left when she hammered the last two free throws home for the 77-70 final win for the Trojans.
USC next heads down to Palo Alto to take on No. 4 Stanford to fight for a share of the Pac-12 lead in a Monday (Jan. 27) matchup at 6 p.m. on ESPN2.