Utah Tops Trojans 63-55
Jan. 28, 2012
SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH - The USC women's basketball team saw host Utah turn the corner on a cold first half start to eventually move into a late lead, shooting 54 percent in the second half and putting away late-game free throws for a final 63-55 win over the Women of Troy. USC's third straight loss moves the Trojans to a 10-9 overall record and 5-4 mark in Pac-12 play. Utah improves to 10-10, 3-6 with today's win in Salt Lake City.
USC built up a 17-0 lead until the Utes found their scoring touch to close the gap in the last 11:30 of play, leaving the Trojans with a 23-21 halftime lead. Freshman Ariya Crook had her career high of 10 points by halftime to lead the Women of Troy, and would finish on top with 17 points on the night. But it was the turnaround by Utah's Michelle Plouffe that would spell doom for the Trojans.
Plouffe was scoreless in the first half, but got hot in the second and finished with a game-high 21 points. Her spark helped Utah finish out the game shooting 40 percent from the floor - after going at 28 percent in the first half. USC, meanwhile, stayed consistent but missed key shots to keep pace and finished at 38 percent from the floor. Ashley Corral dumped in three 3-pointers and finished with 11 points for USC, with Cassie Harberts adding 10. Utah, meanwhile, got double-doubles from Janita Badon (12 pts, 10 rebs) and Taryn Wicijowski (10 pts, 10 rebs) and 14 points from Iwalani Rodrigues. Utah also edged out the Trojans on the boards 37-35 in the game.
The USC defense held Utah scoreless for the first nine and a half minutes of play before the Utes grabbed just their second offensive rebound of the day for a putback from Iwalani Rodrigues. USC, meanwhile, had piled up a 17-0 lead on Utah to open the game. Sparked by that long-awaited bucket, the Utes mounted a 16-2 run from there. USC fell into a scoring slump that spanned almost seven minutes until Alexyz Vaioletama snapped an 11-0 Utah run that had cut it to a three-point game, making it 21-16 USC with 3:30 to go. Rodrigues buried a three soon after, however, trimming the Trojan lead to 21-19 until another USC miss helped set up Utah with a tying bucket in the final minute. But Vaioletama took it to the hoop with 12 ticks to go to give the Trojans a 23-21 lead going into halftime.
USC got out of the gates with a 9-2 scoring push that included a couple nice scores from Cassie Harberts. But again Utah would have an answer, striking out on a 13-0 run that gave Utah its first lead of the game, up 41-36 with 11:00 on the clock. USC got a four-point play later from Christina Marinacci, who nailed her three and the ensuing free throw on the foul, to tie it up 43-43 with 9:30 remaining. But then Utah put together a 7-0 run to snag its largest lead of the game, up 50-43 with 8:10 to go. Now it was USC's turn to close the gap. The Trojans cut it to one on an Ashley Corral three and then again on a nice score from Marinacci. By the final minute, though, Utah was holding the advantage with a 58-53 lead on Michelle Plouffe's 19th points of the night, scored in the paint with 50 ticks to go, and that was enough to force USC to put the Utes on the line in an effort to cut in. Utah went 5-of-7 from the free-throw line in the last 33 seconds of play to ice the game for the Utes.
Senior Briana Gilbreath was sidelined for today's game with a knee injury (left) sustained early in the second half of Thursday's loss at Colorado. Gilbreath did return in that game, but sat out Saturday's game. She will be evaluated by a physician when USC returns to Los Angeles. This was the first game Gilbreath has missed in her USC career.