USC Women Find Finishing Touch To Move Past Arizona 59-55 In Pac-12 Tournament
March 6, 2014
SEATTLE, WASH. -- The No. 5 seeded USC women's basketball team kept its eyes on the prize despite No. 12 seed Arizona's effort to shake things up today, pulling off a tense 59-54 comeback win over the Wildcats in the first round of the Pac-12 Tournament at KeyArena in Seattle. The Trojans proved up to the task, even when Arizona built a six-point lead in the second half. The lead changed hands 12 times, but USC kept its grip on that last shift. Now 19-12 overall, the Women of Troy take aim at No. 4 seed Arizona State tomorrow (March 7) at 2:30 p.m. in the quarterfinals.
USC was in a groove early in taking a nine-point lead on the Wildcats, but turnovers and missed opportunities started to plague the Trojans while Arizona heated up from the floor. The Wildcats took back the lead on the way into the last five minutes of the first half and took a 30-25 lead into the lockerroom at halftime thanks to four 3-pointers nailed a a 41-percent shooting effort from the floor. USC had cooled down to 38 percent by the break. USC was soon staring at a 6-point deficit, but the Trojans proved up to the challenge. USC moved back within striking distance and fought through nine lead changes before stepping into control for the final stretch. Kate Oliver was the winning spark, as she worked into double figures for the first time this season as she helped keep USC on top. The Women of Troy wrapped the game shooting 42 percent from the floor after a 47-percent effort in the second half got USC to outscore Arizona by 10 in the final 20 minutes. The Wildcats finished up at 36 percent from the floor, and also trailed the Trojans on the boards as USC finished up ahead 41-30 in rebounding.
USC was led by a game-high 19 points from Ariya Crook as well as a season-high 12 points from Kate Oliver. The rebounding charge was led by Alexyz Vaioletama and Cassie Harberts, who hauled in 12 and 11 rebounds, respectively. Arizona got three players in double figures on the day, let by 13 from Kama Grifftis, who nailed three 3-pointers for the Wildcats, along with 12 from Carissa Crutchfield and 10 from LaBrittany Jones.
The Trojans spread the wealth in the first stretch of the game, with six different players helping to construct a 15-8 lead on Arizona by the 11:50 mark. The Wildcats couldn't manage back-to-back buckets until the game was six minutes old, as Arizona cut a 13-4 USC lead down to 13-8 until Kaneisha Horn slipped in a score to build that 15-8 advantage as USC's sixth scorer in the early goings. The Wildcats worked closer, but Kiki Alofaituli would get in on the scoring next with a baseline jumper that padded the Trojans to a 17-13 lead at 9:05. A run of costly Trojan turnovers helped fuel a fire for the Wildcats, who sneaked into a 26-22 lead as Arizona's Kama Griffits cruised into double figures with her third 3-pointer of the half and a bucket in the paint to keep the Wildcats with a slight edge. The Trojans, meanwhile, were unable to come up with any scoring in the last 2:55 of the half to trail Arizona 30-25 at the break.
USC found a spark in the second half with back-to-back scores from Kate Oliver and a three from Crook that bumped USC into a slim lead, up 37-36 at 14:15. The one-point lead would trade hands eight times in the next four minutes until Oliver came through in the clutch with a layup that gave USC a bit of breathing room. Crook answered an Arizona bucket with a three, and Oliver provided some more big buckets in working her way into her first double-digit game of the season to help USC hold a 54-49 lead with 5 minutes remaining. Harberts would haul in her 10th rebound of the game with 4:50 on the clock, and it was still a five-point USC lead at the 3-minute mark. Vaioletama got USC to a 56-50 lead with 1:50 to go and would grab a key offensive board to get USC some extra time after Arizona cut it to 56-52. USC had the ball on the sideline with 35 seconds left but couldn't convert. Instead, Arizona made good from the free-throw line to cut it to 56-54 with 31 seconds left. Crook hit the back end of her visit to the stripe a second later to edge USC ahead by three, and she'd get back there with 15 ticks to go. This one was a prefect visit, taking USC ahead 59-54 for a lead that would stand the test of the remaining time for the Trojan victory.
The Women of Troy now take aim at punching up their 20th win of the season with a rematch against No. 4 seeded Arizona State tomorrow (March 7) at 2:30 p.m. in the Pac-12 Tournament quarterfinals.