USC Women Stay The Course To Pac-12 Semifinals|
March 7, 2014
SEATTLE, WASH. -- The No. 5-seeded USC women's basketball team locked in its 20th win of the season with a relentless focus on the finish line in today's Pac-12 Tournament quarterfinal upset of No. 4 seed Arizona State at KeyArena in Seattle. The Trojans fought into a second-half lead and shrugged off a late push by the Sun Devils to register a 59-57 victory that propels the Women of Troy into tomorrow's tournament semifinals at 6 p.m. against top-seeded Stanford. USC now holds a 20-12 overall record with its fourth consecutive victory in the books.
It's the first 20-win season for USC since going 24-13 with its run to the WNIT final in 2010-11, and it's just the second 20-win season in nine years. USC's last appearance in the Pac-12 Tournament semifinals was in 2010, and this will be USC's sixth overall appearance in the tournament semis.
Senior Cassie Harberts' 130th career start lodged her securely in as having started and played in more games than any Trojan in USC history. She'd lead all scorers by halftime with 10 point for the Trojan cause. USC had steadily worked out of a nine-point hole to lock it up at 23-23 by halftime. The Sun Devils were shooting 35 percent from the floor in the first half to beat out USC's 31 percent although the teams were even on the scoreboard by the break. Foul trouble for USC guards Ariya Crook and Brianna Barrett was part of the Trojans' troubles in the first half, but they returned in the second to provide an early boost.
The Sun Devils had gone cold from the floor for the last 7:25 of the first half and the first 2:30 of the second half while USC was able to pull into the lead. And although the foul count tipped further against the Trojans and the Sun Devils forced the issue with a late equalizer, USC was able to keep its guards in the game and defy the numerous ASU trips to the stripe. USC came up with some big boards down the stretch after Alofaituli got USC a 59-57 with 1:20 to go to lock in the victory. The Trojans shot 52 percent from the floor and were 5-of-8 from 3-point land in the second half to finish out at 42 percent overall in the game. ASU finished up at 36 percent and was 16-of-24 from the line. The Sun Devils won out on the boards 40-28.
USC's Cassie Harberts and Ariya Crook wound up with double figures with 14 and 13 points, respectively, while Alexyz Vaioletama topped out at eight rebounds. Threes came from the hands of four Trojans -- Crook, Vaioletama, Courtney Jaco and Kate Oliver. ASU was paced by 12 points from Katie Hempen -- all on 3-pointers -- with 10 points each from Kelsey Moos, Deja Mann and Joy Burke. Moos also had 11 rebounds.
The Trojans got a bucket apiece from five different scorers in staying in stride with ASU out of the gates, tied up at 12-12 on Alexyz Vaioletama's 3-pointers at the 11:00 mark of the first half. ASU responded with a nine-point surge to take a 21-12 lead by 7:30. Courtney Jaco snapped run with a successful trip to the free-throw line at 6:34, and the Trojans constructed a 5-0 run from there to make it 21-17 on a score in the paint from Harberts at 3:20. A minute later, Kate Oliver was getting in on the scoring action with a jumper off a feed from Harberts to cut it to a 23-21 deficit entering the last 1:30 of the half. Harberts landed a jumper next to lock it up 23-23, and Jordan Adams took the charge on the other end to give USC back the ball for the final word of the half. Her last-chance three came up just shy, leaving it even at 23-23 going into the locker rooms.
USC came out of the gates in the second half with some fire, jetting into the lead with a three-point play converted by Brianna Barrett and a bucket from Vaioletama to go up 28-23 in the first two minutes of the half. Harberts' basket to put USC up 35-29 at 15:15 put the senior at No. 7 all-time in career scoring at USC. She'd make a move into sole possession of that rank with her next basket to beat out Trojan great Kathy Hammond and take the Trojans to a 37-30 advantage at 12:30. A big three would come from Crook with 11:52 on the clock, marking her second and a 40-32 USC lead. The foul count would tip precariously against the Trojans in the next stretch, with ASU not tagged for a single foul for nine full minutes as the Sun Devils cut it to 49-47 with the fouls going 9-2 against USC. Finally the whistle blew against ASU, and Barrett converted from the line to make it 41-47 with 6:23 to go. Crook and Jaco would wrap threes around an ASU score to craft a 57-51 lead with 4:24 to go. ASU scored the next six points to even it up at 57-57 with 2:15 to go. Kiki Alofaituli landed a jumper at 1:20 to give USC a 59-57 lead, and USC hauled in the defensive board at the other end. And after Vaioletama sucked in another clutch board, Crook went to the line and missed, but ASU's last-gasp chance came up short and the Trojans held on for the tense 59-57 victory to move into the semifinals.
No. 5 seed USC will next take on No. 1 seed Stanford in the Pac-12 Tournament semifinal round tomorrow (March 8) at 6 p.m. at KeyArena in Seattle.