USC Women Deliver Another Upset To Claim First Pac-12 Tournament Championship|
March 9, 2014
SEATTLE, WASH. -- The No. 5-seeded women's basketball team shocked everyone but itself tonight at KeyArena, winning the program's first-ever Pac-12 Tournament Championship. The Trojans barely blinked when No. 3 seed Oregon State took an 11-point lead in the first half, and drove right past the Beavers in the second half to win it all with a 71-62 final victory. USC was the first team in the conference tournament's history to play four games in the four-day event, let alone the first team to WIN all four of those games. The relentless effort of the Women of Troy has punched a ticket to the NCAA Tournament with an automatic bid, marking the first time since 2006 that USC will make an appearance in the tourney. USC -- who kept top-seeded Stanford out of the title match for the first time in history with yesterday's semifinal upset -- will take a 22-12 overall record into the NCAA Tournament, with the selection set for next Monday (March 17). All this has been accomplished with Trojan great Cynthia Cooper-Dyke at the helm, having taken over the program as head coach this season to help spark this historic feat by the Women of Troy.
Both teams dropped four 3-pointers apiece in the first 20 minutes, but it was Oregon State's 44-percent effort from the floor overall that helped outpace USC by the break. The Trojans were shooting 33 percent as they trailed the Beavers 36-29 at halftime. USC had trailed by 11 in the first half, but constructed a 23-point swing in taking a 12-point lead during the second half thanks in part to a defensive effort supercharged by a stubborn press and an improved offensive push at the other end. USC would shoot 39 percent from the floor to finish at 36 percent in the game. OSU, meanwhile, cooled down to 31 percent in the second half and finished up at 38 percent. USC landed seven 3-pointers and went 20-of-24 from the free-throw line to build the difference and lock in the comeback victory.
USC got four Trojans in double digits for the win, led by 16 points from the tournament's Most Outstanding Player, Ariya Crook. Kiki Alofaituli came up big with 15 points tonight, while Pac-12 All-Tournament Team member Cassie Harberts added 12. Also finishing in double digits was Brianna Barrett with 11 points on the night. Oregon State was paced by Deven Hunter with 19 points and 11 rebounds, with Sydney Wiese adding 17 points and Ruth Hamblin putting in 10 for the Beavers.
After the lead traded hands four times in the first stretch of play, USC had made it a one-point game on an Ariya Crook three at 6:40. Oregon State fired back with a 7-0 run to jump ahead 29-21 entering the last four minutes of the half. Alexyz Vaioletama snapped the scoring silence with a successful trip to the stripe, only to have OSU build up a 34-23 lead a minute later. Kiki Alofaituli would convert a three-point play at the 1:52 mark to stop almost five minutes of drought from the floor for USC, and Brianna Barrett beat the shot clock with a 3-pointer before the break to bring the halftime score to 36-29 Oregon State.
USC nabbed some key defensive stops and made good on the other end in getting out of the gates with a 9-0 run to take its first lead since the 13:23 mark of the first half. The Trojan run was keyed by baskets from Kiki Alofaituli and Crook, and USC was back in the game. Harberts and Alofaituli would work their ways into double digits in helping USC craft its largest lead, up 48-43 by the 12-minute mark. That made it a 16-point swing for the Trojans, who had trailed by 11 with two minutes to go in the first half. USC punched back after a Beaver three, sparked to a 7-0 run by a three from Courtney Jaco on the way to putting OSU in a 55-46 hole with 8:55 left to play. Another Trojan push followed, with Barrett landing a clutch three and Crook draining a jumper in the lane to construct a 60-48 USC advantage at 7:16. The Beavers were the beneficiaries of the bonus in the next couple minutes, getting five straight free-throws to fall in a 5-0 run to make it a 60-51 USC lead with 5:05 remaining. OSU would bring the score to 65-60 with a five-point spurt, and it was 67-62 USC in the final minute. The Beavers couldn't come up with anything more in the final 60 seconds, while USC's Barrett and Crook sealed the deal on the championship with a pair of perfect trips to the free-throw line, wrapping up the hard-fought title for the Trojans on a 71-62 victory.