USC Taken Out By St. John's Last Second Three, 71-68
March 22, 2014
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - Southern California's season full of jubilation ended in the first round of the NCAA tournament.
Briana Brown sank a 3-pointer with four-tenths of a second left to give No. 8 seed St. John's a 71-68 victory Saturday night over the ninth-seeded Trojans in the first round of the NCAA tournament. The St. John's victory wasn't secure until Southern California guard Brianna Barrett's desperation shot at the buzzer from at least 35 feet away bounced off the backboard and front rim.
The heartbreaking loss snapped Southern California's six-game winning streak and ended coach Cynthia Cooper-Dyke's triumphant debut season. Cooper-Dyke, a two-time WNBA most valuable player and member of USC's 1983 and 1984 national championship teams, led the Trojans to their first NCAA tournament appearance since 2006.
"I think we're all disappointed in the loss, but that's not what will define us this year," Cooper-Dyke said. "We had a great season. No one believed we could be here, and yet here we sit."
St. John's (23-10) plays a second-round game Monday against No. 1 seed Tennessee, which beat Northwestern State 70-46 in Saturday's other matchup at Thompson-Boling Arena.
Aliyyah Handford scored 27 points and Amber Thompson had 10 points for St. John's, which didn't lead until 3:07 remained in the game. Barrett had 24 points and Ariya Crook had 16 for Southern California.
St. John's called a timeout with 25 seconds remaining to set up its final possession after a shot from Southern California's Cassie Harberts spun out with 31 seconds left. St. John's coach Joe Tartamella said he wanted to make sure his team took the last shot of the game. As the seconds ticked down, Keylantra Langley passed to Brown, who hit her shot from the baseline corner on the opposite end of the St. John's bench to set off a wild celebration.
"They passed it around," Crook said. "We did quite well until they passed it to the corner and we had a miscommunication and she shot the three and made it."
Before that shot, Brown hadn't scored the entire game. She had missed her first five shots, including three from 3-point range. St. John's had gone 1 of 7 from 3-point range as a team before Brown's game-winner.
"I know I hadn't made a shot the whole game, but my teammates were behind me the whole way through, (saying), `You're going to get that shot. You're going to make the next one,"' Brown said. "It happened to be the big one."
Before that thrilling final minute, both teams struggled to find a rhythm in a game that featured a combined 54 fouls and 64 free throws. St. John's was 27 of 33 from the line, while Southern California was 24 of 31.
Although St. John's reserve Jade Walker was the only player to foul out, four St. John's players and three USC players finished with four fouls. Foul trouble may have played a role in an uncharacteristically sluggish performance from Harberts, who shot 3 of 9 and had eight points and six rebounds. Harberts, who has played and started more games than anyone in USC history, was averaging 15.6 points and 7.4 rebounds this season.
"We did a great job of getting back and not allowing easy position for her... but also we got her out of the game," Tartamella said. "We got her in foul trouble early, so her rhythm was taken away, just like we had some foul problems throughout the game."
After trailing 36-25 with less than five minutes left until halftime, St. John's went on a 13-4 run that cut the lead to two points early in the second half. St. John's finally tied the game on a pair of McPherson free throws with 12:23 remaining, and the game stayed tight the rest of the way.
"Throughout the game, I just thought we were a little off balance," Cooper-Dyke said. "We couldn't really get over the hump. We'd go up by 11. Then we make a couple mistakes, turn the ball over, miss a layup. Something would happen. We could never get over that hump and get into a groove."
St. John's took its first lead of the game with 3:07 left when Langley scored from inside the paint. Amber Thompson's layup extended the Red Storm's lead to 68-65 with 1:39 left.
Crook answered with 1:19 left when she sank a game-tying 3-pointer, USC's first basket since the 8:02 mark.
That set the stage for Brown's big moment.
Buzzer-Beater Beats USC Women In NCAA Tournament
KNOXVILLE, TENN. -- The USC women's basketball team had a great season come to an abrupt close tonight after a foul-plagued game slowed the pace of the No. 9 seeded Trojans' NCAA First Round game against No. 8 seed St. John's in Knoxville, Tenn. The Trojans had led by 11 points until the fount count skyrocketed and stalled things out. The Red Storm would creep closer and closer, taking its first lead late in the game and then breaking the sixth tie of the game with a game-winning 3-pointer in the final second for a 71-68 final victory over the Women of Troy. USC had scored an automatic berth in the 2014 NCAA Tournament after winning its first-ever Pac-12 Tournament Championship. This visit was the Trojans' first to NCAA action since 2006, and the loss wraps their 2013-14 campaign with a 22-13 overall record.
A fast-paced start was stalled out by a steadily climbing foul count in the first half of action. Both teams were buried in the bonus with almost eight minutes left to play. The Trojans were holding an 11-point lead with 6:21 to go in the half, but the referee's whistle slowed down the game significantly the rest of the way. Nine of St. John's last 12 points came from the free-throw line, as the gap closed to five with USC taking a 40-35 lead into the locker room. USC was out-shooting St. John's 42 percent to 40 percent from the floor in the half. USC's shooting production plummeted in the second half, going 6-of-27 from the floor while St. John's hit 10-of-27. Both teams would hit more free throws than field goals in the game as the flow stopped and started in frustrating form. Through the herky jerky second half, St. John's would emerge victorious, thanks to a last-gasp 3-pointers that sealed a 71-68 victory.
USC shot 33 percent from the floor to trail St. John's 39 percent overall effort. In all, there were a total of 54 fouls. USC was 24-of-31 from the free-throw line, and the Red Storm went 27-of-33. St. John's also outrebounded USC 25-15 in the second half to finish up with a 41-39 advantage. USC was led by a career-high 24 points from sophomore Brianna Barrett, along with 16 points from Ariya Crook. Senior Cassie Harberts was hampered by fouls, and finished with eight points and six rebounds. Alexyz Vaioletama led the Trojans on the boards with 11 rebounds. St. John's received a game-high 27 points from Aliyyah Handford and a double-double from Amber Thompson with 10 points and 17 rebounds.
The Trojans constructed an 8-0 run to take a 14-6 lead in the opening stretch and later answered a short St. John's spurt sparked by a bucket from Kiki Alofaituli. She'd become the sixth Trojan to score with her jumper, and USC would soon work ahead 22-13 with 10:45 on the clock. The Red Storm cut the gap down to six soon after, but USC kept making strides and scooted to a 32-21 advantage on a score from Cassie Harberts with 6:21 to go in the half. Four straight free throws from St. John's made it a 36-29 USC lead entering the last 2:15. In fact, it would be all free throws for the Red Storm in the last 5 minutes until Keylantra Langley hit her team's first three just seven seconds before the break to make the score 40-35 USC at the half.
Harberts was tagged with her third foul just three minutes into the second half, and at the 13:00 mark the Red Storm were gifted an early place in the bonus as USC's foul count ballooned further. St. John's would pull even on a run of trips to the line, leveling it at 47-47 with 12:23 on the clock. Ariya Crook took the Trojans ahead with a runner at 12:05, and Vaioletama took a charge at the other end as the Red Storm took its seventh foul of the half at 11:36. Harberts picked up her fourth at 11:02, and the Red Storm converted to equalize again. With 8:52 to go, it was two free throws the rest of the way for both teams as St. John's picked up its 10th. Barrett buried both to get into a career high scoring for herself, and nudge the Trojans ahead 59-54. WIth 3:00 to go, St. John's took its first lead of the game with a couple of unwhistled takes to the hoop. The Red Storm made it a 6-0 run and got up by three, only to see Aria Crook land a tying 3-pointer at 1:10. Harberts' next shot would take a 360-degree trip around the rim before rolling out, and St. John's called timeout with the possession and 25 seconds on the clock. Briana Brown would put up the prayer from the baseline and drained the 3-pointer with barely a second left, taking the Red Storm ahead 71-68. The officials put 0.4 on the clock for one last-gasp chance for the Trojans. No luck was left for the Trojans, and the Red Storm would pocked the win.