At Seattle, in the opening match of the Pacific-12 women’s basketball tournament, Cassie Harberts scored 16 points and grabbed 14 rebounds, as the No. 7 USC Trojans (11-19) defeated No. 10 Oregon State (10-21), 64-57, Thursday.
“We knew we were going to have to come out and play one of our better games,” USC coach Michael Cooper said. “One of our focuses was to limit their three-pointers, and we were able to do that. We wanted to go inside and create a lot of offense for ourselves.”
After OSU’s Mollee Schwegler’s first of four threes tied the game at 5-5, the Trojans went on a seven-point run. OSU’s Ali Gibson then scored five unanswered to bring the Beavers within two, and OSU would take the lead when Alyssa Martin drained a three with 4:30 left in the first, 15-14.
Ariya Crook then answered right back with one of her own, as the USC sophomore who averages 13 per game scored 11 of her game-high 17 in the first half. Meanwhile, Harberts was 0-for-5 with four free throws made in the first.
“I saw that Cassie was struggling in the first half, and I just thought that with my energy and my speed, I could get the momentum for her to start going,” Crook said of her performance. “She started getting her run in the second half, and that’s my role.”
Schwegler sank another three with three minutes remaining until the half, but the Trojans were up five, 23-18, at the break.
A Schwegler fade-away three with 13:37 left brought the Beavers within one, 32-31. Out of the timeout, she repeated the act to put OSU up two.
“In the second half, we just came out looking for better looks, we just didn’t make all of the shots,” Schwegler said.
After another USC run, Martin hit a three from the right to put OSU up 39-38. USC came back steadily over the next few minutes, with Christina Marinacci free throws putting it up nine with three minutes remaining. A five-point Beaver rally cut it to 54-50 before Patricia Bright, a 6-foot-4 senior from Phoenix’s Desert Vista High School, fouled out, putting the Women of Troy back on the free throw line.
A Gibson three brought OSU back within four with 53.8 ticks on the clock, and it traded two USC free throws for a Gibson driving layup. Marinacci (13 points, eight rebounds, three blocks) iced it from the line, and the Trojans headed to the quarterfinals and a date with California (No. 2 in the Pac-12 and No. 6 in the nation) at noon Friday.
Gibson led the Beavers with 13 points, while Schwegler had 12 – all from three pointers, Martin and Jamie Weisner each had 10 points, and ShaKiana Edwards-Teasley grabbed eight rebounds.
“I’m proud of our team for battling,” OSU coach Scott Rueck said. “This team finished playing its best basketball. We went toe-to-toe with everybody.”
Oregon State was looking for its first NCAA tourney appearance since 1996, while USC has not been to the Big Dance since 2006, despite reaching the Pac-12 Final in 2009.
The Beavers defeated the Trojans in their only previous tournament matchup in 2002. USC won this season’s matchup, 56-55, Jan. 4 in Corvallis, Ore.