A season of living on the edge finally caught up to the USC women’s basketball team.
USC (13-7, 7-2), which has made a habit of coming back from second-half deficits, ran into one it could not overcome Saturday against Oregon. The Ducks (13-8, 4-5) opened up a 15-point lead in the second half before cruising to victory 85-77.
The loss snapped a five-game winning streak for the Women of Troy and dropped them into a tie with UCLA for second place in the conference.
“I thought we did well in the first to hold them to 38 points and we were right there in the game,” USC coach Michael Cooper said. “We just didn’t do it well enough in the second half.”
USC trailed the Ducks 38-35 at halftime after a back-and-forth first half that saw 13 lead changes. The Women of Troy held Oregon — which entered the game leading the nation in scoring at over 86 points per game — to just 36 percent shooting in the half.
The second half was a different story, however, as the Ducks ramped up their defensive pressure and started hitting shots. Oregon scored 47 points and shot nearly 50 percent from the field.
“Our defense kind of collapsed a little bit [in the second] half,” Cooper said. “It could have been because of fatigue.”
Relentless pressure defense from Oregon turned the game into a track meet and wore down the Women of Troy. USC shot just 32 percent from the field in the second half.
“It’s not anything where they want to necessarily get steals, they just want to get you to play at a faster tempo than you want to,” Cooper said.
Junior center Kari LaPlante said Oregon’s defense got the Women of Troy playing too fast and away from their game plan. USC turned the ball over 18 times in the game.
The Women of Troy got solid contributions from several players but were unable to keep pace with Oregon, which got outstanding games from senior guards Taylor Lilley and Micaela Cocks. Cocks scored 24 points but was overshadowed by her backcourt mate, who put on a shooting clinic at the Galen Center.
Lilley knocked down a school-record nine 3-pointers en route to a career-best 36 points. The diminutive guard repeatedly got free from larger defenders for wide-open shots from beyond the arc.
“We know she can shoot very deep,” LaPlante said. “We’re used to putting our heels on that 3-point line, but she’s way farther back and she’s just launching them.”
Lilley entered the day fifth in 3-pointers made in Pac-10 history with 146 3-pointers.
LaPlante and sophomore guard Briana Gilbreath led the way for the Women of Troy. Gilbreath turned in another strong all-around performance with 18 points, 12 rebounds, five assists and four blocks. LaPlante had perhaps her best game of the season with a career-high 18 points and a game-high 15 rebounds.
Sophomore guard Ashley Corral paced USC with 22 points but shot just 7 of 20 from the field and failed to record an assist. Corral came into the game leading the conference in assists with over five per game.
USC looks to rebound this week with road games against California and No. 2 Stanford.