The first leg of a tough Bay Area trip ended in disappointment for the USC women’s basketball team, which fell 82-71 to California.
Coming off a string of poor shooting performances, the Women of Troy (12-5, 4-2) shot 53 percent from the field but were unable to slow down the Golden Bears (11-6, 3-3). Cal, a team not known for its outside shooting, shot better than 50 percent from the field and hit nine three-pointers.
“We just didn’t execute our scheme,” said junior guard Briana Gilbreath. “They got outside points and inside points. Our game plan going in was to force them to beat us from the outside but not give them open shots.”
The Women of Troy had one of their best offensive outputs of the season in the first half but found themselves trailing 44-40 at the break. USC made seven of its first 10 field goals attempts and finished the half shooting nearly 60 percent (17 of 29). That blistering pace was not enough to keep up with Cal, which knocked down eight three-pointers in the first half.
The Golden Bears also dominated the offensive glass in the first half, pulling down more offensive rebounds than USC grabbed defensive rebounds. USC matched a season-low for rebounds.
“It was more of us not really crashing,” Gilbreath said. “On the defensive end they were getting a lot of second chance shots.”
Gilbreath paced USC with 13 first-half points. Her backcourt mate, junior guard Ashley Corral, was held scoreless in the half but handed out six assists.
The Women of Troy continued their hot shooting out of the break, knocking down three of their first four attempts to grab a 57-56 lead.
After that initial burst USC’s offense stalled, registering just 24 points over the final 18 minutes of the game.
Cal, meanwhile, responded with a 12-2 run to seize a 68-59 lead. From there, the Golden Bears held USC at bay, never letting USC get closer than seven points the rest of the way.
“[We started] settling for jump shots,” Gilbreath said. “We didn’t attack the rim, we weren’t scoring any points and they were coming down and scoring.”
Gilbreath and freshman forward Cassie Harberts paced the Women of Troy with 20 and 18 points, respectively. The 18 points marked a career-high for Harberts. Gilbreath added four steals and three blocks for USC in another strong all-around performance.
Freshman guard Len’nique Brown had one of her finest games of the season, knocking down all three of her shots and finishing with nine points.
Three players scored at least 17 points for Cal, including guard Layshia Clarendon, who finished with 17 points, eight rebounds and seven assists. Center DeNesha Stallworth and guard Lindsay Sherbert added 21 and 19 points, respectively.
Despite the loss, the Women of Troy maintained their hold on third place in the conference after Arizona State lost in Pullman, Wa.
And with a road game against No. 4 Stanford looming, Gilbreath said the team can take away some positives from the Cal game.
“We did shoot the ball well tonight,” she said. “We know we can execute some things [offensively].”