USC women’s basketball falters on the road at Arizona State

The USC women’s basketball team ran out of gas late against Arizona State on Thursday and dropped a game with significant postseason implications, falling 69-55 in the desert.

Missing the mark · Junior guard Ashley Corral, pictured here against UCLA, went just 2-of-7 from beyond the arc against the Sun Devils. - Tim Tran | Daily Trojan

Trailing for much of the second half, USC (16-10, 8-7) mounted one final surge and closed the gap to 52-48 before running out of gas. When the final buzzer sounded, the Women of Troy found themselves on the wrong side of a 17-7 run.

“The team that showed up against Cal and UCLA [last week] didn’t show up tonight,” said freshman forward Cassie Harberts.  “We played really soft tonight. We didn’t execute our plays, we didn’t rebound.”

With the loss, the Women of Troy moved back to fourth place in the Pac-10, behind Stanford, UCLA and the Sun Devils (17-8, 9-6). The loss ensured that USC, which has three three games remaining, wouldn’t reach coach Michael Cooper’s goal of 20 wins during the regular season.

USC held a 39-38 advantage midway through the second half when the team lost its shooting touch.  The Women of Troy missed nine of 10 shots and saw their one-point advantage turn into a 48-41 lead for the Sun Devils.

Led by Harberts and junior guard Briana Gilbreath, the Women of Troy had one last rally left in them. The pair combined for all seven of USC’s points during the run.

Gilbreath led the Women of Troy with 17 points and six rebounds.  Freshman forward Cassie Harberts added 10 points and eight rebounds despite battling foul trouble all game. No other player scored in double figures for USC. As a team, the Women of Troy shot 38 percent from the floor.

Dymond Smith led Arizona State with 22 points, including seven points during the decisive run. Arizona State also struggled from the field, but converted 21 of its 23 free throw attempts. The Sun Devils made 15 free throws in the second half alone, compared to just 11 all game for the Women of Troy.

Neither team could get much separation in a back-and-forth first half that saw the teams trade baskets. Arizona State stretched the lead to 28-21 for a brief moment only to see USC rattle off seven straight points to knot the score back up.

“They were attacking the basket but I thought we were too,” Harberts said. “[Arizona State] was getting ticky-tacky calls. At one point in the second half we had seven fouls and they only had one.”

Next up for USC is a Saturday tilt against Arizona in a game that will determine fourth place in the conference standings.  The Wildcats dropped to 7-8 in league play with a narrow loss on Thursday.

“[Tonight’s loss] makes the game against Arizona ten times more important,” Harberts said.  “We needed to win tonight; now we need to win the rest of our games.”