With eight teams in the Pac-12 separated by three games in the conference standings, each of USC’s remaining games means more than just another potential win.
In their final regular season home game, the Women of Troy (16-11, 10-6) made their Senior Day count with a 59-53 victory over Arizona State (18-10, 9-8).
In the second half, the Women of Troy trailed by as many as eight points but were able to battle back and to enter the final minute with a five-point advantage courtesy of a fadeaway 3-pointer from the left corner by senior guard Ashley Corral.
Junior forward Christina Marinacci and freshman guard Ariya Crook followed with three free throws each to seal the victory for USC.
In a balanced scoring effort, Marinacci had a team-high 12 points paired with 10 rebounds for a double-double. Corral contributed 10, while sophomore forward Cassie Harberts and freshman forward Alexyz Vaioletama each chipped in nine.
USC’s fourth straight win gives the team a one-game advantage over Oregon State (18-9, 9-7) with two games remaining on the schedule.
In third place behind No. 2 Stanford (26-1, 17-0) and California (22-7, 13-4), USC fortified its bid to receive a bye in the Pac-12 tournament in two weeks as one of the top four conference teams.
“We’ve been playing extremely well under pressure, and I’m very happy for that,” USC coach Michael Cooper said. “We knew we had our hands full because we were fighting for third, and we were very fortunate to get the win today.”
Arizona State maintained a lead through the second half until the Women of Troy tied it up at 38-38 on a layup by Marinacci.
The two teams traded leads three times until an and-one layup by Vaioletama put them up for good with 2:40 left in the game.
USC shot 36 percent from the field but managed to hold an eight-rebound advantage and force 16 turnovers from the Sun Devils.
The Women of Troy jumped out to a quick 11-0 lead while forcing five turnovers. After a scoreless five minutes, the Sun Devils broke the dry spell with a 3-pointer from junior Deja Mann, who led her team with 22 points.
After hitting 14 points, USC stumbled into a scoring drought, making two more shots for the rest of the half. Arizona State, on the other hand, hit five of its next six shots to hold a 24-20 advantage going into halftime.
“Before the game, the coaches told us the meaning of a Trojan. It meant relentless,” senior guard Briana Gilbreath said. “That really showed today. For us seniors, it was our last home game, and we definitely wanted to go out with a bang.”
The Women of Troy will finish the regular season with a two-game road trip to the Washington schools, starting off with a matchup against the Washington Huskies (14-11, 6-9) at 7 p.m. on Thursday.