The women’s basketball team’s season ended on Thursday morning, as they lost 71-58 to Cal in the first round of the Pac-12 Tournament at the KeyArena in Seattle.
Cal forward Kristine Anigwe was the x-factor in a tightly contested game. She scored 34 points with 13 rebounds, dropping 11 points in the final quarter.
“Just a hard-fought game for 40 minutes,” head coach Cynthia Cooper-Dyke said. “Kristine [Anigwe] was tough to stop. I thought Cal made crucial baskets in the important moments of the game, and we couldn’t necessarily get the stops we needed.”
Before Anigwe’s impressive fourth quarter shifted the game’s momentum, USC was neck and neck with Cal. They led by 1 point after the first quarter and trailed 30-28 at halftime.
“We missed some defensive assignments when we were supposed to trap [Anigwe],” Cooper-Dyke said. “Then we allowed her to get too deep in the paint, whereas before we were very physical with her. There were some early fouls called that I thought made us tentative defensively against Kristine. And it was tough to stop her once she got into an offensive rhythm.”
Junior forward Kristen Simon came back strongly after playing only 11 minutes against Arizona due to injury. On Thursday, she played 22 minutes, scoring 17 points on an efficient 8-of-14 shooting.
While Simon produced a solid outing for her team, the 3-point shooting struggles that plagued the Trojans against Arizona State and Arizona continued. USC shot under 30 percent from long range for the third game in a row, this time going 3-of-14. Over the last three games, senior sharpshooter Courtney Jaco has shot a surprising 4-of-18 from long distance. She is the second all-time 3-point scorer in school history.
After trading blows in the first half, Cal went on a quick 7-0 run to start the third quarter. The Bears led by as many as nine in the third frame, but a few scores by freshman guard Minyon Moore lessened the deficit. She finished 10 points and 5 rebounds.
“We knew we had to attack their pressure,” Jaco said. “And once we did that and drew the help, we could pass it easily to the open player, but I think we just didn’t have that mindset for 40 minutes.”
Entering the fourth quarter, the Trojans were down by just 3 points and within striking distance of the second round of the Pac-12 Tournament. However, they ran into a string of dominance by Anigwe and were unable to slow her down. She started off the quarter by scoring her team’s next 9 points, all on jump shots.
By the end of her scoring rampage, the Bears led by five and the Trojans were unable to mount one more comeback with such little time left.
“I’m very proud of the effort that we gave for 40 minutes,” Cooper-Dyke said. “I want to first thank our seniors. Jaco has done a fantastic job, and really all of our seniors, all year long, all four years.”
For Jaco, the game was her final one on the court in a Trojan uniform. Despite the loss, she was positive in reflecting on her college basketball career.
“When you get out of college basketball, you kind of miss that camaraderie and stuff like that,” Jaco said. “My teammates this year were really special. Some of them, they’ll be long-time friends, so that’s going to mean the most to me.”