After two crushing losses this past weekend against No. 9 Oregon and No. 15 Oregon State, the women’s basketball team looked for a turnaround win against the Utah Utes on Thursday night. They went on to win 53-52 in overtime.
Utah entered the game without their two top scorers Megan Huff and Daneesha Provo but still kept the game competitive against USC.
In the 3rd quarter, USC took a 6-point lead but Utah roared back to take a 35-34 lead entering the final period.
In the 4th, the teams fought neck and neck as the teams were tied at 45 before sophomore forward Ja’Tavia Tapley fouled Utah forward Megan Jacobs with 11 seconds left in the game. However, Jacobs missed both free throws and the game headed into overtime.
Utah began overtime with 4 straight points, but USC would fight back to trail 50-52 with 15 seconds remaining. USC got a crucial stop by forcing a shot clock violation with three seconds on the game clock and on the other end, senior forward Kristen Simon stepped out to hit the go-ahead 3-pointer in front of Utes’ star Emily Potter to give USC a 53-52 lead with a second left. Utah attempted a lob which was broken up by senior guard Jordan Adams, giving the Trojans a nail-biting win.
“I practice that shot every day for practice,” Simon said. “I shoot almost a hundred of them.”
The Trojans were led by a huge game by Simon who posted 16 points, 15 rebounds, three steals and the game-winning shot. Senior guard Sadie Edwards added 13 points and junior guard Aliyah Mazyck, who fouled out in the 4th quarter, had 10. Despite a poor shooting night for the Trojans (4 of 22 from the 3-point line), their defense shined. Utah also shot poorly at 36.2 percent and during their last two possessions, USC forced a shot clock violation and broke up a clever play to win the game. Potter paced Utah with 20 points, 15 rebounds and two blocks. Utah’s free-throw shooting (9 of 17 from the charity stripe) ultimately doomed them as they were unable to convert crucial freebies in the 4th quarter and overtime which kept USC in the game.
“Hats off to Utah, they did a heckuva job on gameplan, [head coach] Lynne Roberts was excellent,” USC head coach Mark Trakh said. “They played great and we were fortunate enough to make that last shot.”
USC will close the regular season by hosting Colorado. In their previous matchup, USC embarrassed Colorado 86-51 in front of their home crowd.The Buffaloes are spearheaded by lead guard Kennedy Leonard who averages 14.9 points to go with 6.6 assists and 1.9 steals. The team also features a deep supporting cast that can help shoulder the load from time to time. However, the Buffaloes have generally struggled against other Pac-12 teams.
“Everybody’s tough in the Pac-12,” Trakh said. “Colorado [and Utah] are both very well coached, they play hard so it’s going to be a situation where we just have to get after it.”
As the Trojans close the season, it also means that the team will be bidding farewell to three of its key players: Simon, Adams and Edwards. Simon has done an excellent job as USC’s primary post player and offensive focal point, leading the team in scoring at 17.7 points and 8.7 rebounds per game. Edwards has helped support the team on both ends: scoring the ball (13.8 points on average) and serving as a solid defender. Adams might not be the flashiest player but her energy, leadership and all-around game have proven to be vital to this USC squad. Saturday’s game against the Buffaloes will be the three players’ last game in the Galen Center.
“[The seniors] have done a great job,” Trakh said. “I love all of them, they’ve all done a great job, they’ve all bought into everything and hopefully, they’ve had a good experience while they were here in USC.”
USC is still holding out hope for a berth in the NCAA Tournament, which begins in March.