USC falls at home for first time this year

Junior guard Ashley Corral misfired on a three-point attempt at the buzzer, ending the USC women’s basketball team’s shot at a perfect home record.

The Women of Troy’s attempt at an incredible comeback victory over Arizona State on Saturday fell just short, as USC (13-7, 5-4) suffered its first home loss of the season, 62-61.

Missed opportunity · Junior guard Ashley Corral led the Women of Troy with 14 points, but her last-second shot at the buzzer fell short. - Kelvin Kuo | Daily Trojan

The Sun Devils (13-6, 5-4) started the game dominating on both sides of the ball, not allowing the Women of Troy to score until more than four minutes into the contest.

“Today was a wake-up call for us,” said USC coach Michael Cooper. “We have to come out of the blocks early.”

Arizona State kept up its  relentless pressure defense throughout the first half, forcing USC into seven turnovers.

In fact, most of the halftime stats looked bleak for the Women of Troy.

They trailed 33-21, no player had recorded more than four points or four rebounds and the team had only shot 33 percent from the field.

“You have to tip your hats to Arizona State,” Cooper said. “I thought they came in with a game plan of being physical and aggressive, and they kind of took us out of our offensive sets in the first half.”

The start of the second half wasn’t much different, and when Arizona State guard Alex Earl made a three-pointer to put Arizona State up 53-42 with less than nine minutes remaining, it looked as though USC would suffer its first loss at home.

But the Women of Troy would not quit.

Instead, they used a 13-0 run, capped by a three-pointer by Corral, that gave them their first lead of the game.

But the lead was short-lived, as the Sun Devils went on a mini-run of their own to take a 62-60 lead with 24 seconds left.

USC junior forward Briana Gilbreath was fouled with 11 seconds left and calmly knocked down the first free throw to cut the lead to one point.

When her second free throw missed, chaos ensued.

There was a scramble for the loose ball and Arizona State ultimately gained possession.

USC fouled as soon as the ball was inbounded, which sent junior forward Kimberly Brandon to the line.

Though the Sun Devils had converted all 15 free throws they had taken up until that point, Brandon converted just one of two free throws, giving the Women of Troy one last chance to salvage their perfect home record and take sole possession of third place in the Pac-10.

But the team couldn’t quite pull off a buzzer-beater shot.

Corral took the inbound pass, weaved through several Arizona State defenders and took a hurried three-point attempt that fell just short of the net.

“It was an admirable effort on our behalf,” Cooper said. “We just have to regroup and come back with a big win next week.”

The loss puts USC into a three-way tie for third place with Arizona State and California, with half of the Pac-10 conference schedule remaining to be played.

The Trojans continue conference play on Feb. 6 at home against No. 11 UCLA.

“We’re going to need 40 minutes of [good] basketball, not one half,” Gilbreath said. “[UCLA] is going to come in here and play us just like Arizona State did. [They’re going to use] pressure, they’re going to get on the boards and do everything possible to win the game, so we have to do the same.”