USC women’s basketball prevails after second half comeback

It was a tale of two halves for junior forward Briana Gilbreath.

In the first half of the USC women’s basketball team’s 74-67 victory over Washington State. Gilbreath scored only three points. But in the second half, Gilbreath scored 16 of her 19 points and collected a clutch rebound as time ran out to preserve her team’s victory.

Cream of the crop · Junior guard Briana Gilbreath once again shouldered the offensive load for USC, scoring a team-high 19 points. - Kelvin Kuo | Daily Trojan

“[Gilbreath] really took the game over, especially in the second half when we were looking around for some leadership,” said freshman forward Cassie Harberts. “[Gilbreath] always comes through for us.”

Both teams played aggressively throughout the game, as the conference foes both committed 17 turnovers and combined for 49 fouls. The Women of Troy (17-11, 9-8) shot 46 free-throws to match their 46 field-goal attempts.

“In the past we haven’t been a very aggressive team, and that usually works against us,” said USC coach Michael Cooper. “Tonight we were looking to attack the basket more, and put the onus on the officials to make calls.”

The Women of Troy held a 43-42 lead with 16:10 left in the game, but the Cougars (11-15, 6-11), proceeded to go on a 16-8 run. The streak was punctuated by a three-pointer from junior guard Jazmine Perkins, who shot the ball just as the shot clock ran out.

The basket seemed to energize Washington State and deflate USC, as Perkins pumped her fist while the Women of Troy stood in disbelief, in apparent awe of the circus shot Perkins had just pulled off.

But as the game went on, the opposite proved true. Behind 58-51, the Women of Troy got back into the game thanks to some clutch free-throw shooting from Gilbreath and Harberts.

Following Perkins’ three-pointer, USC was fouled on its next six offensive possessions. Each time, Gilbreath or Harberts was sent to the charity stripe. The two combined to make nine out of their 12 foul shots, which tied the game back up at 60.

After senior Kari LaPlante made a jumper in the paint on USC’s next possession, putting her team up 62-61, the crowd went wild.

But USC’s victory wasn’t assured yet, as its free-throw shooting wasn’t quite as clutch down the stretch.

With 17 seconds left, sophomore forward Christina Marinacci went to the free-throw line, attempting to extend USC’s 3-point lead. But neither of the free throws fell through, and it looked as though Washington State would have a chance to tie the game up.

But Gilbreath wound up with the loose ball rebound, and passed to junior guard Ashley Corral, who was fouled.

Corral converted both of her free throws to clinch the 74-67 victory.

Perkins led all scorers with 20 points, while Harberts chipped in 17 buckets to complement Gilbreath’s 19.