Scoreless in overtime and down seven with a minute and a half remaining, the Women of Troy needed something extraordinary to walk away with their first victory in Haas Pavilion since 2005.
USC freshman Ariya Crook made it happen.
The guard erased the deficit by scoring all of USC’s 11 overtime points in the final 92 seconds, including the go-ahead layup with five ticks remaining to give USC (13-11, 7-6) a 76-75 overtime road victory over California (18-7, 9-4).
USC began overtime missing five consecutive shots and promptly fell behind 65-72. With senior guard Ashley Corral sidelined by an ankle injury in the fourth, Crook stepped up and caught fire, hitting five straight baskets for 11 of her career-high 21 points.
“With two minutes to go, we all had this look on our face, like ‘we couldn’t do this,’” Crook said. “But our coach believed in us and told us to keep fighting and to keep pushing.”
Down one in the final minute, USC forced a turnover off an offensive foul by Cal guard Layshia Clarendon with 18 seconds remaining, which set up Crook for the winning basket.
“I’m playing for the team,” Crook said. “With [Corral] out, I just thought I had to step up.”
The Golden Bears had a chance to hit their second buzzer-beating 3-pointer of the game, but Cal guard guard Lindsay Sherbert could not convert, leaving the crowd stunned with Cal’s first home loss in Pac-12 play this season.
Before the overtime battle, Clarendon hit a desperate 3-pointer over three USC defenders as time expired, sending Cal fans into a frenzy and forcing the extra five-minute period.
USC was up four with 23 seconds left in regulation following two free throws by senior guard Briana Gilbreath
But a layup by Cal guard Brittany Boyd and a missed free throw by Crook gave Clarendon the opportunity for her heroics.
“[Coach Michael Cooper] just told us to keep our minds on the win,” Gilbreath said. “He never got down. He was excited, and he kept our minds right and focused.”
Crook did not make a field goal until she hit a jumper with 3:15 left in regulation, but still finished with 21 points on 8-for-12 shooting.
Gilbreath led the Women of Troy in scoring with a game-high 24 points to go with eight rebounds.
USC junior forward Christina Marinacci pulled down 13 rebounds, surpassed only by Cal’s Gennifer Brandon, who had 17 boards alongside her team-high 22 points.
The teams traded leads 11 times, with neither side pulling ahead by more than seven points through the entire contest.
“It feels so good to finally pull out a close game. We always had heart, and we always believed that we were going to win the game,” Gilbreath said.
This was the Women of Troy’s second win of the season over the Golden Bears, who are second in the Pac-12 behind No. 4 Stanford.
USC defeated Cal 74-54 on New Year’s Eve for their first conference win.
With the victory, the Women of Troy ended a two-game skid and avoided falling into a tie for seventh in the conference. They have a 6-6 record in the Pac-12.
“We really focused in and honed in our schemes. Everything just flowed correctly for us tonight,” Gilbreath said. “We really needed this win.”
USC will return home for three straight games at the Galen Center, with the first against UCLA (12-11, 7-5) on Sunday at noon.