USC can’t defeat Stanford on the road

Though the team rallied late in the second half to put the No. 6 Stanford Cardinal on the ropes, the USC women’s basketball team ultimately came up short on Sunday night, falling by a final score of 75-66. It was USC’s second straight loss, leaving them winless on their yearly Northern California road trip. It was also the team’s 11th straight defeat at the hands of Stanford.

The Women of Troy (7-10, 4-2) trailed for the majority of the game and were down by as many as 19 points during the second half before rallying late. They cut the deficit to five with under two minutes to play, but the Cardinal (16-2, 5-1) locked down USC’s offense thereafter to secure the win.

USC was led by the 21 points of junior forward Cassie Harberts, who also added seven rebounds and two 3-pointers. She was nine of 12 from the free-throw line and joins USC’s top-ten list of made free throws for a career. She, along with sophomore forward Alexyz Vaioletama, played all 40 minutes for the Trojans in the loss.

Vaioletama was one of three players to hit double digits for the team with 10 points. The other two were Harberts and sophomore guard Ariya Crook, who scored 16 of her 18 points in the second half.

The majority of the Cardinal scoring came from junior forward Chiney Ogwumike, who finished with 29 points, 23 of which came in the second half. She also contributed a game-high 16 rebounds. She had some help from senior forward Joslyn Tinkle, who had 15 points, while junior guard Sara James and sophomore guard Amber Orrange each added 13.

Neither team shot the ball particularly well in the first half, as USC finished 33 percent from the field while Stanford shot a slightly better 35 percent. Both teams warmed up in the second half, as they matched each other at 47 percent for the entire contest.

Midway through the first half, the teams were locked at 11-11 before Stanford started to heat up and went on a 7-0 run to take a 20-13 lead. The Trojans would come back to cut the Cardinal lead to two at 20-18 with five minutes to play, but Stanford scored 13 of the next 15 points to pull ahead 33-20 at halftime.

The Women of Troy fell behind by as much as 19 points in the first four minutes of the second half. Once again, though, the team fought back and a reverse layup from Crook with 2:42 to play cut the Trojans’ deficit to five at 66-61.

“We’re a different team than we were five games ago,” Harberts said. “We got down to Utah and came back and that’s been our mindset since conference started.”

From that point on though, it was all Ogwumike, who scored seven of Stanford’s last nine points to ward off the Trojans and stay atop the Pac-12 alongside Cal.

When USC left Los Angeles for their two-game Northern California road trip, they sat atop the conference with rival UCLA. With Sunday’s loss, the Trojans drop to a four-way tie for third in the Pac-12 standings with UCLA, Colorado and Washington.

“We’re going to need to continue to play as a team should we want to be successful in our conference,” Crook said. “That means playing fundamentally sound basketball by driving into the paint, sharing the ball with our teammates and getting easy shots.”

USC was out-rebounded by a ratio of 41-25 over the course of the game and a big reason for that was the loss of the team’s second leading rebounder, senior forward Christina Marinacci, who missed her fourth straight game because of a strained knee sustained in practice two weeks ago.

The team returns home to the Galen Center to host the Arizona schools starting with the Arizona State Sun Devils (10-8, 2-4) on Friday, Jan. 25, and the Arizona Wildcats (11-6, 3-3) on Sunday, Jan. 27. Both teams are coming off blowout defeats in their previous contests.