USC picked up another big win against a ranked conference opponent and is now back in the postseason conversation after taking down 11th ranked Oregon State by a final score of 72-66 at Galen Center Friday evening.
Coming off a disappointing loss at Stanford — in which the Trojans were outscored 28-6 in the first quarter — USC knew it had to get out to a strong start.
The Trojans were able to respond to short runs by the Beavers and kept the game close throughout the first half, only letting OSU lead by as much as 6 before the halftime break.
The defensive energy of freshman guard Alyson Miura, who also tacked on 9 points on the offensive end, set the tone for the team early, while senior forward Kayla Overbeck made her presence felt defensively all night.
Overbeck racked up three first-half steals and finished the night with four total along with two blocks and 8 points.
“Alyson came in there and gave us a common influence out there playing great defense,” head coach Mark Trakh said following the win. “I thought Kayla Overbeck’s defense was outstanding.”
Freshman forward Alissa Pili continued her dominant stretch for the Trojans, serving as a catalyst and leading the team with 11 first-half points in a physical battle for USC’s bigs given Oregon State’s tendency to dominate down low.
Pili scored in double digits for the ninth straight game, finishing with a team-high total of 26 points and 13 rebounds. Friday’s win was Pili’s best scoring effort since her season-high 28-point outburst in USC’s thrilling overtime win against then-undefeated UCLA.
“We really look to Alissa, especially when we’re down like that,” Miura said following the win. “She’s our go-to girl.”
Trakh believes Pili has played herself into the conversation for Pac-12 Freshman of the Year after yet another dominant showing.
“It was a big win for us and it gets us back in the postseason picture, as far as the NIT and maybe even the NCAA,” Trakh said.
The Beavers were led by strong showings from senior guard Mikayla Pivec and freshman forward Taylor Jones.
Pivec led the team with 16 points and six assists and tied with Jones for the team lead in rebounds with seven. Jones also tacked on 12 points and a block.
USC graduate guard Aliyah Jeune, who was honored pregame for reaching 1,000 career points, continued to shoot the ball well for USC, hitting two timely threes to halt OSU’s momentum in the first half.
A strong third quarter for the Trojans turned a 3-point halftime deficit into a 6-point lead heading into the fourth as USC outscored the Beavers 19-10 in the third frame.
Another timely bucket from Jeune ended a slow start to the fourth quarter for USC, stretching the Trojans’ lead to 7 points, their largest lead of the evening up to that point.
Jeune finished the night with 12 points but exited late in the fourth quarter after what appeared to be a lower leg injury. She remained on the bench as the game was already decided in the final minute.
After USC expanding the lead to 11 points, a late OSU run cut the lead down to a single possession at one point, giving Trojan fans a brief scare before USC closed the game out down the stretch.
“I think we all just wanted to win really badly,” Pili said postgame. “We were fighting from the beginning.”
USC will have a day to rest before welcoming standout senior guard Sabrina Ionescu and the No. 3 Oregon Ducks to Galen Center Sunday afternoon.