USC beats Washington in overtime thriller
Sophomore guard/forward Rayah Marshall, who posted a career-high 8 blocks, led the Trojans in a dramatic overtime battle at the Alaska Airlines Arena on Sunday afternoon. The Trojans came out on top with a score of 63-54 and extended their winning streak to four games after sweeping the Washington schools.
This game was anticipated as a defense-oriented showcase for the cardinal and gold as the Trojans are leading the Pac-12 in points given up, three-point percentage defense and field-goal percentage defense before the game.
The Trojan’s offense drowned early as the team committed 3 consecutive turnovers to start the game. On the other end, the Huskies seized the opportunity and went on an early 8-0 run before graduate student guard Destiny Littleton’s mid-range jumper opened USC’s scoring column.
Marshall recorded the first of her 8 blocks on the day four minutes into the game as she denied senior forward Haley Van Dyke’s attempt in the paint. On the defensive end, Marshall ranks second in blocks per game in Pac-12 women’s basketball this season.
Turnovers were an issue for USC in the first quarter. The team turned the ball over a total of 5 times in the span of six minutes, 4 of which resulted in points for Washington.
Washington sophomore forward Dalayah Daniels found success many times when she resorted to pick-and-roll plays. Daniels shot four-for-four from the field and led her team in scoring with 8 points by the end of the first 10 minutes. Isolating the paint was untroublesome for the Huskies as they put up 16 points out of 19 total team points in the paint.
The red-shirt defense began to shine in the second quarter. Washington’s field-goal percentage deflated from 60% in the first quarter to just 22% in the second. Additionally, the Trojans controlled the paint and did not allow a single Husky point from beneath the basket in the second.
“We adjusted our ball screen coverage because they were trying to hit the rollers often, so we allowed [Marshall] to play a little bit more in space and not necessarily switch,” said Head Coach Lindsay Gottlieb in a post-game interview. “I thought she was tremendous in doing that, and I think we just tried to limit their back-cuts the best that we could.”
Littleton hit a tough, moving mid-range jumper to end the first half. USC’s offense was led by Littleton with 9 points, shooting four-for-five from the field.
The second half allowed USC to focus its efforts on the offensive playbook. With 5:44 left in the third, USC went on a 7-0 run in 40 seconds, forcing a Washington timeout. Littleton’s 3-pointer, which ended the run, gave USC their first lead of the game.
The Trojans were able to maintain their lead until the beginning of the fourth quarter. Senior guard Trinity Oliver and Daniels executed a successful pick-and-roll play to bring the Huskies back on top. However, that basket ignited the Trojan defense and was followed by an almost four-minute Husky scoring drought.
Marshall ruled the paint in the fourth as she registered 5 blocks, denying the Huskies from close range. Marshall also put up a steal, an assist, 5 points and 5 rebounds in the final quarter.
The wild ending to regulation began with two missed free throws from Williams, who missed the opportunity to seal the game with 12 seconds remaining. The Huskies then drew an inbound play for their junior forward Lauren Schwartz, who hit a game-tying three despite tough defense by graduate guard/forward Okako Adika. The acrobatic 3-pointer turned the momentum towards the Huskies as they survived being down 5 points with 16 seconds left.
“This is the chance to see how tough we are mentally and physically,” Gottlieb said. “I really looked at them and said forget that, let’s do a good check on how tough we are, and I think they responded incredibly.”
The Trojans controlled overtime behind Littleton’s six straight made free throws and ended the period outscoring the Huskies 9-0.
“We had a tough stretch on the road, I think it’s more about getting back, getting recovered and getting our minds right to be road warriors for another weekend,” said Gottlieb on the team’s preparation for the upcoming games.
USC will next see action on Friday at 6 p.m. when they take on No. 9 Utah at Jon M. Huntsman Center.