Arizona women’s basketball fell to USC, 59-54 on Thursday in the first round of the Pac-12 Tournament in Seattle, Wash. on Thursday.
Three players scored in double-digits, including seniors Kama Griffitts and Carissa Crutchfield, who scored 13 and 12 points, respectively and freshman LaBrittney Jones added 10.
Griffitts also posted a team-high seven rebounds, while Jones and senior Erica Barnes both finished with two blocks each.
“I thought (Kama) was outstanding,” Arizona head coach Niya Butts said. “She was knocking down shots, shooting the ball with confidence. The rest of the team was feeding off that energy. I thought we were flying around on the defensive end, getting to some balls. I thought she sparked it especially in that first half.”
As a team, Arizona made 11-of-12 free throws and held All Pac-12 forward Cassie Harberts to two points on 1-of-4 shooting.
“All the credit goes to the team,” Butts said. “They played hard. They played hard even though we've been shorthanded most of the season, but today we came in and we fought. We were physical. We met aggression with aggression. They never quit. We played every play, and we played for 40 minutes. We just came up short.”
USC eventually prevailed, 59-54, to advance to the quarterfinals and keep its glimmering hopes of making the NCAA tournament field alive. It was never easy. Not even close in a game that featured 12 lead changes.
With 11:06 left, the Trojans trailed, 44-43, and were struggling to get stops on defense. Other than junior guard Ariya Crook, they weren’t in rhythm on offense.
Then they started feeding the post, a region where USC held the height advantage. The Trojans took a 45-44 lead they would never relinquish when Crook dished an assist to 6-foot-4 Kate Oliver for an easy layup.
USC, leading 57-54 with about 30 seconds left, didn’t seal the win until Arizona guard Carissa Crutchfield’s runner hit every part of the rim before falling to the floor. Crook, who finished with 19 points, knocked in her ensuing pair of free throws.
The Trojans jumped to an 11-2 lead in the first four minutes with some hot shooting and by forcing Arizona into turnovers with pressure defense. Crook, who finished with four three-pointers, capped the run with a flat-footed hoist from 25 feet away. The Wildcats fought back with an 11-4 burst to narrow the score to 15-13, prompting USC coach Cynthia Cooper to call a timeout roughly ten minutes into the game.
From there it went back-and-forth. The Wildcats took their first lead, 21-20, when Crutchfield swished an open three-pointer with 5:43 left in the first half. But USC’s Alexyz Vaioletama responded on the next Trojans’ possession by knocking in a jumper from the elbow. Arizona followed with a 9-3 run to take a surprising 30-25 lead into the locker room.
In the first half, Griffitts made five of eight shots, including three three-pointers, and led all scorers with 13 points, nearly four more than what she averaged per game during the regular season.
The Wildcats finished a short-handed season, filled with injuries that left the team with seven players in the last 13 games of the season.
“As a senior, you don't want your last game to end, so I just know as a captain, I wanted to go out there and just play,” Crutchfield said. “We got pretty tired, but we had to keep fighting.”
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