The Women of Troy (14-9, 7-4) scratched and clawed their way back into the game but could not fully overcome yet another slow start, eventually losing to Washington (12-9, 5-5), 63-55 in befuddling fashion.
"We gotta make a decision about who we are going to be," USC head coach Cynthia Cooper-Dyke said after losing her third-straight game. "And it has to start pretty soon, and our efforts have to pick up on the defensive end of the court."
After erasing a 12-point deficit with 10:23 to play, USC was back in business only down two with just over one minute to play thanks to two of Cassie Harberts' 22 points on the afternoon. But after scoring the basket, Huskies leading scorer Jazmine Davis made the Women of Troy pay on the other end of the court sinking a dagger 3-pointer.
"We continued to make small mistakes in the crucial moments of the game, and shoot ourselves in the foot," said Cooper.
Davis played a key role in the Huskies' upset victory, notching a game-high 25 points including a crucial 3-4 second-half shooting effort from long range. The combination of Davis, and freshman Kelsey Plum (14 points on 4-16 shooting), gave Washington all the offensive firepower they needed to fight off the Trojans' furious second-half run.
The Women of Troy meanwhile, could not buy a bucket from the outside finishing the afternoon 4-23 from deep. A large part of those woes came from Ariya Crook (1-7) and Courtney Jaco (1-8), who combined to score 16 points on 19 shots.
"We rely on jumpers too much and when we are not hitting those, we gotta drive to the basket," said Harberts.
Despite all those offensive struggles and the 16 total turnovers, the Women of Troy had plenty of chances to win the basketball game thanks to their best player.
USC came storming back in the second half thanks to 24 points inside the paint as Harberts worked hard down low, scoring 16 of the team's 38 second-half points. Her efforts were especially applauded by Cooper-Dyke after fighting off a slew of double-, and even triple-teams down low because of the poor shot making from the perimeter.
"One important part of being a teammate, a good teammate, is taking on your responsibility," said Cooper-Dyke, following her team's 31% shooting effort. "Instead of just throwing shots up, I'm focused on just making those shots."
USC fell behind by so much because they scored a season-low 17 first-half points (least since scoring 22 first-half points vs Oklahoma State), and could only muster two free throw attempts. The combination of missed shots, 11 first-half turnovers and poor ball distribution allowed Washington to grab a 31-17 half-time lead.
The Women of Troy will stay at home for the remainder of the week, and then prepare to take on crosstown rival UCLA Saturday at the Galen Center. USC started off Pac-12 play by defeating the Bruins 56-54 back on December 30th, and will be looking for a bounce-back effort as it continues to slide down the Pac-12 standings.
GOOD: CASSIE HARBERTS
Like many great players, Cassie Harberts finds a way to silently stack the box scores while carrying the load on both ends of the court. Harberts finished the game with 22 points and 11 rebounds, recording her 8th double-double on the season, which includes three of her last four games. She also tied a career-high with three blocks in the loss.
After winning seven of eight games to start Pac-12 play, the Women of Troy have struggled to find a true identity on either end of the floor. USC fell behind early and was forced to chuck up a season-high 23 three pointers. The missed shots allowed Washington to clog the paint on Alexyz Vaioletama and Cassie Harberts inside.
"When we faced adversity, we've gone to individual play as opposed to relying on each other and playing together," Cynthia Cooper-Dyke said after the game, one in which her team fell behind at halftime for the fourth consecutive game.
UGLY: 3-PT SHOOTING
It goes without saying that not making shots from deep was the ultimate dagger in the Trojans' chances at victory on Sunday afternoon. The only player on the court that actually hit her shots with relative success was Desiree Bradley, who finished the night 2-5 from behind the arc. This performance should certainly be a motivating factor this week in practice.
- Sophomore Brianna Barrett set a career high with 10 rebounds in the losing effort.
- USC is now 4-5 when scoring less than 60 points.
- Cassie Harberts recorded her 25th career double-double.
- Kate Oliver did not play on Sunday, missing her first game in Pac-12 play this season.
- Ariya Crook (3-13 shooting) put up her worst shooting performance of the season (other than the Colorado game when she went 0-1 before leaving the game less than a minutes into the game).
- USC has now suffered its second three-game losing streak of the season (Oklahoma State, South Carolina, Iowa).