Wildcats Push Past USC With 72-61 Win

by Lara Boyko

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After a close first half, fourth-seed Arizona (21-10, 10-8 Pac-10) used a 15-2 run in the first six minutes of the second half to create an impossible lead for fifth-seed USC (19-12, 10-8 Pac-10) to overcome and finished with a 72-61 win.

"We talked about finishing the game, closing it out and playing 20 more minutes," said Arizona coach Niya Butts. "I understood that it was going to be a matter of will and if our will would be greater than their will. That's what would win the game for us. We knew it would begin with defense, rebounding and our transition game. We felt like they were getting tired in the first half, so we kept the pressure on them by pushing the ball in transition and we did a good job of it all game long."

Whether it was because of the halftime pep talk or some early morning messages, Arizona played a very cohesive 40 minutes.

"I sent them all a text message last night after midnight," said Butts. "They didn't have their cell phones at the time, so they didn't get it until this morning, but the text message said defense and rebounding. That was our focus and we knew we had to do this because USC could shoot it from downtown, Staples Center and all over the floor. We had to stay in their face and committed to doing it."

USC started showing signs of life late in the second half with a 11-2 run to chip away at Arizona's lead. Unfortunately this push wasn't enough as Arizona did not back down and fought to the end for the win.

"We ran into a very good Arizona team," said USC coach Michael Cooper. "I thought they came out and established their game plan right from the start. Although we out-rebounded them, they were able to execute their offense, they came out and ran and they just took it to us. I like the fact that we kept playing, played hard and stayed with it. They were just the better team this evening."

Arizona finished the game with shooting 49.1% from the field, 53.8% from three-point land and 36 rebounds. The Wildcats were led by Davellyn Whyte's 24 points and Soana Lucet's 20 points. Ify Ibekwe finished with a double-double on 13 points and 11 rebounds.

USC shot 30.8% from the field, 25% from three-point land and grabbed 46 rebounds. It was the first time all season the Women of Troy lost when having out-rebounded their opponent. USC was led by Briana Gilbreath's 16 points.

Arizona advances to the first semifinal game tomorrow at 12:00 p.m. against first-seed Stanford at Staples Center.

"It was a great game by USC, but at the end of the day we made stops when we needed to get stops and scored when we needed to," said Butts. "We did a really good job of pushing the ball in transition for the most part. If we can get that kind of effort, we are going to be OK."

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