USC Holds On For 55-53 Win Over Arizona

March 4, 2010

Box Score

LOS ANGELES, CALIF. - The USC women's basketball team never trailed in the game, but it was far from an easy win for the Trojans as they warded off a comeback push by Arizona to claim a 55-53 victory over the Wildcats on Thursday night at the Galen Center. In the win, sophomore Ashley Corral moved into the lead for USC single-season 3-pointers made, knocking down a pair to hold 73 so far this season. USC improves to 17-11 overall with tonight's victory and is 11-6 in Pac-10 play entering its final regular-season game against Arizona State at 12:30 p.m. on Saturday (March 6). Arizona goes to 13-15, 6-11.

USC's largest halftime leads have both come against Arizona, but the last time the Trojans were up 12 on the Wildcats, Arizona had pushed back to force overtime. This time, USC again held a 12-point advantage at the half, up 32-20 on the Wildcats thanks to 12 USC points off Arizona turnovers. Once again, the Wildcats made things interesting, closing to within one in the final minute. USC sidestepped overtime, however, never allowing Arizona to take a lead in the game en route to the 55-53 victory.

The USC defense had seven steals in the first half and forced 13 Arizona turnovers. Offensively, the Trojans were shooting at a 39-percent clip in the half, ahead of Arizona's 32 percent, although the Wildcats were ahead on the boards 19-17 at halftime. Arizona upped its shooting in the second half to 41 percent while USC dropped to 33 percent, as the teams wrapped up in stride at 36.5 percent each from the floor. Arizona won the battle of the boards 38-31, but USC was ahead in assists 18-5 and in steals 11-6 down the stretch. Wildcat Ify Ibekwe led all scorers with 18 points, and Kari LaPlante led the Trojans with 13 despite early foul trouble. Briana Gilbreath served up a career-high eight assists while joining LaPlante in double digits with 10 points.

In a rare start for the Trojans, USC was ahead of the game on the offensive boards. The Women of Troy opened the game going 4-for-4 from the floor, and when their shots were off the mark later, they crashed the boards and had five offensive rebounds to lead overall 7-2 on the glass through the first five minutes as USC took a 10-6 lead. That 100 percent shooting effort out of the gates dipped to 32 percent for the Trojans by the 8-minute mark as Arizona closed the gap to one a couple times although USC was up 18-15 at that point. Kari LaPlante served up a pair of blocks and Ashley Corral grabbed a steal next, with Christina Marinacci draining a jumper on the other end to pad USC to a 20-15 edge with 6:35 on the clock. USC pushed through to take its largest lead of the game and then balloon it to 12 by halftime. A fast-break layup from Gilbreath and a bucket from Hailey Dunham first carried USC ahead 26-17 with 2:35 to go. An Arizona score at 2:06 was followed by a pair of Dunham layups off USC steals in the final minute to punch USC ahead 30-19, and although the Wildcats got a free throw to fall with 7 ticks to go, Gilbreath finished off the half with a jumper that beat the buzzer and listed the Trojans up 32-20 for halftime.

LaPlante kicked off the second half with a three-point play to carry USC ahead 35-20, but she was tagged with her fourth foul of the game at 16:17 to sideline her for a stretch. Ify Ibekwe cut the Trojan lead to single digits with a score and four straight free throws, but Aarika Hughes got her first points of the night next with a jumper that made it 37-26 USC at 15:25. Arizona made a 7-2 push as Ibekwe became the first player to get to double figures, and USC's 14th turnover led to another Wildcat score that cut it to 41-37 USC. Ibekwe hit the back end of another trip to the line at 8:42, and USC was clinging to a 41-38 lead as LaPlante came back into the game carrying four fouls. She slipped in a score as soon as she hit the court and joined Ibekwe in double figures as she made it a 43-38 USC edge. Corral drained a three, but the Wildcats answered with a 6-0 run to cut it to two with 5:45 to go. LaPlante hit a jumper to end the Arizona run, and Marinacci snagged a steal at the other end for USC and would be fouled by Ibekwe later for Ibekwe's fourth foul of the game at 3:34. USC was unable to score on that new possession, but Arizona got another Ibekwe score to make it a two-point game once more at 2:55. Marinacci drained a jumper for the Trojans next, and USC was up 50-46 with 2:42 remaining. The USC defense forced a shot clock violation by the Wildcats two hold that lead entering the 2-minute mark, and Corral hit Gilbreath for a runner at the other end. Still up six after the teams traded free throws, Arizona knocked down a three with 55 seconds on the clock to put USC's lead at 54-51. A USC miss was followed by a quick layup from Arizona, making it a one-point game as Corral went to the line with 20 ticks to go. She hit the first, and USC held a 55-53 lead with an Arizona timeout called with 14.2 on the clock. Arizona missed on a 3-point try, and the ball was up for grabs under the hoop, with LaPlante hauling in the ball as time expired on a 55-53 USC victory.

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