#7 USC defeats #10 Colorado in Game 3 of 2020 Women's Basketball Tournament
By W.G. Ramirez
LAS VEGAS -- USC's Alyson Miura knew her moment would come; it was only a matter of time.
And with the Trojans' opening-round clash of the Pac 12 women's tournament against Colorado swaying back and forth, and the lead never getting bigger than two points for either team in the third quarter, her number was called.
Muira answered. Twice.
The 5-foot-9 guard from Clackamas, Oregon - population 7,000 - drained a pair of 3-pointers from the same corner on back-to-back possessions to provide USC the jolt it need by giving it a 49-44 lead, and the Trojans never looked back en route to a 69-54 victory over Colorado, at Mandalay Bay Events Center.
“I missed two at the beginning, and I just know that I'm gonna get 'em when I get 'em," said Miura, who finished with nine points - all in the second half. "Endy (Rogers) found me for those two, those were perfect passes, and so I just have to always be ready.”
Pac 12 Freshman of the Year Alissa Pili led all scorers with 22 points behind 10 of 16 shooting, Rogers added 15 points and Kayla Overbeck chipped in with 10.
It was the second straight victory over Colorado, as the Trojans closed the regular season with a 66-55 decision in Los Angeles on Sunday. The win puts USC in a rivalry battle against No. 2 seed UCLA in Friday's quarterfinal. The teams split their two regular season games.
“It's a rivalry game, everyone gets up for that game," Miura said. "We want to beat them for sure, more than any other Pac 12 team.”
The opportunity to play their neighbor from Westwood was in question, however, as Colorado erased a seven-point, first-half deficit and briefly took the lead before Pili tied the game at 32 just before halftime.
The teams traded buckets in the third quarter, each grabbing the lead twice before Miura made the most of her moment.
"My team, they get so excited when I make 3s, so it just really picked up our energy when I hit those two back-to-back," Miura said.
USC coach Mark Trakh praised the trio for scoring 68.1 percent of the team's offensive output, but agreed it was Muira who lit the fire.
“Those were big 3s,"Trakh said. "It sparked us. She wound up making three. Those were huge. You know, for her to step up, again, being a freshman, step up in that situation ... yeah, that was huge.”
Colorado’s Peanut Tuitele finished with a team-high 18 points, equaling a career-best. Mya Hollingshed had 13 points, Jaylyn Sherrod had 9 points and 5 assists and Quinessa Caylao-Do contributed with 8 points and 5 rebounds.
“I wanted to play hard for my team," Tuitele said. "It is a tournament, a new season. It is basically postseason, so I just wanted to give my all down low. I know Pili (is) a very skilled post player, so I wanted to use my advantages with her. I'm more agile, and I just wanted to pump fake because she has foul tendencies. I tried to outsmart her.”
Instead, Pili showed poise and maturity with Tuitele and the Buffaloes playing as physical as possible every time she touched the ball. The Trojans freshman star finished with just one personal foul.
“All my life I have been just raised to keep my head and not get frustrated," said Pili, who has scored 20 or more points in 10 games this season and has finished in double figures 24 times - including 15 straight. "Even though I may get frustrated, just not to show it. Even playing in high school, it was hard playing against the refs too, so I always just had to keep my head and play poised the whole game like that.”
The game had 11 lead changes and seven ties.
In the end, however, USC's offense was too much for Colorado to match. The Trojans finished on 61.2 percent shooting from the floor, the second-best mark in Pac 12 Tournament history. It was just the second time this season the Trojans shot better than 50 percent. USC improved to 15-1 when leading after three quarters.
USC raced out to a 16-6 lead with a balanced scoring attack that saw five different scorers contribute, as the Trojans eventually opened an 18-11 lead after the first quarter. USC, which finished the regular season hitting 40.2 percent from the floor - seventh best in the Pac 12 - shot a scorching 61.5 percent on 8 of 13 shooting, with just one field goal coming from 3-point range.
Colorado, meanwhile, struggled with just 33.3 percent shooting in the first quarter, hitting just 4 of 12, including 0-for-3 from beyond the arc.
The Buffaloes fought their way back in the second quarter, increasing their shot selection by 50 percent, and hit 8 of 18 from the floor.
“I think both teams - SC and Colorado - play really hard," Colorado coach JR Payne said. "That's something that we take a lot of pride in. I think they have a really talented roster. They have some great veterans, and they have some McDonald's All-Americans in the freshman class, and they're good.”
W.G. Ramirez is a Las Vegas-based freelance reporter and the Southern Nevada correspondent for The Associated Press. Follow him on Twitter at @WillieGRamirez