Heading into the final two weeks of the season, USC women’s basketball sat right on the bubble. The Trojans started the season slow, but had since won nine of their last 12 conference games and were making a late push to make the NCAA Tournament field. But there was work to be done as USC was one of the first four teams out, according to ESPN.
The stretch run to the tournament began Friday afternoon against fellow bubble team Oregon State.
Unfortunately for USC, it did not begin as they had hoped. The Trojans tied their worst offensive performance of the season and it proved to be too much to overcome in a 77-52 rout by OSU.
USC’s offensive struggles came primarily from its inability to knock down shots. The Trojans took 15 more shots and had eight fewer turnovers than the Beavers. But poor shooting ultimately dictated the outcome as the Trojans shot just 32% from the field while going 8-of-24 from 3-point range.
“[Oregon State] is just a really long team and we struggled with our offense against [their] zone,” sophomore forward Alissa Pili said of USC’s offensive woes. “We need to build off that and keep getting better so we can beat the zone in the future.”
Pili led the Trojans with 13 points including two 3-pointers early in the third quarter, but hit only two more shots the entire game. Graduate transfer Jordan Sanders and leading scorer sophomore guard Endyia Rogers each had eight points on a combined 7-of-20 shooting.
On the other end, Oregon State was lethal from long range, going 9-for-14 from deep while shooting 54% from the field. The Beavers were also aided by a couple big 3-pointers to end the first and third quarters.
In the first quarter after the Trojans went on a 7-0 run to cut the Beaver lead to two, Beaver’s senior guard Aleah Goodman took a half-court heave that went in as time expired.
Then in the third quarter, with the Trojans trying to fight their way back into the game, sophomore guard Noelle Mannen hit a step-back fadeaway 3-pointer with 18 seconds left in the quarter. The shot extended the OSU lead back to 15, essentially putting any USC comeback hope to bed.
Oregon State freshman guard Talia von Oelhoffen, who left high school and enrolled early, led the team in scoring with 19 points off the bench. Goodman and redshirt senior forward Ellie Mack also scored in double figures.
USC has struggled with rebounding and containing the ball on the dribble all season and it continued against OSU, who cleaned the glass, securing 44 rebounds to USC’s 25. The Beavers also scored 32 points in the paint and used the dribble penetration to find shooters open from behind the arc.
A frustrated head coach Mark Trakh discussed the issues postgame.
“These are things we’ve been harping on. This has been happening all year and its two problems we have to correct,” he said “We’ve been emphasizing it, we’ve been talking about it and we’ve been doing drills but the big problems are [those two things].”
Despite the loss, USC still has hope of making the tournament but will likely need a win in one of its two remaining games or a strong run in Vegas at the Pac-12 Tournament to do so.
“[Making the NCAA Tournament] would mean a lot to us as a whole team,” Pili said postgame. “We don’t use age as an excuse for not making [it]. I think all of us just really want to get there and put this program back on top.”
Those final two games of the regular season are both against top-15 teams with Oregon coming to the Galen Center on Sunday and the Crosstown Showdown next weekend at UCLA.