After an impressive victory over No. 4 Arizona last Sunday, USC suffered a devastating 71-63 home loss to Washington State on Friday after the Trojans led by as many as 17 points in the first half.
USC’s defense was impenetrable early, forcing WSU to miss its first 11 shots. The Trojans’ offense started sluggish but eventually found a rhythm, and USC led 17-3 at the end of the first quarter. WSU’s three points were the fewest the team has scored in a quarter in program history.
In the second quarter, USC managed to extend its lead to 17 points and pull ahead 25-8. From that point, the Cougars slowly chipped away at the lead and managed to narrow it to seven at halftime in a 37-30 score.
“They sort of became the aggressors,” USC head coach Lindsay Gottlieb said. “They picked up the pressure on defense which really bothered us.”
USC struggled to keep its slim lead for much longer. The main culprits for USC’s collapse were the Trojans’ pedestrian shooting percentage of 40.4% and the 14 turnovers that USC coughed up.
With two minutes left in the third quarter, the Cougars took their first lead of the game, 50-48, on a three-pointer by junior guard Johanna Teder. USC’s offense had slowed to a screeching halt, and all of the momentum was with WSU.
“We have to be tougher,” Gottlieb said. “Washington State is a little more veteran than we are. I just think that we were too casual, especially when we had the lead.”
WSU led 52-50 at the end of the third quarter and USC’s last taste of a lead came off of a three-pointer from freshman guard Bella Perkins that notched the Trojans ahead at 53-52. From then, the Cougars went on a 13-3 run and eventually ran away with the victory 71-63.
Perkins and sophomore forward Jordyn Jenkins were the only Trojans who scored in the fourth quarter, cementing USC’s demise. Jenkins led the Trojans in scoring and posted her second game of the season with 20 or more points. Jenkins was very efficient as well, making 8 of 11 field goal attempts.
“She’s a crafty finisher and she finds ways to get to her spots,” Gottlieb said. “If teams try to take her away, she still finds ways to be effective.”
One of the few positives from the loss was USC’s stellar shooting from the three-point line. The Trojans made 11 of 22 three-point attempts and Perkins contributed five of those made three-pointers. As a true freshman, Perkins will be a pivotal player for the future of the program.
“She doesn’t have fear,” Gottlieb said of Perkins. “Those were really big shots for us and kind of gave us a lead early on and kept us in it when they started to pull away.”
The loss dropped USC to 8-5 on the season and 1-2 in the Pac-12. The Trojans’ next matchup will be against the Washington Huskies on Sunday at 12 p.m. at Galen Center.