USC knocks off Washington in overtime thriller

A second half surge propelled the Trojans to victory in Seattle.

Destiny Littleton is dribbling the basketball in her left hand. She is wearing an all-white uniform.

USC upped its win streak to four as the Trojans defeated Washington 63-54 in overtime at Alaska Airlines Arena Sunday afternoon.

In a game featuring two of the best defensive and lowest scoring teams in the Pac-12, the scoring started much quicker than one would expect. The Huskies opened up with two layups from sophomore forward Dalayah Daniels, and the rest of the team followed suit by starting off red hot, shooting 6-for-8 from the field.

USC struggled early in the first quarter, allowing 19 first quarter points and giving up six turnovers. It was tied for the most first quarter points scored on a typically suffocating Trojans defense this season.

The second quarter was more favorable for USC. The Trojans outscored the Huskies 9-7 and only had two turnovers.

Graduate guard Destiny Littleton and graduate forward Kadi Sissoko took turns chipping away at the Husky lead. With 2:38 to play in the half, Sissoko hit a midrange fadeaway to cut the lead to four. Then, with three seconds to play in the half, Littleton hit a fadeaway midrange shot over three Washington defenders to keep the Trojans’ deficit at just four at half.

By halftime, Littleton, Sissoko and redshirt freshman guard Taylor Bigby had combined for 20 of the Trojans’ 22 points.

The second half started with a bang for the Trojans. Graduate guard Okako Adika hit a three nearly four minutes into the half to tie the game for the first time since the opening tip. Then, with 5:02 left in the quarter, Littleton swished a three to put the Trojans up four.

Halftime defensive adjustments were key to the USC win, as the Trojans started the half on a 12-4 run.Nearly every single possession, USC forced the Huskies to use the entire shot clock.

“We just started ball screen coverage because they went to hit the roller so often,” head coach Lindsay Gottlieb said. “We allowed [sophomore forward Rayah Marshall] to play more in space and I thought she was tremendous in doing that.”

In the fourth quarter, the Trojans brought even more defensive energy. Marshall had five blocks in the fourth quarter alone and single-handedly scared Washington out of the paint. Courtesy of Marshall’s defensive effort, the Trojans went on a 10-2 run during part of the final frame.

With seven seconds left in regulation, Washington was down three points and needed a prayer to force overtime. But junior forward Lauren Schwartz heaved up a contested three and drilled it to send the game to overtime.

Though there was a dramatic ending to regulation, it was all USC in overtime. The Trojans outscored the Huskies 9-0 with the Trojans’ stifling defense coming up huge, forcing five turnovers in overtime alone.

Going into overtime, Gottlieb saw the extra time as a challenge to test the team’s intensity.

“This is a chance to see how tough we are, mentally and physically,” Gottlieb said. “We’ve been working really hard, we’ve been talking about what it takes to win games beyond X’s and O’s.”

With a tough road stretch still to play, Gottlieb is ready for the challenge.

“It’s about getting back, getting recovered and getting our minds right to be road warriors for another weekend,” Gottlieb said.

USC now moves to 15-4 overall and 5-3 in conference play. The Trojans will take on Utah Friday in Salt Lake City where the Trojans will look to extend their win streak to five.