USC falls in double-overtime thriller to Arizona

Despite Rokia Doumbia’s 17 points off the bench, the Trojans could not match the Wildcats.

Doumbia high-fives teammate Okako Adika.

Graduate forward Kadi Sissoko looked at her fellow graduate teammate, graduate guard Destiny Littleton. “Over here!” Sissoko called. Hearing faint “U of A” chants, Sissoko received the ball from Littleton, with the Trojans down two points. She leaped, trying to tie the game, but failed to make the jumper.

A few minutes later, the game was over. Arizona won 81-75 in double overtime on Sunday afternoon at Galen Center.

“We’re on a progression towards March,” said head coach Lindsay Gottlieb. “You hate to lose a game like that, but I have no doubt that it’s going to help us get where we want to go.”

The Trojans showed their signature defense in the first two quarters, limiting the Wildcats to a season-low 18 points in the first half. Arizona did not make a three in the entire half.

In the last two quarters, the Wildcats broke through in the paint, with fifth-year forward Cate Reese leading the charge. Reese scored 16 of her 33 points in the third and fourth quarters.

“Props to [Reese], she was just a force on the block,” sophomore forward Rayah Marshall said.

The Wildcats’ offensive momentum carried into overtime, when the Trojans matched them shot for shot until the final minute. From the third quarter onward, Arizona shot 49% from the field.

Throughout the season, Reese has combined with fifth-year guard Shaina Pellington, fifth-year guard Jade Loville and senior forward Esmery Martinez to form a quadruple threat. The Trojans were only able to keep Martinez off the board, as the other three scored well above their season averages.

“We couldn’t get the critical stop when we needed to,” Gottlieb said. “We made some big shots, but they knocked down the answer when they needed to.”

On the offensive side, Littleton dropped 21 points for the third straight game. Marshall recorded her 12th double-double of the season, scoring 17 points and snatching 20 rebounds. Sissoko tacked on another 15.

However, the biggest surprise of the afternoon was graduate guard Rokia Doumbia, who went 6-for-6 from the field and put up a career-high 17 points.

“I had an opportunity to step up and help the team,” Doumbia said. “And I did my best.”

Doumbia’s career night was cut short when she fouled out with 1:20 to go in the first overtime.

In the second overtime period, with 43 seconds left, Loville hit a fadeaway jumper to put the Wildcats up 75-73. Sissoko’s final shot missed the basket entirely and sealed the Trojans’ fate.

“This loss hurts, especially in this moment,” Gottlieb said. “But … we don’t want to ever be stagnant. If the emergence of [Doumbia] can help us down the stretch, that will make everyone else better too.”

The Trojans moved to 2-1 against ranked teams, 7-5 in the Pac-12 and 17-6 overall. It was just their second loss in Galen Center this season. USC will stay home to face Oregon Friday, followed by Oregon State next Sunday.