USC holds off Arizona, advances to Pac-12 Tournament semifinals

The Trojans rode a strong defensive performance to advance in the Pac-12 Tournament.

LAS VEGAS — For the first time in ten years, USC Women’s Basketball is heading to the semifinals of the Pac-12 Tournament.

Despite playing a sloppy game in which they turned the ball over 21 times, the No. 2 seed Trojans were able to outlast No. 7 seed Arizona 65-62 in the Pac-12 Tournament quarterfinals Thursday evening behind a strong defensive performance. USC will advance to face No. 3 seed UCLA Friday night.

The Trojans opened the game on fire, jumping out to a 15-2 lead in the first quarter. However, USC began to get careless after that, allowing Arizona to get back in the game thanks to a plethora of turnovers. The Wildcats tied the game at 25 with 3:06 to play in the first half, and the Trojans led by just five at the break.

USC’s ugly play continued into the second half, with Arizona even taking a 40-36 lead late in the third quarter. After that, however, the Trojans finally found their gear again, going on a 20-4 run to take a 56-44 lead midway through the fourth. The Wildcats fought back, but it ultimately proved to be too little, too late to take down the Women of Troy.

It was a relatively slow night for star freshman guard Juju Watkins. After ranking second in the country in scoring during the regular season, Watkins posted just 17 points against Arizona—tied for her second-lowest output on the year. She also added eight rebounds, three assists, and a steal.

Junior center Rayah Marshall added 15 points and 15 rebounds for her 11th double-double of the season. She also had three blocks and two assists. In addition, sophomore guard Taylor Bigby provided a big spark for the Trojans off the bench, hitting three key three-pointers.

For Arizona, senior guard Helena Pueyo led the way with 19 points, six assists, six steals, and four rebounds. Freshmen guard Skylar Jones added 14 points, three assists, two rebounds, and two steals, while freshman forward Breya Cunningham had 14 points, seven rebounds, three steals, two blocks, and an assist.

Friday’s matchup between the Trojans and the Bruins—who defeated Utah 67-57 Thursday night—will be the third of the season between the crosstown rivals. UCLA won 71-64 at Pauley Pavilion December 30, with USC taking the rematch 73-65 at Galen Center January 14.

Friday night in Vegas, they will play a rubber match with a spot in the championship game on the line. Tip-off is set for 7:30 PM PST on Pac-12 Network.