LOS ANGELES, CA-Defense matters. For three of the four quarters that the USC women’s basketball team engaged in with No. 10 Stanford, the Trojans were at their best, limiting the Cardinal to 11, 15, and 13 points, respectively. USC was able to hold Stanford to just 39 points in those periods because of the Cardinal sloppy play.
Of course, USC’s defense had a big hand in that. Through quarters one and three, the Trojans scored 18 points off of 16 turnovers that Stanford committed. As a result of their defensive prowess through the first three periods, the Trojans looked like they might be able to pull off a Sunday afternoon shocker.
The Cardinal had other ideas. Stanford remembered they were Stanford and erupted with a 30-point fourth quarter scoring barrage to keep their national ranking intact after they had roared back and defeated USC at Galen Center with a 69-67 win. Capitalizing on their size, the Cardinal outrebounded the Trojans, 45-33.
Seventeen of Stanford’s 45 total rebounds were on the offensive end. USC coach Mark Trakh said that was the difference in the ballgame.
“Offensive rebounds is what killed us,” Trakh said. “They had seventeen rebounds. That really hurt us.”
This was not just an important victory for Stanford, it felt more like an escape. At one point in the game, Stanford trailed USC by as many as 14 points (second quarter). Cardinal coach Tara Vanderveer said the adjustment made during intermission was more about getting the players to settle down in the right place to make better shots.
“I really think we tried to make the adjustment that would help us get better shots,” Vanderveer said.
USC played Stanford tough the first time the two teams met in January. Here it is in February, a month later and a couple of weeks away from the official dance of March Madness. USC would likely need to go on an unparallel run in the Pac-12 Conference Tournament to get an invite to the official NCAA Tournament.
With the way they played against Stanford, the Trojans served notice to the rest of the conference they will not be an easy out. After falling in defeat to Stanford by eight points (72-64) in their first encounter of conference play, the Trojans got a second go-round with the Cardinal on Sunday, Feb. 17.
USC played Stanford even tougher this time around. Led by the determined play of guard Minyon Moore, who scored a team-high 18 points and was the only Trojan to record double-digits in rebounding (10), USC got off to a fast start, eventually settling for a 10-point lead going into halftime. The Cardinal came back and played their own brand of defense, keeping USC under 10 points in the game’s pivotal third quarter (9 points).
This allowed Stanford to creep back into the contest. USC led just 45-41 when the fourth quarter began. From then on out, the game became a see-saw battle with several lead changes. The final one came with three seconds remaining in the game when Stanford forward Alanna Smith, who topped all scorers with 23 points, drove the lane for the winning layup.
Moore, who had just tied the game at 67-67 with a traditional three-point play before Smith’s winning bucket, fired off a deep 3-pointer at the buzzer but found no connection on her errant shot. The effort was there. The results were not. However, USC would not have been even been in the position to pull off the upset if it had not been for the inspired play of Moore.
Despite taking a nasty fall late in the second quarter, which saw her leave the game temporarily, Moore’s near triple-double (18 points, 10, rebounds, 8 assists) pushed the Cardinal on the brink of defeat. In the end, it wasn’t enough. But Trakh liked what he saw in his star guard.
“I don’t know where her mind was today, but Minyon was a warrior,” Trakh said. “Got a double-double, just played her butt off…did a great job.”