The USC Trojans (11-11, 9-10) had their best shooting display all season (65 percent) in their 71-65 victory over Arizona State (11-10, 6-10) in the first round of the Pac-12 Tournament.
Do not let the scoreboard fool you, USC was in control for almost the entire game.
The Trojans held their largest lead of 21 points midway through the second quarter. It seemed like every time Arizona State tried to make a run at the lead, USC always had an answer.
“It was beyond frustrating because (the Trojans) weren’t doing anything special,” Arizona State coach Charli Turner Thorne said. “We were just playing soft and not locking in.”
Here is a sequence that encapsulates the game for ASU. Arizona State cut the deficit down to 11 with 8:26 left in the fourth after an Eboni Walker 3-pointer.
With ASU chipping away, USC came down and fed Alissa Pili in the post. She put Katelyn Levings in the spin cycle for a layup. Taya Hanson came down and missed a three on the following possession.
With Endyia Rodgers in the open floor after the rebound, she found Jordan Sanders in the corner for a wide open three. That gave Rodgers her 10th assist and extended the USC lead back out to 16, forcing Turner Thorne to call a timeout.
“I didn’t have any timeouts in that fourth quarter to strategically make a comeback,” Turner Thorne said. “I had to use them during the game because we were just having so many let-ups.”
Rodgers ended the game with 15 points, five rebounds and a career-high 11 assists. She only missed two shots and controlled the pace of the game for the Trojans.
The Sun Devils outscored USC 11-2 in the final 3:04 of the game, with five of those ASU points coming in the final 31 seconds.
Getting off to slow starts is something Arizona State has grown accustomed to this season, and the same held true on Wednesday afternoon. The Sun Devils had more turnovers (eight) than points (seven) in the first quarter.
“You got to throw punches and start strong,” Turner Thorne said. “I thought they had good energy (in the locker room). I don’t know if it was nerves.”
She also mentioned that the team was getting a little quiet in warm-ups before the game.
One of the bright spots was Maggie Besselink, who led the way for the Sun Devils, posting a double-double of her own.
She led ASU with 13 points and 10 rebounds. Besselink was also a monster on the offensive glass, adding seven to her total (ASU won the offensive glass 20-1).
“She obviously is very special and just keeps getting better,” Turner Thorne said of Besselink’s performance.
Taya Hanson had a team-high 15 points on a 5-14 (35.7 percent) night from behind the arc.
As of right now, the season is over for ASU, barring a bid to either the NCAA or WNIT tournaments. If we have learned anything from this season: The future is bright in Tempe.