USC Women’s Basketball leaves Seattle as a team searching for answers, wondering what could have been if all the pieces had fallen in place leading up to the Pac-12 Tournament.
The Women of Troy end their season the way it began, falling to strong competition without much of a fight. Poor performance could cap the rhetoric in what could be Head Coach Michael Cooper’s ugliest campaign at USC.
The Women of Troy (11-20, 7-11) began the Pac-12 tournament against Oregon State in the 7-10 on Thursday. The Trojans found a way to seal the deal, defeating the Beavers 64-57 behind a strong team effort, with Ariya Crook, Cristina Marinacci and Cassie Harberts all in double figures.
The second matchup of the tournament did not prove as successful as they squared with a top-ten squad in Cal Berkeley. The Trojans actually fared quite well this season against Cal, losing by single digits in both contests including a crushing overtime loss earlier in the season on January 17th.
This time around Cal took care of business from the opening tip en route to a 79-58 victory, ending the horrific season for the Women of Troy. Cassie Harberts led all scorers with 24 points but her efforts were not enough as the rest of the team only shot 27-percent from the field.
Although the season ended far too early, the pain and agony of this lackluster campaign full of injuries and underperforming contests can be put to rest. USC started Pac-12 play as the darlings of the conference, winning four straight out of the gate. The wheels quickly fell off after a tough loss to swallow, falling to ranked Cal in the final minutes.
The Women of Troy lost a six-point lead with 1:42 to play in the second half. Ariya Crook missed two free-throws in the final posssesion granting Cal a chance to make the final basket and force overtime. The loss created a massive snowball that engulfed the culture of USC Women’s Basketball, leaving the team dazed and confused about their prospects in crunch time. From that point forward, USC dropped 11 of their next 12 games against sub-par competition.
Although the season started to slip away from that point, Cassie Harberts, the Trojans First-Team All Pac-12 selection, carried the load averaging 18.6 PPG in conference play. She scored 33-percent of the Trojans points as a star junior forward, but received next to no support from the perimeter. Ariya Crook and Briana Barrett were extremely inconsistent as turnover-prone shooters. Crook could score 20 on any night but could also shot 5-20 in an instant, driving Head Coach Michael Cooper over the edge. As the second-best scorer, Crook was too inconsistent for the Trojans to play any better than a one-hit wonder.
The injury bug also decimated this program, taking Jordan Adams, Cristina Marinacci and Kate Oliver out of the lineup for significant stretches of the season. Adams was the most highly touted player of the bunch, as the freshmen McDonalds All-American, who could never make a real impact playing only eight games this season.
Marinacci was a huge loss in the paint, as the Trojans could never account for the loss of size she provided. Kate Oliver struggled to hit her patented three-point shot, shooting under 20-percent from downtown, effectively placing the offense solely on Harberts shoulders.
Not only were the Trojans hurt, but they failed to capitalize on early leads. The Trojans blew double digit leads in games against Arizona, Utah and Washington State.
While the reasons to cut this team some slack continue to pile up, the bigger issue remains that USC did not play like a motivated team. The Women of Troy did not play to expectations as the fourth-ranked team in the Pac-12 preseason poll. The blame should definitely be distributed throughout the locker room, as the program took some steps backward in their fourth campaign under Head Coach Michael Cooper.