By Scott M. Johnson Herald Writer
SEATTLE — One team at Hec Edmundson Pavilion was trying to keep its NCAA tournament hopes alive. The other was just hoping to extend its season with a possible inclusion in the Women’s National Invitational Tournament.
During the final 90 seconds of Thursday night’s game between the University of Washington women’s basketball and USC, it became clearly evident which was which.
While the visiting Trojans closed out strong by hitting eight consecutive free throws down the stretch, UW stumbled to the wire with a mistake-filled finish in a 62-55 loss.
Not only did the Huskies (15-12 overall, 7-10 in the Pacific-12 Conference) lose for the third time in their past five home games, but they also may have cost themselves the possibility of hosting a postseason game with the loss.
“I think we have a chance,” said UW senior Regina Rogers, who struggled with first-half foul trouble to finish with 11 points and eight rebounds. “We still have the Pac-12 tournament, and we also have our last game against UCLA (on Saturday). Keep hope alive.”
USC (17-11, 11-6) used a big first half and a 10-2 run over the final 1:22 to finish off the Huskies and keep its own hopes alive — although that team is dreaming a little bigger with the NCAA tourney still within reach. The Trojans got 19 points and 12 points from Christina Marinacci to stay in the conversation for the Big Dance.
USC led most of the way before UW went on a 12-4 run midway through the second half to pull ahead 47-43 with 8:04 remaining. The lead changed hands twice from there, with USC pulling ahead 54-53 on a pair of Briana Gilbreath free throws with 1:24 remaining.
UW senior Mollie Williams missed a pair of free throws on the other end 14 seconds later, and then, after a Gilbreath jumper extended the USC lead to three points, Huskies freshman Aminah Williams threw away an inbounds pass with 42 seconds left.
USC made six more free throws down the stretch to hold off UW.
“We both had our chances down the stretch,” UW coach Kevin McGuff said. “They capitalized on their opportunities, and we didn’t. That’s to their credit.”
A first-half gamble ended up hurting the Huskies, who had trouble keeping Rogers on the floor. She collected her second foul with 8:40 remaining and the score tied at 19, then came out of the game and watched USC go on an 8-1 run. With 6:23 remaining, after teammate Mollie Williams was whistled for her third foul, McGuff decided to put Rogers back in the game and risk another foul, and UW pulled to within four points, at 27-23.
But at the 4:18 mark, Rogers was called for her third foul on what appeared to be a clear block under the USC basket. She came out of the game for the remainder of the half, only to watch USC outscore the Huskies 7-2 down the stretch.
Rogers had just five points in 12 minutes of first-half action, and her two stints on the bench resulted in the Trojans outscoring UW 15-3 — a big reason why the Huskies trailed 34-25 at halftime.
Marinacci attacked Rogers from the outset of the second half, with most of her aggressive takes to the basket resulting in points as Rogers tried to avoid fouling.
UW freshman Jazmine Davis continued her habit of breakout second-half performances, scoring 12 of her team-high 18 points after halftime. Over the past six games, Davis has averaged 11.7 points on 47 percent shooting in second halves, as compared to 5.8 points on 22 percent shooting before the intermission.
Thursday night marked an evening of split attention for the family of USC senior Ashley Corral. Younger sister Heather, a Prairie High School senior and UW recruit, was playing a first-round game in the 3A state girls basketball tournament at the Tacoma Dome at the same time as the Huskies game. Father Art Corral drove up from Vancouver to attend the USC-UW game with 10-year-old daughter Allison and six members of her fifth-grade team from Glenwood Elementary.
“She loves to watch her oldest sister play,” Art Corral explained, “and she won’t get many more chances.”
Mother Hala Corral, meanwhile, was at the Tacoma Dome watching the Prairie girls play Lakeside. Part of the reason Hala was down there was because she’s superstitious, Art Corral said, since Heather Corral has twice suffered major knee injuries when her mother was not in attendance.
Art Corral, who used to live in Snohomish before moving south when oldest daughter Ashley was in grade school, was working the phone frantically during the UW-USC game Thursday night.