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Utah Rains Threes In 63-60 Victory Over Women Of Troy

Alexa Girkout |
February 1, 2013 | 11:10 p.m. PST

Staff Reporter

Ariya Crook's 17 second-half points weren't enough for the W. (Jon Kondrath/USC Sports Information)
Ariya Crook's 17 second-half points weren't enough for the W. (Jon Kondrath/USC Sports Information)
It was a game of threes at the Galen Center Friday night, and the Women of Troy fell just short against unranked Utah at the final buzzer, losing 63-60. 

The Women of Troy (8-12, 5-4) entered the game looking to build on a dominating 74-57 victory against Arizona last week and avenge their road loss at Utah (11-9, 2-7) last year.

With four players posting double-digit points in their last game (including 26 from junior forward Cassie Harberts), the Women of Troy seemed to have the advantage against Utah, which had lost seven of its eight previous Pac-12 matchups this season.

“That’s the special part about conference play because you have to come to play every night,” said head coach Michael Cooper after the loss. “Every game isn’t a given and we have definitely shown that.”

Last week, the Women of Troy boasted their best offensive first half with a season-high 50 percent shooting from the floor, but found themselves in an even defensive battle against the Utes Friday night.

USC and Utah were both held to 31 percent shooting from the field during the first half and tallied up 23 and 15 rebounds, respectively.

The Women of Troy were supported by key offensive performances from Harberts and sophomore guard Ariya Crook. Harberts finished with 19 points, and Crook, who put up 20 points off the bench, was the driving force behind a late comeback attempt that ended with her missed three-pointer in the final seconds.

Concluding the game with a missed three-point shot epitomized a game that allowed Utah to demonstrate its offensive power.

On both sides of the courts, the teams pushed each other to beat the shot clock and forced players to take shots from beyond the arc. Utah was able to adjust, demonstrating an impressive shooting strength from the perimeter.

But it was ultimately a dwindling USC defense that led Utah to victory; the Women of Troy held their opponents to 31 percent shooting in the first half but allowed them to shoot 57 percent in the second half. USC would remain below 40 percent for the duration of the game.

“We’re a very good first-half defensive team and in some cases we’ve been a good second-half team,” Cooper said, referring to the win over Arizona. “{When we let up defensively}, that’s been our Achilles’ heel.”

The Women of Troy also struggled to quell or even match an onslaught of long shots from the Utes, who knocked down 5-of-8 three-pointers in the first half alone. They would finish the night 7-for-12.

“That wasn’t our game plan,” Crook said. “We tried to take them off the three-point line but our defense was not where it was like last week, and we just weren’t ready to play.”

Crook scored 17 of her points in the second half, and her aggression on the court helped chip away at a 10-point deficit. Although her enormous late-game efforts weren’t enough in the end, Cooper said that he likes using Crook as a “punch” coming off the bench.

The Women of Troy clawed back from a 49-39 deficit with 9:19 remaining. They had a chance to tie the game, trailing by two points with four seconds left and Harberts at the free-throw line for two shots. Harberts missed her first free throw, and USC was forced to foul after she made the second attempt. 

Crook was disappointed by the loss, but was ready to move past it and focus on the next game.

"I’m just a competitor, a player and I hate losing," said Crook. "I really do, but once we lose, we just learn from it and keep it going.”

The team will have its next opportunity against No. 22 Colorado on Sunday, Feb. 3, at 10 a.m. at the Galen Center.

Reach Staff Reporter Alexa Girkout here; follow her here.



 

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