#8 USC (77) v. #9 Washington State (73)
The first game of the evening session did not disappoint, as the Trojans and Cougars combined for 19 lead changes in a back-and-forth affair in doubt until the final moments.
That’s when Temi Fagbenle took over.
As USC head coach Cynthia Cooper-Dyke said, “In the last 40 seconds she was everywhere.”
With just under a minute to go, and the Trojans up one, the Harvard transfer grabbed the rebound off a missed Borislava Hristova free throw to give USC possession with the lead. And when WSU guard Nike McClure missed a free throw of her own 20 seconds later, it was Fagbenle again with the board.
Another missed free throw by Hristova with 14 seconds left meant yet another Fagbenle rebound, this time followed by a pair of key free throws to put USC up three.
On the following possession, Fagbenle blocked a Hristova 3-point attempt, and made one more free throw on the other end to seal the win. Of course, she proceeded to intercept a WSU pass as time expired for one final flourish.
The 2012 Olympian for Great Britain finished the night with 18 points and 17 rebounds.
“We rotated pretty well,” said WSU head coach June Daugherty. “But when the shot went up, we didn’t do a good job of getting back out, especially on her. She’s a tremendous player. But keeping her off the glass, it’s a tough assignment, but it’s something I think that we could have done a much better job on.”
Meanwhile, Fagbenle’s presence inside also opened the floor for guard Courtney Jaco, who finished 5-of-6 from 3-point range, with 19 points.
“In the first half we were kind of stagnant on offense,” Gaco said. “But Temi did a really good job finding me, and I think we just did a better job reversing the ball and waiting for Temi to get open on the outside and open things up for her.”
With the win, USC keeps their slim NCAA Tournament hopes alive, while WSU’s season draws to a disappointing close.
“It was reminiscent of how the season has been with all the tight ballgames and last possessions,” Daugherty said. “Unfortunately, tonight, we came out on the short end.”
#5 Washington (67) v. #12 Colorado (51)
After the first three games of the day were decided by a combined 13 points, the final game of the first day didn’t have quite the same level of drama.
In fact, Colorado never held a lead.
While the Buffaloes stayed close into the second quarter, the Huskies ran off a 21-5 run over the final seven minutes to take a 17-point lead into the locker room.
Colorado did little to chip away at the deficit from that point, as the Huskies cruised to an easy victory.
Kelsey Plum finished with 27 points on 10-of-18 shooting, while Kennedy Leonard led the Buffaloes with 21. Chantel Osahor had a game-high 18 rebounds for the Huskies.
Had the Huskies not been scheduled to play again tomorrow night, UW head coach Mike Neighbors said he would have left her in to get to 20.
“I think it’s mind-blowing that she could possibly get that many,” he said.
As they had been in their last matchup with the Huskies, Colorado was plagued by poor shooting, at just over 30 percent for the game, while the UW was at nearly 50 percent for the night.
Neighbors said he thought the team’s effort was as good as its been all year,
“Absolutely, by far, the best we have followed a game plan,” he said.
And while the Huskies had a commanding lead throughout, Neighbors said he didn’t forget the huge run the Buffaloes made against the Huskies in Boulder.
“We still needed everybody in there playing like we were playing.”