Utah uses strong second half to upend USC, 58-53

Malia Nawahine led Utah to victory over USC with 17 points, including the game-winning shot. Photo by the Daily Herald.
Malia Nawahine led Utah to victory over USC with 17 points, including the game-winning shot. Photo by the Daily Herald.

Los Angeles, Calif. – The high USC felt after upsetting No. 20 Colorado two days earlier was short-lived Sunday, as Utah came from behind to beat them, 58-53.

Guard Malia Nawahine led the way for the Utes, tallying 17 points while seeing all 40 minutes of action. However, it was her final three that proved to be most important.

After a first quarter that saw the game knotted up at 14, USC went on a 14-0 run to close out the first half and end with an 11-point advantage.

However, the Utes had other ideas to begin the third quarter. Emily Potter scored 12 of her 16 points in the second half, and combined with Nawahine, helped narrow the Trojan lead to four entering the fourth. It was at that time Utah freshman Kiana Moore took over.

Scoring all eight of her points in the second half, Moore helped Utah trim the lead to two. An Erika Bean layup with two minutes remaining completed the comeback, and tied the game up at 53, allowing Nawahine to hit the eventual game winner with only a minute left on the clock.

Utes coach Lynne Roberts noted that even though there were times that the offensive was struggling, it was the team’s defense that kept them in the ballgame.

“I think we started the game well and things that we can’t control happened, like the foul trouble, and I think we let that get in our heads a little bit in that second quarter,” Roberts said. “It wasn’t a pretty game in terms of our offense, but it was our defense that kept us in the game and that’s how we won.”

“I challenged the team at halftime to show some toughness and fight. Even though we didn’t shoot the ball well, we made shots when we absolutely had to. It was a good win and I’m really proud of our team.”

Roberts said Moore got them going.

“I thought she was the key to getting us going in that second half,” Roberts said. “She did a great job getting to the bucket and that took some pressure off.”

Kristen Simon had 22 points and 11 rebounds for the Trojans, and Courtney Jaco and freshman Minyon Moore added 10 a piece.

USC coach Cynthia Cooper-Dyke attributed the loss to not finishing strong.

“We didn’t execute,” she said. “We didn’t play solid defense in the third and fourth quarter and get stops when we needed to.”

“We didn’t execute offensively in the fourth quarter. We only scored six points and so all game long I searched for a rhythm. Players that were ready to play and that we could get into our offensive or defensive rhythm, and we just never got into a rhythm.”

Cooper-Dyke emphasized that her team could not relax when it comes to their offensive and defensive executions if they want to be competitive in the Pac-12.