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Stanford, Arizona State win close calls to advance

Courtney Ekmark beats the defense to score. Photo courtesy of Sun Devil Athletics.
Kiana Williams paced the Cardinal against USC with 18 points. Photo courtesy of Stanford Athletics.

Game #3: Stanford 69, USC 59

For three quarters, USC played Stanford essentially even.

The problem for the Trojans was the first ten minutes, which saw the Cardinal start the night on a 12-2 run, en route to an 11-point lead after one quarter.

That left the Women of Troy playing catch-up all night, and unable to get the game back within a single possession in a 69-59 loss.

Aliyah Mazyck led all scorers with 22 points, and Kristen Simon fell just short of a double-double with 12 rebounds and nine points for the Trojans (20-11, 9-9), while Kiana Williams paced the Cardinal (21-9, 14-3) as one of four to finish in double figures with 18.

“This is a great win for our team,” said Stanford head coach Tara VanDerveer. “We had a lot of different people step up.”

After the early Stanford run, the gap fluctuated from 14 late in the first, to seven mid-way through the third.

A pair of free throws from Minyon Moore with just over six minutes to play brought the Trojans within six, and though USC would hold Stanford scoreless over the next two minutes, three straight offensive possessions came up empty for the Trojans as well.

That was a problem throughout the night for USC, which shot a season-low 27 percent from the field. Where the Trojans did keep pace was at the free throw line, making 26-of-29 attempts.

“We didn’t keep them off the line,” VanDerveer said. “I thought our defense was good, except for that, our fouling.”

And though her team came up short, Moore was proud of the Trojans’ effort.

“I think that just a couple more bounces our way would have helped us,” Moore said. “But honestly, I feel like we gave it our all. Fatigue played into it a little bit. But we tried, and I can’t knock my team for their hard work the whole season.”

So was Jordan Adams.

“My team played with their entire heart and soul, so I don’t think there was any one thing that could have changed that game,” she said. “It just didn’t go our way.”

USC now awaits its NCAA Tournament fate. The Trojans are firmly on the bubble, but with 20 wins and nine conference victories, their resume just may be enough to propel them into the field.

“I really hope that we get a shot at the tournament,” Trakh said. “I think we’re one of the top 64 teams, and I think our kids deserve to play another game, if not two. Our RPI is good. Our strength of schedule is good. Our record is good.”

Courtney Ekmark beats the defense to score. Photo courtesy of Sun Devil Athletics.
Courtney Ekmark beats the defense to score. Photo courtesy of Sun Devil Athletics.

Game #4: Arizona State 57, Oregon State 51

What’s March without an upset?

The higher seed had prevailed in the first seven games of the Pac-12 Tournament, and after taking a six-point lead with just over five minutes to play, Oregon State was in position to make it 8-for-8.

But the jumper from Mikayla Pivec to extend the lead was the last field goal the Beavers would make on the night.

Oregon State missed its final 10 shots, and the Sun Devils scored 13 of the game’s final 14 points to pull out a 57-51 win in Seattle.

Courtney Ekmark had a game-high 18 for Arizona State (21-11, 10-8), with Kianna Ibis (14) and Robbi Ryan (12) also finishing in double figures, while Pivec and Katie McWilliams both had 14 for the Beavers (23-7, 14-4). Marie Gulich was held to just six points and four rebounds on the night.

“I’m just incredibly proud of our team,” said ASU head coach Charli Turner Thorne. “We’ve obviously had a great season and we’ve had a lot of close games. But we’ve come up short quite a bit.”

In front of a staunchly pro-Beavers crowd that made the trip from Corvallis, Arizona State jumped out to an early 10-2 lead, but in a sign of things to come, the two teams combined for just seven points over the final five minutes of the quarter.

The Sun Devils took a five-point edge into the break, after a jumper from Robbi Ryan just before the buzzer. ASU pushed that lead to nine to start the third, before the Beavers answered with a 10-2 run.

On a night that was marked by lengthy scoring droughts for both sides, a rapid-fire barrage of four consecutive 3-pointers brought some life to both offenses, while a three by McWilliams at the buzzer gave OSU a 46-44 edge.

The late spurt of offense would prove short-lived, as the Beavers shot just 2-of-15 from the field in the fourth. Those two shots pushed Oregon State to a 50-44 lead, before the Sun Devils’ fateful 13-1 run to the horn.

Oregon State head coach Scott Rueck said the tone was set early by Arizona State.

“They came out aggressive just like they did last Sunday, and did a great job on the boards,” he said. “We didn’t match the intensity early, and I think that kind of set the tone for the game, and then you’re behind the eight ball. Burned a lot of energy trying to get back in this game. You’ve got to give them credit.”

And as the Sun Devils move on, the Beavers are left to wait and see if they will earn a host seed for the NCAA Tournament.

“We were 9-1 in our last ten,” Rueck said. “We’ve beaten two Top 10 teams and we play in the Pac-12. So I think we should strongly be considered for it.”

Semifinal: Stanford v. Arizona State, 8:30 p.m. Saturday

The Cardinal and the Sun Devils split the season series, with both teams winning on their home floors. Stanford notched a 73-66 victory on Jan. 7, while Arizona State took the rematch 74-50 on Jan. 26.

“This is just going to be a fun, great game for us,” Turner Thorne said. “There is no easy games in March. So it’s going to be, obviously, it’s going to be a grudge match. We won at our place, they won at their place. I think we’re excited about that.”

Though it was unknown during her post-game press conference who the Cardinal would play, VanDerveer had praise for the way her team scouts its opposition.

“Our team really absorbs scouting reports very well,” VanDerveer said. “They work really hard watching video. I think my assistant coaches do a great job of scouting. So, we’ve played these teams before. We have film on them. We’ll be ready for either team.”

Dribbles:

Stanford secured its spot in the semifinals for the 16th time in 17 seasons. The Cardinal has won 15 of those contests.

With her 86th 3-pointer, Aliyah Mazyck set a new single-season USC record.

The last time Oregon State failed to reach the semifinals was 2015, when they were knocked off by ninth-seed Colorado.

OSU fell to 1-5 on the year when they are outrebounded.

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