SEATTLE — USC will hope the third time is the charm when the No. 8 seeded Trojans meet top-seeded Oregon State in Friday’s 6 p.m. quarterfinal of the Pac-12 women’s basketball tournament at Key Arena.
The Trojans used a balanced scoring attack to fend off No. 9 seed Washington State on Thursday night to reach the quarterfinals.
Oregon State, the regular season co-champions, had a bye.
The teams met twice in the conference season, including the opener when the Beavers had to pull away late for a 57-49 victory.
Oregon State earned the season sweep with a strong second half two weeks ago at home in a 76-54 victory. The Beavers led just 29-23 at the half and broke the game open with a 27-13 edge in the third quarter.
For the Trojans (19-12), they want to continue to play as they did in the second half against the Cougars, when they shot 60 percent (15 for 25) from the floor.
“I think we have to be aggressive. We have to be confident,” USC coach Cynthia Cooper-Dyke said. “(The Beavers) execute so well in the half court, we've got to make it an up-and-down game. We're going to have to do some things defensively to shorten that shot clock for Oregon State.
“I think at the end of the day, you know, they put five players out on the court like we do, and I believe in my players. I believe in their ability, and I believe in their ability to compete with anyone, and that is a great thing about basketball. Any given night you can get a win.”
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Cooper-Dyke knows that is the case as the Trojans won four games in four nights two years ago — defeating Oregon State in the championship game — to earn an automatic berth to the NCAA tournament.
USC likely needs to repeat that feat to get a bid this season.
“We don't want to get ahead of ourselves,” Cooper-Dyke said. “We want to look to Oregon State. We know they're great. They do a lot of great things, but we just want to take it one game at a time. We're not looking at what we did before. We're looking at what we have to do now in order to come away with a victory.”
Courtney Jaco led the Trojans with 19 points on Thursday despite sitting most of the first quarter after picking up two early fouls. Temi Fagbenli was impressive with 18 points and 17 rebounds and was all over the court for the Trojans.
She also blocked a potential game-tying 3-pointer by WSU’s Borislava Hristova to help seal the win.
“Temi made incredible plays down the stretch,” Cooper-Dyke said. “And it doesn't always show up on the stat sheet what Temi gives us, but the 17 rebounds showed up on the stat sheet. When you think about it, knocked down the big free throws and then got the charge and also blocked the 3-point shot. Got her hands on everything, literally. In the last 40 seconds she was everywhere. And she's the reason why we were able to maintain the lead and be in a position to knock down free throws later on in that fourth quarter. She was huge.”
She also helped open the floor for Jaco, who finished 5 for 6 from 3.
“During halftime coach talked a lot about reversing the ball, going inside out,” Jaco said. “In the first half we were kind of stagnant on offense. 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.”