SEATTLE – Deven Hunter posted her third double-double of the season with a career-high 19 points and 11 rebounds, Sydney Wiese added 17 and Ruth Hamblin set the tournament’s blocks record, but USC rallied past Oregon State 71-62 in the Pac-12 Tournament Championship at KeyArena in Seattle on Sunday night.
The loss was OSU’s first in more than five weeks and snapped a string of 11 consecutive victories, tied for the second-longest streak in school history and best since 1982-83.
The Beavers were going for the first conference title of any type in school history to cap a magical turnaround season. Oregon State, the first team outside California or Arizona to reach the conference title game, could very well be headed to the NCAA Tournament a year after finishing 12th in the conference. OSU has not earned a berth since 1996.
"I think this team certainly deserves it. I don't know why we wouldn't be in the tournament. I don't see that argument," Oregon State head coach Scott Rueck said. "I've looked, of course, and I think this team has earned the right to play in it. But it's not up to me."
USC scored the first nine points of the second half, causing havoc with its press defense. The Beavers committed turnovers on four of their first six possessions to start the stanza. When they got in their offense, OSU missed 11-of-15 shots to start the final 20 minutes, and started 1-of-7 on 3-pointers.
Kiki Alofaituli, Ariya Crook and Cassie Harberts combined to score the first 13 points of the second half for USC. Harberts' jumper with 15:50 left gave the Trojans a 42-40 lead it never relinquished.
The Beavers went nearly nine minutes without a field goal between Wiese's 3-pointer with 11:53 remaining and Hunter's driving layup with 3:03 left. By the time Hunter scored, the deficit was too much to overcome. Oregon State got within five, but Harberts scored with 1:17 left with one on the shot clock and the Trojans hit free throws to hold on.
In the first half, Oregon State’s trademark defense stifled USC and choked the Trojans off at the rim. USC made five of its first eight shots on the night, but finished the opening frame by going 4-of-19 from the floor. Over a six-minute span in the middle of the period, OSU held the Trojans without a field goal.
The Beavers shot nearly 44 percent in the first and took a 36-29 lead into the locker room, but Brianna Barrett triple for USC at the buzzer swung a little bit of momentum back to USC. It would score the first nine points coming out of intermission and that 12-0 run spanning both halves pulled the Trojans back into the game.
Oregon State hadn’t surrendered 70 points in the past 16 games, since allowing 80 to Oregon in a Beaver win on Jan. 11. When USC went up 6-5 early on a Harberts finish at 16:42 it was the first time OSU had trailed in the tournament.
Hamblin’s 13th block of the weekend, which came with 8:05 to go in the first half set a new Pac-12 Tournament record, surpassing Jayne Appel’s 12 in 2008. She finished the tournament with 18, which equals Appel’s career tournament record.
For their efforts, both Hamblin and Wiese were named to the All-Tournament Team, becoming the first Oregon State players to earn that honor since Felicia Ragland in 2002. OSU and USC were the only teams with multiple players on the squad.
In the three games, Wiese averaged 19.3 points, 3.7 rebounds and 3.3 assists while Hamblin averaged 9.0 points, 10.3 rebounds and 6.0 blocks per contest.