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USC's NCAA hopes dimmed

March 11, 2011|Gary Klein

USC's quest to reach 20 victories ended Thursday.

So, perhaps, did the Trojans' chances of gaining a berth in the NCAA women's basketball tournament.

Arizona's 72-61 victory over USC in a Pacific Life Pac-10 Conference tournament quarterfinal at the Galen Center leaves the Trojans with a 19-12 record.

That's the same mark the Trojans had last season when the NCAA tournament selection committee passed them over on Selection Monday.

"I'm not going to say we'd turn it down if we got an invitation, but if you ask me there are other teams that are little more worthy than us," USC Coach Michael Cooper said.

Cooper had hoped his team would take advantage of a new conference tournament format that gave the two top-seeded teams -- Stanford and UCLA -- byes into the semifinals. The change allowed bubble teams such as the Trojans, Arizona and Arizona State an opportunity to possibly beef up their win totals and NCAA tournament prospects.

USC dispatched Washington State on Wednesday to move to within a game of the magic number, but Arizona's three-point shooting in the second half might have ended the Trojans' NCAA hopes.

"Since last year, when we found out we weren't going to the NCAAs, all our hopes and dreams were for this year, to end the season going to the tournament," senior center Kari LaPlante said. "We'll see on Monday how it is, but today was definitely rough."

Arizona (21-10) made it that way after displaying its three-point touch in the second half.

"We are an NCAA tournament team," Wildcats Coach Niya Butts proclaimed for the second consecutive night. "I don't care what the numbers say."

Arizona advanced to a semifinal game against top-seeded Stanford by extending a 29-28 halftime lead to a 19-point margin with less than eight minutes left. Guard Davellyn Whyte did most of the damage, making four of her five three-pointers en route to a game-high 24 points.

"We know when [Whyte] gets hot, you have to run her off the three-point line and I don't think we did a great job of that," USC guard Jacki Gemelos said.

The Trojans also missed numerous layups and shots close to the basket.

"It was just like there was a lid on the basket tonight," Gemelos said.

Cooper said the Trojans would accept an invitation to the women's NIT if one is offered, but he holds a slim hope that the NCAA tournament committee might call on the Trojans.

"If they say 'Southern California,' we're going to go there and we're going to play and we're going to give them hell," he said.





6 California48

3 Arizona State43

4 Arizona72

5 USC61



1 Stanford vs.

4 Arizona, noon

2 UCLA vs. 6 California, 2:30 p.m.



Championship: 11:30 a.m.

TV: Friday and Saturday,

Fox Sports West

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