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Silver medal: USC women’s basketball finishes 2nd in final Pac-12 hoops season

The USC women’s basketball team has done it. The Women of Troy beat Arizona State on Saturday, 70-55, in a game which was never particularly close. USC clinched the No. 2 seed for next week’s 2024 Pac-12 Women’s Basketball Tournament in Las Vegas. USC finished second in the last season of Pac-12 women’s basketball before the Trojans move to the Big Ten next season. It’s a terrific achievement for a team which has impressed, inspired, and regrouped countless times over the past four months.

Let’s look at some of the highlights of Saturday’s lunchtime win over Arizona State in Tempe, plus some seeding and bracketing scenarios for the Pac-12 Women’s Basketball Tournament, which we will cover extensively in the coming week here at Trojans Wire:

RAVE REVIEWS FOR RAYAH

 Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Rayah Marshall and Kaitlyn Davis led USC to the huge win over Arizona on Thursday. Marshall did a lot of heavy lifting Thursday night and could have allowed that long marathon to affect her on Saturday afternoon. Nope. Marshall scored 7 first-quarter points and attacked the boards all game long. She finished with 15 points, 15 rebounds, and 5 blocked shots. She is playing her best ball of the season right now. If this is the player USC gets in the coming weeks, watch out.

JUJU FINDS HER GROOVE

 (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
(Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

JuJu Watkins wasn’t spectacular on Saturday, but she was certainly good, and a good version of JuJu is better than a good version of most other players. Watkins hit 8 of her first 13 shots before cooling off a little. She was much more efficient and controlled this game fairly consistently. She struggled against Utah and Arizona, so it was important that she restored order before the Pac-12 Tournament.

BETH BURNS' DEFENSE

 Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Beth Burns, USC’s lead assistant coach and defensive coordinator, got her players to lock in against Arizona State. ASU shot below 30 percent for most of the day before finishing at 33 percent due to a few baskets made after USC had put the game to bed. The Arizona game was exhausting, but this team really did focus on defense instead of allowing Thursday night’s draining battle to create a flat and disjointed performance for the early start on Saturday.

BENCH HELP

 Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

With the starters getting overextended on Thursday in Tucson, the bench needed to provide some help against ASU on Saturday. They did, scoring 11 points in the first half to help USC establish a 13-point halftime lead. This bench will need to be there in the quarterfinals of the Pac-12 Tournament so that JuJu Watkins and the other starters will have enough in the tank for the semifinals (should USC get that far) the next day.

FORBES AND PADILLA PUT IN THE WORK ON D, BUT STRUGGLE FROM THE FIELD

 Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

McKenzie Forbes and Kayla Padilla were part of a very effective USC defensive effort. That’s why they’re such great teammates and winners. However, their shooting strokes fell off this week against Utah, Arizona, and ASU. They hit just two of their first 13 shots (combined) on Saturday. Forbes had an especially brutal week of shooting. Forbes and Padilla need to be hitting (or at least, not missing in large quantities) for USC to be at its best.

FIRST-ROUND BYE

Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports
Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

USC gained a valuable first-round bye at the Pac-12 Tournament. The Trojans don’t have to play an extra game on Wednesday. They get 24 hours more rest and can gear up for Thursday. Hopefully the 7-versus-10 (seed) game on Wednesday is a punishing contest which leaves the winner drained for USC on Thursday, March 7, in Las Vegas.

NCAA TOURNAMENT SEED

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

This win moves USC one step closer to a No. 2 seed in the Women’s NCAA Tournament. USC is likely to be a No. 2 seed if it wins its quarterfinal game next Thursday. If it loses, it will probably be a No. 3 seed. If USC wins two games next week and makes the final of the Pac-12 Tournament, it will definitely be a No. 2 seed at minimum, and a No. 1 seed will be a possibility.

If USC wins the Pac-12 Tournament, it will likely be a No. 1 seed.

PAC-12 TOURNAMENT SCHEDULE

Candice Ward-USA TODAY Sports
Candice Ward-USA TODAY Sports

At press time, the bracket and full seedings for the Pac-12 Women’s Tournament had not been established, but when the bracket and seeds are finalized, we’ll have them for you. Watch this space.

The basic schedule: first round on Wednesday, March 6; quarterfinals on Thursday, March 7; semifinals on Friday, March 8, and the final on Sunday, March 10.

Story originally appeared on Trojans Wire