USC sinks OSU at the buzzer

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Jamie Weisner had a career-high 27 points for the Beavers and assisted on a Deven Hunter layup to give the Oregon State women’s basketball team a one-point lead with 17 seconds remaining, but USC’s Alexya Vaioletama made a baseline bucket as time expired to defeat OSU in the teams’ Pac-12 opener, 56-55, on Friday night in Gill Coliseum.

“I hate losing [and] this is a game that was winnable,” Oregon State head coach Scott Rueck said. “The team did a lot of things worthy of a victory, but we didn’t get it, so there’s pain. We held this team to 31 percent shooting, we only had 12 turnovers, which has been an issue for us, and we had a couple of big-time performances, but hats off to USC for making the plays, staying in the game in the first half when we had control and obviously making the play that won the game.”

Weisner, who scored seven of OSU’s first nine points and 13 of its first 23, set career-highs in both points and field goals after scoring her 27 on 11-for-21 shooting. Her effort was the highest point-total for an Oregon State player since Talisa Rhea had 30 against Oregon on Jan. 9, 2010.

“I was nervous at first since we hadn’t played in a while, it was our first Pac-12 game and there was a lot of hype around it,” Weisner said of her performance. “Once I settled in, I started playing my game, but it sucks to lose. It makes you want to get it more next time.”

The game’s gritty action highlighted a back-and-forth second half which featured five ties and nine lead changes. USC (3-8, 1-0 Pac-12) pulled out to a 39-38 edge with 8:55 to go and grew that advantage to as large as five on two occasions before the Beavers clawed their way back.

Weisner hit her third three-point basket of the night late in the period to pull OSU (6-7, 0-1 Pac-12) within two, 52-50, with 2:46 on the clock. A Brianna Barrett layup extended the Trojans’ lead back to four until Alyssa Martin hit another Beaver triple just left of the circle with just 39 seconds left.

Oregon State used a timeout to re-group and set up its press, which proved fruitful when Hunter and Weisner trapped USC’s Ariya Crook in front of OSU’s bench, forcing a turnover and giving the Beavers possession with just over a half a minute remaining.

With the clock dwindling, a couple solid screens and some aggressive cutting gave Hunter a wide open lane to the rim and she was found by her fellow freshman Weisner as the latter was driving with her right hand across the key. The former laid it in for her only field goal of the game and sent the 1,217 fans in Gill into an uproar.

USC took possession with just over 10 seconds on the clock and the Trojans’ Cassie Harberts was fouled as the Beavers attempted to steal a pass. The junior missed both, but Oregon State was unable to place its hands firmly on the rebound and the ball trickled out of bounds, giving USC one last chance with 4.6 seconds left.

Crook received the inbounds pass across from her own bench and dribbled with her left towards the center of the court, finding Vaioletama on a backdoor cut along the baseline and leading the sophomore to flip the ball through the hoop as the horn sounded. The officials would gather around the replay monitor to ensure Vaioletama released the ball before time expired and after a few minutes determined the basket was indeed good.

The first half saw Oregon State grab a 25-20 lead at intermission, helped by a 13-2 run midway through, which erased a four point Trojan advantage and gave OSU its largest lead of the game at nine, 21-12. For over nine minutes in the frame, from the 14:33 mark until there was 3:21 until the break, the Beavers held USC to just four points. The Trojans 20 first-half points are the second-lowest total an OSU opponent has scored in the first period this season.

“I think there are a lot of positives,” Rueck said. “We had two really good opponents in Vegas, but we struggled. Tonight we went toe-to-toe with a really good team and gave ourselves a chance to win. I thought there was a lot of progress and we competed at a different level on both ends of the floor. We still have a long way to go as a team, but I think the wins are going to come if we continue to progress like we are.”

The game was heavily influenced by a large free throw disparity. The Beavers’ 24 fouls sent USC to the line 31 times, where the Trojans made 17. Harberts herself scored 11 of her team-high 27 points at the stripe to go along with eight of her team’s 19 field goals. OSU, on the other hand, attempted just 11 free throws, converting five.

The Beavers made up for that gap from deep, however, making six of their 18 attempts from behind the arc. The 33.3 percent mark from deep was the team’s second best of the season. USC was successful one just one of its 13 three-point shots.

As a group, Oregon State shot 37.9 percent (22-of-58) to USC’s 30.6 percent (19-of-62). The Trojans were able to position themselves for a 51-38 lead on the boards, including a 22-12 difference in offensive rebounds, which led to 23 second-chance points.