College Hoops

USC defense remains elite even as season ends in NCAA Tournament

USCโ€™s elite defense loses steam, bench depth becomes an issue

The USC womenโ€™s basketball team lost in the NCAA Tournament, and in the postseason, moral victories are not the goal. That said, we can all stand back and appreciate just how good this defense continued to be until the very end of its season.

South Dakota State entered this game averaging 79.4 points per game. The Jackrabbits use floor spacing, screens and cuts extremely well. They have a roster which is very cohesive and knows how to play together. There were and are no weak spots to attack on this offense in terms of pouncing on players who donโ€™t understand how to play or donโ€™t grasp where to be on the court. Every SDSU player is well-schooled by coach Aaron Johnston.

What USC did try to do: Make sure the South Dakota State supporting cast didnโ€™t break free. Myah Selland (29 points) and Paige Meyer (16) got plenty of points on their own, but the rest of the Jackrabbit team scored 17 total points. USC executed a game plan in which it funneled the action through one or two players, forcing them to earn every bucket and not giving the Jacks more avenues to score.

The plan could not have worked out much better. USC coach Lindsay Gottlieb and assistant Beth Burns devised a scheme which limited SDSU to 45 points in regulation, over 34 points lower than the teamโ€™s per-game average. Even with overtime, and a lot of free throws entering the equation when USC had to foul late to stay in the game, SDSU finished more than 17 points below its average.

This defense excelled, underscoring how strong a foundation the Trojans have established at one end of the floor. If they figure out the offense next season, watch out.

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