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Cougars battle Trojans in first round of Pac-12 tourney

WSU lost in closing seconds against USC in sole matchup this season

Sophomore+guard+Johanna+Muzet+looks+to+dribble+the+ball+past+senior+guard%2Fforward+Mikayla+Cowling+during+the+game+against+California+on+Friday+at+Beasley+Coliseum.
Sophomore guard Johanna Muzet looks to dribble the ball past senior guard/forward Mikayla Cowling during the game against California on Friday at Beasley Coliseum.

Sophomore guard Johanna Muzet looks to dribble the ball past senior guard/forward Mikayla Cowling during the game against California on Friday at Beasley Coliseum.

GEORGE RODRIGUEZ | DAILY EVERGREEN FILE

GEORGE RODRIGUEZ | DAILY EVERGREEN FILE

Sophomore guard Johanna Muzet looks to dribble the ball past senior guard/forward Mikayla Cowling during the game against California on Friday at Beasley Coliseum.

AVERY COOPER, Evergreen reporter

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WSU women’s basketball enters the Pac-12 Tournament as the 10th seed and will face University of Southern California, which is first in the league in steals and turnover margin.

The last time these two teams faced each other it came down to an inbound pass by the Cougars. WSU failed to convert and lost the game 73-72.

Senior guard Caila Hailey said the team needs to focus on limiting its mistakes.

“Just making sure that we’re sound with the ball,” she said, “and that we’re not making dumb turnovers.”

Junior forward Louise Brown said keeping the Trojans on their heels will be important.

“What will be really important is pass fakes,” Brown said. “Getting them off-balance a little bit will really make it easier for us to make passes.”

USC junior guard Aliyah Mazyck is eighth in scoring in the Pac-12, and first in three-pointers made per game.

Brown said the Cougars need to make her uncomfortable from the start.

“You never want to let a player like that — who can get really hot really fast — get easy, comfortable shots,” Brown said. “We just got to make sure those first couple of shots make her second-guess the rest of the shots that she takes.”

Another weapon USC has is senior forward Kristen Simon, who is fifth in scoring and third in rebounding.

“She’s probably used to dominating players and dominating areas in the key,” Brown said. “I think it’ll be a good challenge for Nike [McClure] and Maria [Kostourkova], who will face her one-on-one, and then a couple times myself and Kayla [Washington] as well.”

If the Cougars succeed against the seventh-seeded Trojans, they will face the second-seeded Stanford University on Friday.

The last time the Cougars and the Cardinal faced each other, Stanford came out on top 70-57.

The Cardinal had four players in double-digit scoring. Junior forward Alana Smith had 20 points, freshman guard Kiana Williams racked up 15, senior guard Brittany McPhee added 12 and senior forward Kaylee Johnson finished with 10.

Stanford made 30 of its 64 shots in the game, while WSU made just 24 of its 71 attempted shots.

The Cougars are 10-5 when they have a higher shooting percentage than their opponent, and winless when they do not.

Additionally, the Cougars’ record is 6-6 when they allow under 70 points in a game, and 3-0 when they score 80 points or more.

WSU will tip off against USC 6 p.m. Thursday at Key Arena in Seattle. The game can also be seen live on Pac-12 Networks.

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Cougars battle Trojans in first round of Pac-12 tourney