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USC women fall in NCAA tournament on foe's last-gasp shot, 71-68

SportsUSCCollege BasketballBasketballNCAA Women's Division I Basketball TournamentUSC TrojansPacific-12 Conference

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Briana Brown waited nearly 40 minutes for her first basket on Saturday, but she made it count.

The senior guard from St. John's hit a three-point dagger with 0.4 seconds remaining to beat USC, 71-68, in a first-round NCAA women's tournament game Saturday.

The loss sent the Trojans home early from their first tournament appearance since 2006, while St. John's moves on to play Tennessee on Monday.

USC Coach Cynthia Cooper-Dyke said the game was a tale of two halves.

"I thought we played and we executed in the first half," she said. "Second half, we just couldn't get shots to fall and didn't execute as well."

Before hitting the game-winner, Brown had missed all five of her field-goal attempts, including three from beyond the arc.

"Honestly, when I shot it I wasn't thinking anything," she said. "I mean, I know I haven't made a shot the whole game, but my teammates were behind me the whole way through. 'You're going to get that shot. You're going to make the next one.' And it happened to be the big one."

The loss was especially bitter for USC since it was in control for much of the game.

The Trojans led by as many as 11 points in the first half, and St. John's took its first lead with only 3 minutes 7 seconds left in the game.

The loss ruined a career night from sophomore guard Brianna Barrett, who scored 24 points.

But St. John's guard Aliyyah Handford was even better, scoring 27 points and frequently penetrating to the basket, even after USC switched to a 1-2-2 zone midway through the second half.

On its final possession, Coach Joe Tartamella said, St. John's wanted to make sure it got the last shot.

"We actually worked on getting, you know, a look for either Briana or [Keylantra Langley] over the last week or so, and it just so happened we made a great play and were able to execute and made a shot," he said.

However, Barrett did nearly make a long desperation shot that hit the backboard before bouncing off the front rim with 0.1 of a second left.

For USC, the loss marks a disappointing end to the season, but Cooper-Dyke said she was proud of her team.

"No one believed we could get here, even this far," she said. "We did, we won the Pac-12 [Conference] tournament championship and I'm very proud of everything that we've accomplished as a team today."

sports@latimes.com

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