- Associated Press - Friday, March 7, 2014

SEATTLE (AP) - Even if they don’t win the conference tournament title, Cynthia Cooper-Dyke believes the season resume USC has put together that now includes 20 wins and a trip to the Pac-12 semifinals is worthy of an NCAA bid.

Charli Turner Thorne believes Arizona State deserves the same fate, even with the Sun Devils getting knocked off by the Trojans 59-57 in the Pac-12 quarterfinals on Friday.

“Before this game I thought our resume was pretty strong,” Cooper-Dyke said. “Playing in the Pac-12 is equally as tough as playing in the ACC or SEC, Big 12 included. We have some really strong teams in the Pac-12. So I really feel like this win has added to that resume and built a case for us. If we don’t win the Pac-12 championship, then we at least are in a position to get an at-large bid. So I think we’ve done all that we can do.”

Cassie Harberts scored 14 points, Ariya Crook added 13 and USC held off Arizona State’s late rally, a key win for the Trojans’ NCAA tournament hopes.

Kiki Alofaituli knocked down the winning basket for the No. 4 seed Trojans, hitting a 15-footer with 1:23 left to give USC a two-point lead. The Trojans then watched Arizona State miss on three chances for the win as Katie Hempen saw a 3-pointer rim out and Deja Mann twice miss 3s, including a desperation heave from 25-feet at the buzzer.

Alofaituli made just 2 of 6 shots, but came through with the clutch basket for the Trojans. USC (20-12) will face top-seeded Stanford in the semifinals on Saturday night.

The thought coming into the tournament was USC and Washington were the two teams who had an opportunity to play its way into the NCAAs with an impressive run. Washington was bounced in the first round by Utah, while the Trojans edged Arizona before knocking off the Sun Devils.

Next on the agenda for USC (20-12) is top-seeded Stanford in the semifinals on Saturday night.

Hempen led Arizona State (22-9) with 12 points, while Mann, Kelsey Moos and Joy Burke all finished with 10. Arizona State’s 22 wins should be good enough for a tournament bid, but the Sun Devils faded late losing six of their final eight games.

Nevertheless, Turner Thorne is confident there is postseason basketball ahead for the Sun Devils and a chance to get healthy before the NCAAs arrive.

“It really goes back to your full body of work. And I think ours is very strong. I do think that we should be in the tournament,” Turner Thorne said. “I’m probably not totally objective, but I’ve been doing this for 27 years and I’ve had teams with lesser resumes get in, so I think overall we have done enough.”

USC overcame foul trouble in the first half that saw Crook play just a handful of minutes. Cooper-Dyke was careful to make sure her top scorer could play the second half without worry of fouling out and the plan worked.

USC led by as many as nine midway through the second half, then watched Arizona State chip away. The Sun Devils twice pulled within two, but USC got 3-pointers from Crook and Courtney Jaco to stay in front. The Sun Devils finally pulled even at 57-all when Hempen knocked down her fourth 3-pointer from the corner with 2:19 left.

Alofaituli pull up jumper gave USC the lead, before the Trojans saw Hempen’s 3-pointer rim out and Mann miss her two looks in the final minute.

“I think we’ve kind of struggled this year with finishing games, but it’s definitely something we’ve been working on,” Harberts said.

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