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From Triumph to Tragedy: USC Women’s Basketball’s Elite Eight Nightmare

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PORTLAND, ORE. — The USC Women’s Basketball team stood on the precipice of history. After a dominant season and a thrilling ride through the NCAA tournament, their journey into the Elite Eight came to a close. Facing the mighty UConn Huskies, they fought valiantly, but ultimately fell short in a 80-73 loss.

The air crackled with nervous energy as the game began. USC’s early lead built a flicker of hope within Trojan fans, only to see it momentarily dashed as UConn stormed back. It was a seesaw battle, each USC basket met with a swift and punishing response. The weight of history hung heavy in the air – 30 years since USC’s last Elite Eight appearance. Could this team break that streak?

AP Photo/Howard Lao

At the half, the score was tied. But fate, it seemed, had other plans. The Huskies emerged from the locker room with renewed fire, their shots falling with ruthless efficiency. Yet, the Trojans refused to buckle. JuJu Watkins refused to buckle. Her determination blazed as she clawed back points, her rebounds a testament to her grit.

Hope dwindled in the final minutes. A relentless UConn surge felt like a death knell; the Trojans’ dream slipping away, point by agonizing point. But even as the final buzzer pierced the arena, one could sense the resilience in their eyes. They had left it all on the court.

Tears and Triumph

JuJu Watkins, despite the loss, shattered a national record with her final points. It was a bittersweet victory, highlighting her extraordinary freshman season. McKenzie Forbes’ clutch three-pointers had fueled the Trojan fire throughout the game, while Rayah Marshall’s consistent double-double demonstrated her unwavering talent.

Apr 1, 2024; Portland, OR, USA; UConn Huskies guard Paige Bueckers (5) celebrates after beating the USC Trojans in the finals of the Portland Regional of the NCAA Tournament at the Moda Center. Mandatory Credit: Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports

For USC, this loss stung. Yet, it was the end of an era, not as Final Four qualifiers, but as a team reborn. They finish their season with a remarkable 29-6 record, a testament to their spirit and dedication. The future burns bright for these Trojans, and one thing is certain: the disappointment at this Elite Eight defeat will be fuel for their comeback.

Notable:

  • JuJu Watkins breaks the NCAA women’s basketball freshman scoring record with a game-high 29 points, finishing with 920 points this season.
  • Watkins also pulled down 10 rebounds for her ninth double-double of the year.
  • McKenzie Forbes hit five 3-pointers, a hallmark of her stellar 32-game streak and clutch shooting.
  • Rayah Marshall’s double-double (11 points, 11 rebounds) is her 15th of the season, a testament to her consistency and dominance.
  • USC’s eight-game win streak was snapped against UConn.
  • This season marks the most wins for USC (29-6) since their 1985-86 campaign.
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