PROVO — The BYU women couldn't overcome a cold-shooting second half on Wednesday night, as it proved to be the deciding factor that abruptly ended their postseason.
The Cougars (25-9) scored only 19 points and shot a dismal 23 percent, and visiting Southern Cal overcame a six-point deficit to take a 62-50 victory in the third round of the National Invitation Tournament.
"I've got to give a lot of credit to USC," BYU coach Jeff Judkins said. "They are very well-balanced; they have strength in a lot of areas."
Southern Cal coach Michael Cooper said his team's success was all about defense.
"From the beginning of the season, we always talk about defense. That's what is going to win us games," Cooper said.
The Cougars were down by four points near the end of the first half, but went on a 10-0 run to put them up 31-25 at halftime.
Cooper said while that wasn't a good way to end the half, he knew it wouldn't affect his team after the break.
"It was one of those things where you just walk off the floor and forget about the first half," Cooper said.
Southern Cal (22-12) did seem to put that behind them, as they started the second half with a run of their own, scoring 11 straight points.
Defensively, USC clogged the middle and made life hard for BYU during the final 20 minutes.
Kristen Riley's triple pulled the Cougars to within 45-42, but that would be the only field goal for BYU for almost seven minutes.
"You can't go that long without scoring a basket, especially against a team like USC, who doesn't make a lot of mistakes," Judkins said.
The drought resulted in a nine-point deficit with under four minutes left. Even with their shooting woes, BYU was within five points after Riley's jumper with three minutes remaining.
But Riley misfired on 2-of-4 free throws in the game's final two minutes, and BYU's shooters couldn't connect in a comeback attempt.
Cooper said that his team not being used to playing in high altitude had an affect.
"We tried to downplay it, but it was a bit of a problem, but we fought through it," Cooper said. "I had some players say, 'I'm winded,' and I told them, 'The game just started six minutes ago!'"
After the loss, Judkins praised his team.
"I'm so proud of what they accomplished this year," he said. "They're here for the right reasons; they're here to win. They worked hard and listened in every practice. Most coaches can't say that."
Senior Mindy Bonham, who had a game-high 21 points, was disappointed in the loss but proud of her playing time at BYU.
"You're as good as your last game, and unfortunately, we lost," Bonham said. "But it's been a great experience here."
Riley finished with a double-double, scoring 11 points and 10 rebounds. Haley Hall contributed 10 points. Bonham also grabbed six rebounds.
Briana Gilbreath led USC with 14 points, and also had eight rebounds. Christina Marinacci grabbed 10 rebounds and had eight points, while Jacki Gemelos finished with 13 points and seven rebounds. Teammates Cassie Harberts and Ashley Corral had 11 and 10 points, respectively.