By JIMMY ROBERTSON The Associated Press
BLACKSBURG, Va. — The USC women’s basketball team made it back to the NCAA tournament for the first time in nearly a decade, but the Trojans might be lamenting their first-round loss as a missed opportunity for a while.
Myah Selland scored 29 points to lead No. 9 seed South Dakota State to a 62-57 overtime victory over eighth-seeded USC on Friday night in the first round of the Seattle Regional.
Selland scored 16 consecutive points spanning the fourth quarter and overtime for the Jackrabbits (29-5), who won their 22nd consecutive game despite shooting 35.2% (19 for 54) and committing 20 turnovers.
“I mean, shoot, to me she’s a pro,” USC coach Lindsay Gottlieb said of Selland. “She scores at all three levels – when I say that, more from the free-throw line, on the block, and in from three. But their system and their offense makes it really hard. You can’t really double her because they will kick out for 3’s. She is constantly moving. They play in flow really well, and she’s a terrific player who got to her spots and made big shots.”
Destiny Littleton led USC (21-10) with 18 points, and she tied the score at 47-all on a 3-pointer with seven seconds left in regulation. Selland then missed a tough jumper at the buzzer, sending the game into overtime.
Selland scored nine consecutive points in overtime for the Jackrabbits, who opened the extra session with an 11-2 run and never trailed. Littleton had a chance to tie the score at 58, but missed an off-balance 3-point attempt with 14 seconds left and Tori Nelson’s two free throws with 11 seconds remaining all but sealed it for the Jackrabbits.
“Even late in the game when we had some separation, they came back and made a run, and we lost the lead and had to get the lead back,” South Dakota State coach Aaron Johnston said. “We felt like we had it won, and now it’s a tie game. And then we go into overtime and really play well in overtime.
“It just says a lot about the resiliency of our team and the ability to let go and move on, to be in the present. That’s fun as a coach. It’s just great to see that part of it rewarded.”
Rayah Marshall finished with 17 points and 13 rebounds for USC, which had numerous chances around the rim in the second half, but struggled to finish. As a result, the Trojans shot just 31.3% (21 for 67) and closed the season shooting worse than 32% in their final four games.
“I’m really proud,” Gottlieb said. “I’m proud of our team, and I’m proud of the people in the locker room. The journey we went on was an exceptional one. We wish it were longer. We wanted to keep playing. I’m really disappointed, but the predominant feeling is pride in this group and what they have done for our program.”
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Selland connected on 10 of 18 shots from the floor and 8 of 10 from the free-throw line to stand as the bright spot in a rather ugly game. The two teams combined for 40 turnovers and neither shot better than 35.2% from the floor.
“I think he (Johnston) put me in a lot of positions,” said Selland, who has scored at least 20 points in a game nine times this season. “We have a lot of sets that we had practiced all season and he put me in a lot of positions where I just felt comfortable and saw a few shots go in. I just let the game kind of come from there, but we all made really big plays throughout the game.”
USC, making its first NCAA appearance since 2014, held SDSU 17 points below its scoring average – the Jackrabbits came into the game 11th nationally at 79.4 ppg. Still, South Dakota outlasted the Trojans in a tough, low-scoring affair.