LOS ANGELES - Michael Cooper worked hard to win five NBA championships as a player for the Los Angeles Lakers, but he finds it much easier to win as a coach.
All you have to do, Cooper reasons, is load up on high school All-Americans.
Freshman forward Cassie Harberts, one of six prep All-Americans on the USC Trojans roster, poured in a career-high 31 points Wednesday to propel USC to a 78-66 triumph over Washington State in the opening round of the Pacific-10 Conference women’s tournament.
The eighth-seeded Cougars finished 8-23 after losing their final six games. The Cougars are 0-10 in the 10-year history of the tourney.
Fifth-seeded USC (19-11), fighting for an NCAA tournament berth, advanced to a quarterfinal game tonight against No. 4 seed Arizona (20-10) at USC’s Galen Center.
USC, taller and thicker than the Cougars, dominated inside play at both ends of the floor. The 6-foot-2 Harberts led the way with six offensive boards and 14 total rebounds.
“I just put my mind to helping my team in any way I could,” Harberts said.
The Trojans stressed inside play with all-conference guard Ashley Corral serving a suspension for an undisclosed violation of team rules. Corral starred at Prairie High School in Vancouver, Wash.
“Their offensive rebounding on the front line was tremendous,” WSU coach June Daugherty said of the Trojans.
Jazmine Perkins, a 5-10 junior, topped the Cougars with 17 points, 11 rebounds (tied with Katie Madison) and five steals. Perkins’ energetic play drew cheers from an estimated 500 spectators.
“As a teammate, I see her going hard like that, it makes me want to go harder,” Sage Romberg said.
Romberg, a freshman, came off the bench to score 15 points. WSU shot 35 percent from the floor.
Arizona 90, Oregon 89: The Wildcats avoided an upset when ninth-seeded Oregon (13-16) missed two free throws and a 3-pointer in the final 5.6 seconds.
The 179 combined points was a tournament record. Soana Lucet and Davellyn Whyte both scored 23 for Arizona. Ify Ibekwe added 19 points and 15 rebounds.
Ariel Thomas led Oregon with 29 points and six assists. Amanda Johnson had 25 points and 11 rebounds for the Ducks, who are coached by ex-Lakers coach Paul Westhead.
Arizona State 50, Oregon State 44: The third-seeded Sun Devils (20-9) overcame 36 percent shooting to down the 10th-seeded Beavers (9-21).
Dymond Simon led ASU with 13 points, but she missed 11 of 15 shots. Sage Indeni and Alyssa Martin both had 10 points for Oregon State.
Arizona State vs. California, 3 p.m.
Arizona vs. Southern Cal, 5:15 p.m.