USC squanders Destiny Littleton’s late-game heroics in NCAA tournament loss

As if it were a video game, Destiny Littleton’s game-tying three-pointer with seven seconds left in regulation gave USC’s women’s basketball team an extra life.

But the Trojans squandered it. USC will have to wait another year for its first NCAA tournament victory since 2006.

Despite a record-breaking effort from Rayah Marshall, the eighth-seeded Trojans were ousted from the first round of the tournament by No. 9 South Dakota State, losing 62-57 in overtime at Virginia Tech’s Cassell Coliseum on Friday night.

The Trojans (21-10) held the Jackrabbits (29-5) to their fourth-lowest scoring total of the season, but USC’s defensive efforts weren’t enough. South Dakota State has now won 22 straight games and will face host and No. 1 seed Virginia Tech on Sunday.

In addition to her double-double of 17 points and 13 rebounds, Marshall swatted away seven shots, which makes her the owner of USC’s single-season program record for blocks. The record was previously set in the 1992-93 season by Hall of Famer Lisa Leslie, who had 95. Marshall finished this season, her sophomore campaign, with 98.

Littleton scored 18 points and Kadi Sissoko added 10 for USC.

South Dakota State was powered by two-time Summit League Player of the Year Myah Selland, who ended with 29 points and nine rebounds. Paige Meyer chipped in 16 points.

USC and South Dakota State were evenly matched in most facets of the game, but the Trojans lost the rebounding battle by six, missed five free throws, and shot 4% worse from the floor than the Jackrabbits did. Those were the razor-thin margins that the contest was decided by.

The Trojans built themselves an early advantage over the Jackrabbits by opening the game with a 12-2 run. South Dakota State — which entered this contest with the nation’s 10th-best scoring offense at 79.4 points per game — shot just 2 of 12 from the floor in the first quarter.

South Dakota State chipped away at that deficit in the second quarter, and led by as much as seven points in the third.

After falling behind, USC put together a 9-2 run in the fourth quarter and the two sides swapped leads before Littleton’s timely shot sent the game into an extra period. Selland started overtime by embarking on a 9-2 run of her own to put a three-possession cushion between her Jackrabbits and the Trojans.

USC will lose at least a pair of starters this offseason in Littleton and Sissoko, who have exhausted their eligibility. But No. 1 overall recruit JuJu Watkins will be arriving to help Marshall and the rest next season.

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