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Women's Basketball Wins, Seeks WCC Tournament Title Today

USD women's basketball team celebrates winning its semifinal game in the UCU West Coast Conference Tournament. The USD women's basketball team celebrates after winning its UCU West Coast Conference Tournament semifinal over Pepperdine on Monday. USD and Portland meet for the WCC title at 1 p.m. Tuesday.

The University of San Diego women’s basketball team is one victory away from both winning a conference tournament title and playing in the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 12 years.

Myah Pace and Leticia Soares each scored 19 points and the team surged in the second half to defeat Pepperdine, 59-44, in a UCU West Coast Conference Tournament semifinal in Las Vegas’ Orleans Arena on Monday. The victory put the Toreros, the tournament’s No. 2 seed, into Tuesday’s 1 p.m. WCC Championship game against fourth-seeded Portland. The game will be televised live on ESPNU.

The Pilots reached the tournament final Monday by knocking off WCC regular-season champion and No. 11 nationally ranked Gonzaga, 70-69. The title winner will be the WCC’s automatic qualifier for the NCAA Tournament, something USD hasn’t won since 2008.

Whether seeing Gonzaga get upset just prior to their own game provided an additional boost or not, USD took a 17-11 lead after the first quarter. USD led 29-24 at halftime and outscored Pepperdine 30-20 in the second half to reach its first tournament title game since the 2017-18 season.

San Diego certainly had at least one advantage coming into Monday’s game. The team earned a triple bye after finishing second to Gonzaga in the WCC regular-season standings. Monday’s game was USD’s first of the tournament, which began on March 5. Pepperdine, which did get a first-round bye, won games Friday and Saturday prior to facing Gonzaga, the other triple bye recipient, on Monday.

But USD took nothing for granted after waiting to see who they would face in the semifinal. The teams had split their two meetings during the regular season with both winning at home. On a neutral court and given the circumstances, both teams were ready to do whatever it took to reach the title game.

"It was like a boxing match out there," said Cindy Fisher, who is in her 15th year as USD women’s head coach and is the 2019-2020 WCC Coach of the Year. "They battled from beginning to end and that's what they've done all year. I'm so incredibly proud of them for putting us in this position to play for a championship."

In addition to Pace’s offensive output, she also had six rebounds and three steals. Jordyn Edwards added eight points — five in the third quarter alone — seven rebounds and two steals for the Toreros (20-10).

San Diego outrebounded Pepperdine 38-31, led by senior Patricia Brossmann’s nine. The Toreros’ defense held Pepperdine to only 29.8 percent shooting from the field, including 11.8 percent from beyond the arc.

Monday’s performance behind them, San Diego is revving up to win a tournament title, a feat last achieved when the WCC Tournament was held at Jenny Craig Pavilion in 2008, when both the women and men’s teams defeated Gonzaga to earn their NCAA Tournament bid.

The Toreros have been in the NCAA Tournament three times in all. Kathy Marpe was the head coach for the 1993 and 2000 USD teams that won a WCC Tournament title. Fisher’s 2008 team was the first one she got to the WCC Tournament final, but that was followed by 2009, 2013 and 2018, losing each time to Gonzaga.

Portland, meanwhile, won the WCC Tournament title in 1994 and it started a four-year consecutive streak of reaching the tournament final, but the Pilots lost to San Francisco each time in 1995, 1996 and 1997. The 2019-20 team enters the title game with a 20-11 record. 

— Ryan T. Blystone

USD Athletics’ Amanda Roussin contributed to this story

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