USF women shock San Diego, advance to WCC Tournament title game 

LAS VEGAS — After a first half she classified as "awful," USF women's basketball coach Jennifer Azzi wondered what message to impart to her players about a 42-29 halftime deficit to San Diego in the West Coast Conference Tournament semifinals.

As is often the case with Azzi, she opted for a positive approach. She told her team to let go of the first half, but pick it up defensively going forward. After allowing the Toreros to shoot 63 percent in the first half, thanks to lots of clean looks, the sixth-seeded Dons held second-seeded USD to 17 percent from the field in the final 20 minutes on the way to a thrilling 65-57 win at the Orleans Arena.

USF will face No. 5 BYU in the today's 1 p.m. championship game. The Dons are seeking the program's first NCAA Tournament bid since 1997.

"We dug a hole, but I was really impressed with the way our team fought," Azzi said. "In the second half, they picked up the defensive energy, and that was a credit to how bad they wanted it."

USF's dynamic trio of Taj Winston (18 points), Zhane Dikes (16) and Taylor Proctor (10) combined for 44 points — Proctor also added 10 rebounds, four assists and two steals — and nine Dons scored in the game, continuing the recent trend of outstanding bench production.

"The coaches can give us a game plan, but the players have to get it done," said Winston, who sealed the game with a strong layup to put USF up 63-57 with 28 seconds to play. "We weren't playing our best in the first half, but we got it done."

Said Dikes: "We had to take ownership. San Diego is great, so we came together and told each other to fight and work hard, or else they were going to take it away."

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Matthew Snyder

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