Updated Saturday, January 12, 2013 at 12:46 AM
LOS ANGELES — A fast start and a career scoring performance by sophomore Jazmine Davis were not enough to compensate for a sputtering finish as the Washington women's basketball team dropped its first Pac-12 game, an 81-72 loss to USC on Friday night at Galen Center.
The Huskies (10-4, 2-1) sprinted to a 12-4 lead, fell behind by 14 before halftime and tied it 61-61 with less than seven minutes to play, but could never regain the lead as the Women of Troy (6-8, 3-0) closed the game by outscoring UW 20-11.
Even 37 points by Davis, the fifth-highest individual game total in school history, was not enough.
"I did not know that," Davis, a 5-foot-7 sophomore, said with eyebrows raised when told of her feat. Had a three-point attempt fallen in the final seconds, she would have been the just the second UW woman to score 40 in a game. Giuliana Mendiola scored 43 vs. UCLA on Feb. 1, 2003.
"But I would rather take 10 points and a victory than 37 points and a loss," Davis said.
After breaking out to that 12-4 lead on 5-for-8 shooting, including three-pointers by Kristi Kingma and Talia Walton, UW hit only 1 of 19 shots over the next 11 minutes and fell behind 29-15.
While USC's Ariya Crook sank four three-pointers without a miss, the Huskies missed six three-point attempts during that stretch and 5 of 6 free throws.
Yet Davis broke that dry patch with a three-pointer and scored 11 of UW's final 16 points in the half to cut Washington's deficit to 38-31. Davis had 17 in the half.
Washington pulled as close as 45-43 early in the second half, fell behind 56-47, then tied it at 61-61 on a three-pointer by Kingma with 6:56 left to play.
Ultimately, UW's off-target shooting (24 for 70, 34.3 percent) couldn't slow USC's interior offense and rebounding superiority. The Trojans had 53 rebounds (18 offensive) to UW's 38.
"I don't think we were very good defensively, and USC really made us pay," UW coach Kevin McGuff said. "They moved the ball and made shots, and they were the aggressor on the glass."
Besides Davis, only Walton reached double figures for UW, scoring 15 on 6-of-15 shooting. Kingma finished with eight. Mercedes Wetmore sank 1 of 7 shots from the field (four points); forward Aminah Williams hit 1 of 6 (six points). Heather Corral (two points) was the lone Washington bench player to score.
Cassie Harberts, the Pac-12's third-highest scorer, led USC with 24 points. Crook, who finished with six threes, had 23.
"We had stretches where we got great shots, and we had stretches where we were really impatient and took horrible shots," said McGuff, whose squad plays at No. 14 UCLA on Sunday. "We just could not find any consistency tonight."
Davis (12 of 28 from the field, 6 of 15 on three-pointers) concurred.
"We started off with great focus," said the Pac-12's No. 2 scorer. "We didn't maintain it. When we start so well, we all just want to get buckets and play and drive, and I think we lose sight of playing together."
Percentages: FG .343, FT .667. Three-point goals: 10-27 (Walton 2-5, Williams 0-1, Kingma 2-5, Davis 6-15, Gilling 0-1). Team rebounds: 5. Blocked shots: 0). Turnovers: 9 (Walton 2, Williams 3, Wetmore, Kingma, Davis 2). Steals: 9 (Walton 3, Williams 2, Wetmore, Gilling, Corral, Anderson). Technical fouls: None.
Percentages: FG .403, FT .810. Three-point goals: 10-23 (Harberts 0-1, Vaioletama 2-5, Barrett 0-1, Bradley 2-6, Crook 6-10). Team rebounds: 6. Blocked shots: 8 (Oliver 3, Harberts 3, Vaioletama, Calhoun). Turnovers: 14 (Oliver, Harberts 4, Vaioletama 5, Alofaituli 2, Bradley, Crook). Steals: 6 (Harberts 3, Barrett 2, Crook). Technical fouls: None.
Attendance: 720. Officials: Anita Ortega, Kyle Bacon, Bart Baldwin.
Washington @ UCLA, 2 p.m.
Jazmine Davis made six three-pointers.