And so it ends for the USC women's basketball team.
Hoping — praying, even — for a bid to the NCAA tourney, the Women of Troy were turned away Monday, the likely first ones out of the 64-team tourney. Last-minute projections had them sneaking in and earning a No. 10 seed, but, alas, it was not their day.
The NCAA selection committee decided on unexpected teams like Green Bay and Arkansas Little-Rock instead.
"Boy, it hurts," USC coach Michael Cooper said after speaking with his team following the announcement. "I thought that we had done enough this year to definitely put us in the tournament.
"But, again, the committee says they saw something different."
The Women of Troy finished 19-12 on the season — assuming they don't accept a bid to the NIT, something Cooper intimated was very possible. Regardless, in the former NBA star and WNBA coach's first season at the college level, his team made undeniable strides, beating teams like UCLA, Texas and Mississippi State and finishing an impressive 12-6 in conference play.
"I'm very, very happy and proud of our team," Cooper said simply Monday. "We've overcame a lot."
But not enough, evidently. A five-game losing streak in the dog days of late January and early February ended up costing the Women of Troy dearly.
A perhaps stoic Cooper expanded on how he thought his team might have fallen just a bit short:
As for next year, USC will lose four seniors who played significant minutes this season, but, as Cooper noted Monday, the Women of Troy return a core group of players to rival most. Four of the team's top five scorers return, including All-Pac-10 sophomores Ashley Corral and Briana Gilbreath.
"We're going to be good," Cooper said. "We've got some great people coming in. We've got a core group who knows the system and knows what the coaches want. We'll be alright."