Written by Caroline Deisley and Sarah Bergstrom, USC blog contributors
After a three-game losing streak, the Women of Troy bounced back to top rival UCLA 68-54 on Saturday. The victory would not have been half as exciting without the help of roughly 5,000 special guests visiting USC for the annual "A Day in Troy."
The day began with buses of local kids arriving on campus where they were welcomed by nearly 200 student-athletes who led them on special campus tours that included stops at the brand new Heritage Hall and the state-of-the-art John McKay Center. From there, the youth participated in a variety of activities promoting USC's S.C.O.R.E. initiative that teaches kids how to serve the community through outreach, responsibility and education. Student-athletes provided their insight on the four quarters of the S.C.O.R.E. initiative which are physical health, academic excellence, teamwork and community responsibility.
USC's Director of Community Outreach, Matt Ackels, was thrilled with the day's success noting the importance of the genuine involvement of the student-athletes. "Many of these kids have never seen a college campus before or at least imagined what life is like as a college student," said Ackels. "We've had incredible student-athlete participation because our athletes are really invested in taking their position in the community and using it for good."
The Women of Troy absolutely dominated cross-town rival UCLA thanks to a tremendous defensive effort from the entire team. Senior captain Cassie Harberts led the team in scoring with 17 points and also contributed 9 rebounds and 4 assists. The Trojans beat the Bruins when they first played in December but only by a mere two points. Head coach Cynthia Cooper was ecstatic to sweep rival UCLA in her first year as head coach but more importantly was fired up to get back on the winning horse before hitting the road.
"I thought this was one of our best starts to a game and start to a second half. We started the game with the correct level of intensity with defense and then we executed on the offensive end," said Cooper. "Our defense allowed us to get out on the fast breaks and then on offense we shared the ball better this game than our last three. I think the results speak for themselves."
Coach Cooper specifically highlighted the impressive production from the bench especially from freshman Courtney Jaco and senior Desiree Bradley. In the previous matchup, Jaco and Bradley were held to a combined five points, but they bounced back Saturday by contributing a combined 15 points to the Trojans' effort.
After Ariya Crook opened the game with an emphatic three-pointer, the Trojans never lost the lead and now improve to 8-4 in conference play. Next weekend, the Women of Troy visit the state of Oregon to take on the Ducks and the Beavers as they look to defeat their Pac-12 competitors for the second time.