Trojan Tough: USC Women Fight Back To Win SMU Thanksgiving Classic Crown|
Nov. 29, 2014
DALLAS, TEXAS -- The USC women's basketball team overcame an uncharacteristically chilly start and found a hot streak in the second half to turn the tables on host SMU and claim the Trojans' fifth straight win on a 64-57 comeback victory over the Mustangs tonight in Dallas. The win wraps up the SMU Thanksgiving Classic championship for the Women of Troy, who had five players finish in double figures in snagging the road win. USC senior Alexyz Vaioletama was named the tournament MVP and was joined on the all-tournament team by teammate Jordan Adams. USC improves to 5-1 overall with the victory, and SMU goes to 3-3.
USC struggled to find an offensive rhythm in the first half of the game, shooting a cool 24 percent in the first 20 minutes with spotty shooting counteracting an otherwise effective defensive effort. The Trojans forced 14 SMU turnovers and nabbed 10 steals in the first half, but struggled to convert at the other end. The Mustangs, meanwhile, generated a lead and hung on with 39 percent shooting to hold a 23-18 halftime advantage on the Trojans. USC's second half saw similar defensive energy paired with much more productive offensive output. The Trojans souped up their attack and clawed back on top to stay when Vaioletama broke a 40-40 tie with 8:25 remaining. USC would fend off the Mustangs the rest of the way, improving on their attack by shooting 50 percent in the second half to round out the game at 36 percent from the floor. SMU wrapped at 44 percent, but was plagued by 24 turnovers thanks to a season-high 18 steals by the Women of Troy. SMU led on the boards 44-37, while USC was more productive from the free-throw line and nailed four 3-pointers.
Kaneisha Horn -- who was a perfect 5-for-5 from the free-throw line -- led the Trojan pack with 13 points and nine rebounds, and was joined by four other double-digit scorers. Jordan Adams added 12 points while matching her career high of seven assists. Alexyz Vaioletama tallied 11 points, and Courtney Jaco and Brianna Barrett had 10 points apiece. Jaco also contributed a career-high five steals. SMU had Mikayla Reese and Gabrielle Wilkins each score 12 points, with Alicia Froling adding 10.
SMU bungled its first few possessions, making a string of turnovers that helped the Women of Troy take an early lead. USC struggled to capitalize on all the fresh starts, though, and SMU made a move to take back the lead as the Trojans kept misfiring on the offensive end. After six minutes of scoring silence, the Trojans finally spoke up when Courtney Jaco snapped the cold streak to make it 9-6 SMU with 12:30 on the clock. Alexyz Vaioletama followed that up with a take and spin to the hole, and USC looked to finally be back in a groove. USC would craft a 9-0 run that bumped them back into the lead as the 10-minute mark approached in the first half. Again, SMU got shots to fall while USC came up empty, and the Mustangs edged ahead once more. A three-point play converted by Kaneisha Horn set things even at 18-18 with 4:02 to go, but that would be all the Trojans would manage down the stretch, falling behind to trail 23-18 at the break.
It took a rally of buckets from Aleyxz Vaioletama and another three from Jaco to bring the Trojans back even. Jaco's second bomb locked it at 31-31 with 14:05 on the clock, breathing new life into the Trojan game plan. Two more defensive stops and finishes from the Trojans helped heat things up, and USC stepped into the lead for the first time since the midway point of the first half. As the teams crossed the 10-minute threshold, USC was gripping a slim 39-38 lead. Jordan Adams would lift USC into its largest lead of the game, up five at two different points. Her first 3-pointer of the night lifted USC up 52-47 with 5 minutes to go. After SMU came up empty from the free-throw line, Brianna Barrett would deliver another steal and another three-point play to carry the Trojans to a 55-47 advantage with 4 minutes left. USC USC lead would sit at six entering the final minute thanks to a solid visit to the stripe from Adams, who hit both to make it 59-52 Trojans. Horn hit next, edging USC out 61-53 with 28 ticks to go to leave the Mustangs chasing but running out of time. USC would fend off SMU from the line and finish up with a 64-57 comeback road win to add to the Trojans' resume.
USC now returns to California for another road test. The Trojans will head up to Saint Mary's College next weekend to take on the Gaels at 5:30 p.m. on Saturday (Dec. 6) in Moraga, Calif.