Jan. 14, 2015
USC Women's Basketball Release Sunday, Jan. 18
USC (11-5, 3-2 Pac-12) vs. UCLA (7-9, 3-2)
Pauley Pavilion (Westwood, Calif.) -- 7:30 p.m.
TV: Pac-12 Networks
THE LAST MEETING
December 30, 2014
USC Women Fall In Battle To The Bruins 59-52
The USC women's basketball team ended up outgunned in tonight's Pac-12 kickoff showdown against crosstown rival UCLA. The Bruins and the Trojans traded runs and leads throughout, but it was UCLA's 3-point attack and an inconsistent Trojan effort from the free-throw line that left USC out of reach and out of time in a 59-52 loss to the Bruins tonight at Galen Center. The Pac-12 opener between the two rivals leaves USC at 8-4 overall and 0-1 to start conference action, while UCLA goes to 5-7, 1-0.
The USC women's basketball team seeks to avenge a loss to rival UCLA taken in the teams' Pac-12 opener at the close of the last calendar year. The Women of Troy have grabbed some winning momentum for the rematch following a road sweep last week as they now turn to take on their rival Bruins. USC (11-5, 3-2 Pac-12) will pay a visit to UCLA (7-9, 3-2) for a 7:30 p.m. rivalry clash on Sunday (Jan. 18) at Pauley Pavilion in Westwood.
Sunday's USC-UCLA game will be broadcast live on Pac-12 Networks, with Tammy Blackburn as analyst and Krista Blunk on play-by-play. A live streaming broadcast is also available online to Pac-12 Network recipients at pac-12.com/live. Live stats will be available through links on the USC women's basketball schedule page at usctrojans.com.
IN THE NATION
The Trojans received votes in the USA Today Coaches Preseason Poll, but does not appear in this week's national polls. UCLA also is unranked.
USC showed some guts last week in grinding out two wins on the road. In well under 48 hours, the Trojans topped Colorado 81-61 and then took down Utah 46-43 to drum up an important road sweep. Up against the Buffs first in Boulder, USC dug in and rallied for an impressive road win, topping Colorado with a powerful push to the finish line. USC never trailed in the game, but the Buffs did force the issue in trimming what had been a 19-point USC lead down to nine during the second half of play. That prompted a gut check for the Women of Troy, who responded and finished to grab the conference win. USC muscled out to an early lead on the Buffs and ballooned its advantage out to a 19-point margin entering the final minute of the first half. The Buffs would find a late spark to nudge the score to a 40-27 Trojan lead at the break, as the teams finished out the first 20 minutes of play near-even on the scoring front. USC was shooting 43 percent in the first half, and Colorado was at 42 percent, but the Trojans had help from a pair of 3-pointers as well as 14 points generated off Colorado turnovers. The Buffs would trim USC's lead down to nine points midway through the second half, but the Women of Troy dug back in. USC's winning rally came on some stubborn play and in forcing its way to the free-throw line. By the final buzzer, USC had gone 23-of-31 from the stripe, including a 17-of-22 effort in the second half. Colorado finished ahead from the floor in shooting 44 percent overall to USC's 43 percent, and the Buffs led on the boards 41-36. USC's stingy defense also drummed up 21 Colorado turnovers, generating 22 points for the Trojan cause.USC was led by a game-high tag team effort of 20 points apiece from senior Alexyz Vaioletama and freshman McKenzie Calvert. Brianna Barrett also joined in with double figures, providing 17 points for the Trojans. USC's Jordan Adams nabbed a career-high five steals, while Kaneisha Horn put up a career-high three blocks to help further the Trojans' defensive strength in the game. Colorado had three players finish in double digits. Jamee Swan led with 14, with Lauren Huggins netting 13 and Jasmine Sborov adding 10. ABout 38 hours later, USC endured a cool day in Utah and managed to pull off the road win despite a season-low scoring effort in Salt Lake City. The Women of Troy didn't get a bucket from the floor to fall in the final seven minutes of play, but were still able to fend off host Utah to cling to a 46-43 victory by the final buzzer. The game was locked up 11-11 after 10 minutes of play, but the Trojans finally got a run going in the last stretch of the first half. USC ended the half on a 6-0 scoring surge to hold a 26-17 advantage at the break, shooting 37 percent from the floor in the first half of action. Utah was at 32 percent at that point, and neither team had nailed a 3-pointer by halftime. The Trojans would wind up without a single 3-pointer in the game, having taken only three overall, but got just enough from the free-throw line to edge out the Utes. USC finished the game shooting a season-low 30.4 percent and with a season-low 46 points, but was helped by a 12-of-16 effort from the free-throw line. USC freshman Kristen Simon iced two huge free throws with 10 seconds to go to craft that crucial three-point advantage. Utah, meanwhile, missed seven free throws in the second half and finished up 9-of-19 from the line. The Utes were 36 percent from the floor and outrebounded the Trojans 38-35 overall. USC's only player in double figures was Brianna Barrett with 13 points -- marking the only game this season with just one player in double digits. Simon led the Trojans with nine rebounds. Utah received 14 points apiece from Taryn Wicijowski and Paige Crozon, while Joeseta Fatuesi hauled in 10 rebounds for the Utes.
CALVERT CAPTURES CONFERENCE HONORS
USC's McKenzie Calvert became the first Trojan to earn Pac-12 accolades this season with her selection as Pac-12 Freshman of the Week on Jan. 5. She is the first USC freshman ever to win the award, which began in 2012. The guard took over as USC's top scorer on the season thanks to back-to-back double-digit games for the Trojans to kick off Pac-12 play this week. Calvert served up a team-high 16 points in a loss to UCLA and then came up with a 12-point outing along with a career-high five rebounds in a solid win over Oregon. Now averaging 11.9 points per game and standing as the team's second leading scorer, Calvert is shooting 43 percent from 3-point range, trailing only sophomore Courtney Jaco in total threes made with 23 makes to date. The freshman hit double figures in five of the last eight games for the Women of Troy, sparked by a career-high 21 points nailed vs. Cal State Northridge on Dec. 9. She also hit a team-high 20 at Colorado last week.
The Bruins are 7-9 overall and 3-2 in Pac-12 play after beating Utah 49-46 and topping Colorado 90-84 last week on the road. Nirra Fields leads the Bruins in scoring and rebounding with 14.3 points and 6.2 rebounds per game. UCLA returns three starters from last year's team, which went 13-18 overall and finished eighth in the Pac-12 with a 7-11 conference record. USC is 47-40 all-time against rival UCLA in a series dating back to the 1971-72 season. Last season, USC beat UCLA 56-54 in Westwood and then won 68-54 at Galen Center. UCLA's last wins over the Trojans came in the 2012-13 season with a pair of Bruin victories that year. This season, UCLA claimed the first clash with a 59-52 win over USC on Dec. 30 at Galen Center.
A big key to success for the Trojans in 2014-15 has been a ferociously balanced attack. Nine of USC's 10 active players have each hit double digits at least once this season. And USC has had at least four different scorers hit double digits in all but seven games. Even in a season-opening loss at now-top-ranked South Carolina, USC had three players hit double digits, with career highs set for all three -- Kaneisha Horn (11 pts), McKenzie Calvert (11 pts) and Drew Edelman (10 pts). Two days later at Davidson, USC had all five starters score in double figures. The trend continued with Jordan Adams, Brianna Barrett and Alexyz Vaioletama staying the most consistent during USC's five-game win streak. That run was snapped when just two Trojans hit double digits in a loss at Saint Mary's, but the Trojans reloaded for the very next game and landed four more double-digit scorers in a win over CSUN on Dec. 9. On Dec. 14 against Sacramento State, USC piled season-best six players in double figures, with Kiki Alofaituli, Barrett and Horn each recording the first double-doubles of their careers. To date, USC has three players averaging double-digit scoring and two more just outside that mark. Senior Vaioletama leads all with 12.8 ppg, followed by freshman Calvert at 11.9 and Barrett at 10.7. Sitting right in reach with 9.8 ppg is Horn, followed by Courtney Jaco at 8.0 ppg. As a team, USC has shot over 50 percent from the floor in six games and is shooting 44.3 percent overall, including a 35.9 percent effort from beyond the arc. Until the winning trip through Colorado and Utah, the only games with three or fewer USC players in double digits had been losses (South Carolina, Saint Mary's, Oklahoma State, UCLA and Oregon State). The anomalies were a big win with just three double-digit scorers at Colorado and then a low-scoring win with a season-low 46 points on 30.4 percent shooting with just Barrett finishing in double digits.
TIME TO SHINE
Now 16 games into the 2014-15 season, there are at least three Trojans who have truly stepped up their production significantly. Jordan Adams, Kaneisha Horn and Courtney Jaco have each more than doubled their scoring from last season, filling an important offensive void left by USC's departed players from last season. Adams set a career high and scored the winning baskets for the Trojans with 15 points in USC's overtime win at Long Beach State. After producing just 2.8 points per game last season, Adams has upped her game and is scoring 6.2 points per game to go along with 4.1 assists per game. Now a senior after playing her first season at USC last year as a transfer, Horn notched a new career high with 11 in USC's opener at South Carolina and has since almost doubled that in scoring 20 vs. Sacramento State. She's now up to 10.7 points per game after going for 3.0 last season. Another Trojan who is flourishing with a year under her belt is Jaco. A sophomore, Jaco nailed five 3-pointers at Long Beach State to set her career best with 15 points in that one. She averaged 3.7 ppg as a freshman and is at 8.0 ppg this season for the Women of Troy as a full-time starter.
THE CHAMPS ARE BACK
Coming off the program's first-ever Pac-12 Tournament Championship and a return to the NCAA Tournament scene, the USC women's basketball team has raised its profile as the Women of Troy dig into their 2014-15 campaign. Under the guidance of second-year head coach Cynthia Cooper-Dyke, this season's squad is taking that taste of victory and staying hungry for more. Although the bulk of USC's scoring numbers came from two Trojans in particular last season, USC's secret weapon during its run to the conference crown was the ability for different players to shoulder the load at key moments. Sure, the All-Tournament Team honorees Cassie Harberts and Ariya Crook gave USC big boosts throughout the season, but it was the breakout performances of Alexyz Vaiolatama, Kiki Alofaituli, Brianna Barrett and Kate Oliver that packed the crucial extra punches as the Trojans pushed through the postseason. Harberts and Oliver have since graduated, and Crook has been dismissed from the program due to violation of team and university policy, but the Women of Troy are still a force to reckon with. Harberts and Crook combined for over 1,000 points last season, but it was Vaioletama who ran the rebounding game for the Women of Troy. A captain again this season, Vaioletama looms large as a standout senior now. She doubled her production from her sophomore season to her junior year, averaging 8.6 points and 7.7 rebounds per game last season. Not far behind her on the scoring front was Barrett, now a junior guard, who busted open some huge performances last year and looks primed for more. She hit 24 points for the Trojans in their return to the NCAA Tournament, going big in USC's NCAA First Round loss to St. John's in Knoxville, Tenn. Let it be noted, too, that Vaioletama was huge on the boards in that one, hauling in 11 rebounds in USC's season finale.
Brianna Barrett, Alexyz Vaioletama and Kiki Alofaituli each took at turn or a few as USC's top scorers in different games last season. Their ability to stand up as impact players is already proven, and Cooper-Dyke is eager to see other Women of Troy rise to dominance as well this season. Expect to see senior Kaneisha Horn and redshirt sophomore Jordan Adams hit their strides this season. Both have a full season of healthy play under their belts now, so the rust is officially off and their bodies are strong and prepped for battle. Adams and Barrett have shown power at the point, and the backcourt can also be capably led by sophomore Courtney Jaco, who can run the show and rifle in the three like a sharpshooter. She was third on the team in 3-pointers nailed last season as a freshman. Jaco appeared in all 35 USC games, so her experience level is high as she settles in for her sophomore campaign. Fellow sophomore Drew Edelman, meanwhile, packs the post for the Women of Troy. With the departure of Harberts, Edelman has been called upon for increased time in the paint. She made 15 game appearances in 2013-14. Now prepped for battle, redshirt sophomore guard Alexis Lloyd has entered the backcourt fray for her first action as a Trojan this season.
THE NEW CLASS
USC's freshman class is a unique blend, and together earned a ranking of No. 13 in the nation according to All Star Girls Report. Guard McKenzie Calvert has been called upon to get up to speed fast for the Trojan backcourt, while posts Amy Okonkwo and Kristen Simon have made an impact down low. The entire group has already made their presence known in the scoring column. Calvert leads the pack with 11.9 points per game with two starts in her 15 appearances, and is shooting an impressive 43.4 percent from 3-point range. Simon has stepped in for 15 games and is averaging 6.7 points and 5.5 rebounds per game. Okonkwo, too, has appeared in 15 games and is averaging 3.1 ppg. Freshman Chyanne Butler played in USC's second game of the season at Davidson and then requested her release from the program.
TAKING ON TOP TEAMS
USC face four fellow NCAA Tournament teams (South Carolina, Fresno State, Cal State Northridge and Oklahoma State) during the nonconference stretch this season. Of those squads, the Gamecocks and the Cowgirls finished 2013-14 in the national rankings. Pac-12 play will put another set of four NCAA Tournament teams on tap for the Trojans. In addition to USC's postseason journey, the conference saw Arizona State, California, Stanford and Oregon State take trips into 2014 NCAA action, while four more Pac-12 teams played in the WNIT last season.
TUNE IN TO THE TROJANS
The 2014-15 Women of Troy will get plenty of face-time this season with 17 regular-season USC women's basketball games scheduled to be televised this season on the Pac-12 Networks. All but two conferences game are due to be televised. All told, USC face eight teams that reached the NCAA Tournament last year, and play a total of nine regular-season contests against teams that were either ranked or receiving votes in the final national polls last season. All non-televised USC home games will be streamed live at http://pac-12.com/videos/university-southern-california.
When the 2015-16 season rolls around, USC will have a set of three new Trojans ready for their first action. The most recent addition to that crew comes with the transfer of guard Sadie Edwards (Meridan, Conn.) to USC from UConn. She is currently enrolled in classes and is practicing with her team at Troy, but her eligibility for competition won't kick in until Jan. 2016. Meanwhile, USC has signed two newcomers to national letters of intent to join the Women of Troy as true freshmen for 2015-16 -- forward Marguerite Effa (Los Angeles) and guard Aliyah Mazyck (Charlotte, N.C.).
USC made its first appearance in the NCAA Tournament since the 2005-06 season after earning the league's automatic bid after winning the Pac-12 Tournament for the first time in school history. USC upset regular-season champion and top-5 ranked Stanford to reach the title game in head coach Cynthia Cooper-Dyke's first year at the helm. With a 22-13 overall record and an 11-7 Pac-12 finish Trojans had more overall wins and Pac-12 wins than a year ago. USC posted an upset of then-No. 12 Colorado for their first win over a ranked opponent since 2011 and also had a big upset at No. 23/22 California. Six of the team's seven league losses were by 10 points or less. USC opened the 2013-14 campaign with a 3-0 start, the team's best since 1998-99. Junjor Ariya Crook and senior Cassie Harberts led the team in scoring, averaging 15.8 and 15.4 ppg, respectively, while Harberts grabbed 7.3 rpg. Crook was named Most Oustanding Player of the Pac-12 Tournament while Harberts was named to the Pac-12 All-Tournament Team and to the All-Pac-12 team for the second year in a row. Harberts was also honored by the WBCA as an all-region team member. Also earning All-Pac-12 accolades were Brianna Barrett (Pac-12 All-Defensive Honorable Mention), Courtney Jaco (Pac-12 All-Freshman Honorable Mention) and Alexyz Vaioletama (Pac-12 All-Defensive Honorable Mention).