USC Women Take No. 5 Seed To Seattle For Pac-12 Tournament
Women of Troy open up with a first-round matchup against Arizona on Thursday.
March 3, 2014
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January 12, 2014
USC Women Fend Off Wildcats For 54-45 Road Win
The USC women's basketball team had to fend off the referees' whistles and a late push from host Arizona to bring home a road win today. Despite the obstacles and a spirited push by the Wildcats, the Trojans emerged victorious with a 54-45 victory, led once again by a strong day from Alexyz Vaioletama. The win in Tempe improves USC to 11-6 overall and to 4-1 in Pac-12 play, while Arizona goes to 4-11, 0-4.
2014 PAC-12 TOURNAMENT KeyArena (Seattle)
Thurs. (Mar. 6) --  USC vs.  Arizona (Pac-12 Net.) -- 2:30 p.m.
Fri. (Mar. 7) -- Seeds 5/12 winner vs. Arizona State (Pac-12 Net.) -- 2:30 p.m.
Sat. (Mar. 8) -- Semifinals (Pac-12 Net.) -- 6 p.m.
Sun (Mar. 9) -- Championship (ESPN) -- 8 p.m.
The USC women's basketball team got its winning touch back on the road last week as the Trojans now prep for a trip to Seattle as the No. 5 seed in the Pac-12 Tournament. The Women of Troy (18-12) have their eyes on securing a ticket to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2006, and their journey begins on Thursday (March 6) at 2:30 p.m. against No. 12 seed Arizona (5-24) at Seattle's KeyArena. A win there would put the Trojans up against No. 4 seeded Arizona State (22-8) in a 2:30 p.m. quarterfinal on Friday (March 7). The path from there would include a 6 p.m. semifinal on Saturday (March 8) followed by the championship game held at 8 p.m. on Sunday (March 9).
Pac-12 Networks will be televising the first three rounds of competition at the Pac-12 Tournament, with Anne Marie Anderson, Tammy Blackburn, Krista Blunk and Mary Murphy in rotation on the calls. Sunday's championship will be televised on ESPN. Live stats for all games will be available through the tournament central page at http://pac-12.com/2014-pac-12-womens-basketball-tournament. Live streaming broadcasts are also available online to Pac-12 Network recipients at pac-12.com/networks/pac-12-national/.
IN THE NATION
USC is unranked in the national polls as the Trojans enter the 18th week of 2013-14 competition. The Pac-12 has two teams ranked nationally in the AP poll: #4 Stanford, and #20 California. Arizona State and Oregon State are receiving votes.
THIS TIME LAST YEAR
The 2013 Trojans captured the No. 7 seed into the Pac-12 Tournament after one last road sweep that wrapped up the regular season and finished off conference play with a 7-11 record. The Trojans were 10-19 overall entering the 2013 tourney, and opened things up with a 64-57 win over No. 10 seeded Oregon State to advance to the quarterfinals. There, the Trojans were up against a tough California squad that ranked No. 5 in the nation. The Bears got a 78-59 win over the Trojans in that round to wrap USC's year at an 11-20 overall mark.
USC wrapped the regular season with a winning road run through Utah and Colorado last week. Against the Utes, USC was a balanced force. Led by a career-high 16 points from Kiki Alofaituli, the Trojans got eight players in on the scoring in securing a 67-57 victory over host Utah. The Women of Troy looked relatively comfortable on the floor in Huntsman Center, shooting 50 percent to overmatch their hosts in the first half. The Utes hit just under 30 percent in the first 20 minutes, although USC was struggling from the free-throw line to the tune of an 0-for-6 start from the stripe. Utah would have been lost without the efforts of Michelle Plouffe, who had a double-double by halftime with 12 points and 11 rebounds at the break. Her work down low was not enough to keep Utah in line with the Trojans' balance out of the gates, as USC got seven different scorers in on the action in the first half while also leading on the boards 22-18. The Utes would close to within three points during the second half as their shooting heated up a bit, but the Women of Troy were bound and determined to get the crucial road win. They'd finish ahead on the boards 44-40 and in the shooting column with a final 44-percent effort to overmatch Utah's 30 percent. Almost half Utah's points and rebounds came from the hands of Plouffe, who hauled in 27 points and 18 rebounds for the Utes. Ciera Dunbar also hit double figures with 14 points, but that was far from enough to match the Trojans' total team effort. Eight Women of Troy scored in the game, with four hitting double figures. Leading them all was Kiki Alofaituli, who had a career day with a team-high 16 points while bringing in seven rebounds. Brianna Barrett was next with 13 points, joined by Alexyz Vaioletama with 11 and Cassie Harberts with 10 for her 12th consecutive game in double figures. Alofaituli, Harberts and Kaneisha Horn each hauled in seven boards for the Trojan cause. Barrett also served up six assists. Three days later in Boulder, USC secured a fifth-place finish in the Pac-12 with a wild but strong finish for a 66-59 road win over Colorado. The Women of Troy led by as much as 14 points during the first half before the Buffs made a push to even the score in the second half. Colorado took a slim 1-point lead with 1:22 remaining only to see the Women of Troy dig in and ice the victory in tallying the last eight points of the game. While it was well below freezing outside, the Trojans were able to remain warm on the floor, shooting 48 percent in the first half of play to outpace host Colorado's 38 percent and take a 34-22 lead into the locker room at the break. Balance again was key for the Women of Troy, who had seven players in the scoring column by halftime while also winning out on the boards 20-16. There were 25 fouls whistled in the first half, marking a stop-and-start first 20 minutes of action as the fouls piled up on both rosters for the second half of play. The Buffs were able to gather up steam in the second half, however, heating up from the floor to heap pressure on the Trojans, who had cooled down significantly. USC shot a meager 26 percent from the floor in the second half while Colorado upgraded to 40 percent, but USC stayed strong from the free-throw line as the foul count continued to climb for both teams. In the end, USC had shrugged off a late CU lead and stormed to victory on a 26-of-34 effort from the stripe. Colorado hit just 9-of-21 in the game by comparison. The Trojans finished up shooting 35 percent from the floor to trail Colorado's 39 percent. The Buffs also wound up ahead on the boards 43-41. USC was led by a game-high 18 points from Ariya Crook and 14 points from Cassie Harberts. Crook also went 11of-12 from the line to help haul in the victory for the Trojans. Colorado had four players finish in double digits, let by 15 from Brittany Wilson and 10 apiece from Ashley Wilson, Zoe Beard-Fails and Jamee Swan.
BANNER WEEKEND AT GALEN
The Women of Troy made some historic moves during their winning weekend against the Oregon schools. Against the Beavers on Jan. 17, it was a career day for USC senior Cassie Harberts and junior Ariya Crook, who both cracked the all-time top-10 in different categories. Harberts passed up USC head coach and Trojan great Cynthia Cooper on the all-time scoring list, while Crook broke the century mark in career 3-pointers to climb to No. 10 there. Against Oregon, the USC women became the first team ever to score 100 points at the Galen Center with the Trojans' 109-85 victory. The fast-paced game saw 12 different Women of Troy score -- led by 30 points from Harberts -- as USC built up its highest-scoring game since 1982. The Trojans' whopping 109 final points notched the 34th triple-digit game in USC women's program history and the first ever at Galen Center by any team -- men's or women's, home or opponent. USC also dished out 33 assists in the game -- second most in program history. Crook matched her career best with seven to lead all, while Harberts served up a career-high six assists and finished up just one point away from her career high, tallying 30 points today. Freshman Courtney Jaco, meanwhile, matched her career high with 14 points on a 5-of-6 effort from the floor.
USC tallied its first win over a ranked opponent since 2011 when the Trojans upset No. 12 Colorado 55-45 during a busy stretch of three games in seven days -- all wins by the Women of Troy. On Jan. 3 against the Buffs, USC held No. 12 Colorado scoreless for the first seven minutes and last four minutes in a focused finish by the Trojans, who shrugged off six ties and 10 lead changes to clamp down and end the game on a 13-0 run to victory. After an 0-for-12 start, Colorado was able to warm up to a cool 21 percent in the half. It was enough of a warmup to cut into what had been a 12-point USC lead and make it a 23-20 margin with the Trojans in the lead at the break, shooting 26 percent from the floor. The tough Trojan defensive effort had the Buffs with a season-low 20- points at the half, while both teams held more rebounds than points with USC up 25-23 on the boards. In the second half, the Buffs worked into the lead for the first time, and were up by three points with 4:01 remaining. The Trojans locked in and dominated the rest of the game, getting four players in on the scoring to finish out the victory. USC ended up shooting 31 percent from the floor to Colorado's 28 percent. Both were season lows for the teams, but it was a marked drop off for the Buffs, who came into this game shooting 44 percent overall and averaging 77.5 points per game. USC won out on the boards as well, 45-41, and tallied a season-high 10 blocks in the victory. Cassie Harberts led all scorers with 19 points, finishing just a rebound away from a double-double with nine on the night. She would climb up in the USC record books as well, taking over at No. 12 all-time with 1,498 career points. USC's last win over a ranked team had been a 58-51 victory over No. 24 Gonzaga on Dec. 5, 2011, snapping a stretch of 16 winless games against ranked opponents.
USC made it a 3-0 start to its 2013-14 campaign under new head coach and Trojan great Cynthia Cooper-Dyke. The Women of Troy turned the tide on three opponents to kick off the new season, avenging losses taken last season to UC Davis, Fresno State and San Diego State. USC beat the Aggies 64-55 in a season-opening road tilt, then took down Fresno State 63-54 in Fresno. And in the Trojans' home opener, USC topped the Aztecs 65-61 to make it a 3-0 start, marking the first time since the 1998-99 season that USC has made such a winning start.
CAN'T STOP CASSIE
Senior Cassie Harberts is the centerpiece of the USC team and has established herself as one of USC's top players all-time. As she and the Trojans enter the Pac-12 Tournament, Harberts stands to play in and start more games than any other Trojan in USC history. She matched Cheryl Miller and two others with a program-record 128 appearances last week. Miller started all 128 of those games, but Harberts can beat her out with a start in Thursday's Pac-12 Tournament opener. Harberts entered her senior season ranked No. 16 all-time in scoring with 1,293 career points, having scored her 1,000th point as a junior. Now with 1,779 total points, she has overtaken USC head coach and Trojan great Cynthia Cooper, former teammate and current pro Briana Gilbreath, and Sparks standout Ebony Hoffman to now rank as USC's No. 8 all-time leading scorer -- 18 points away from the No. 7 spot. And with 893 career rebounds, she already ranks at No. 8 all-time in USC's history books. From the stripe, Harberts has taken over Lisa Leslie to now rank No. 4 all-time with 549 free throws made. As a freshman, Harberts tallied a 31-point game, which was the most points scored by a Trojan freshman since 1981. On Jan. 19, 2013, she tallied her second career 30-point game in leading the Trojans to a 109-85 victory over Oregon -- making the Women of Troy the first team, male or female, ever to score in triple digits at the Galen Center. Harberts also picked up the Pac-12 Player of the Week selection following the win. During her USC career to date Harberts has earned 2011 Pac-10 All-Tournament Team and 2011 Pac-10 All-Freshman Team honors, 2012 All-Pac-12 Honorable Mention, and 2013 All-Pac-12 Team and a pair of Pac-12 Player of the Week awards to go along with her consistent academic accolades. With nine double-doubles this season to date, she has recorded 26 in her career, and in her junior season she became USC's all-time record holder for free throws made (207) and attempted (298) in a single season. This past summer, Harberts won a gold medal as a member of the USA's World University Games team. She's since picked up national acclaim with selection to the Wooden Award Preseason Top-30 and Naismith Award Early Watch List. Harberts also was a nominee for the WBCA, NBCA and Allstate Good Works Team.
COOP COMES HOME
A USC legend has come home and the Women of Troy are ready to rise once again to the elite level of their glory days. Trojan great Cynthia Cooper has returned to USC, this time as head coach of the women's basketball team, having helped to lead the Women of Troy to back-to-back NCAA Championships as a student-athlete. Cooper then won an Olympic gold medal, four WNBA titles and went on to launch a successful career as a head coach. In the past seven years, Cooper has resurrected three collegiate programs and received three league coach of the year honors in return. But now she's returned to her roots to coach the 2013-14 Women of Troy back to dominance in collegiate women's basketball. Cooper is aided by a strong staff of coaches, including the new additions of associate head coach Brandy Manning and assistant coach Jualeah Woods. Woods is a Trojan herself, having played with Lisa Leslie and Tina Thompson and graduating USC in 1994. Assistant coach Evan Unrau is back for her second season with the Women of Troy. Cooper takes over the USC program following a disappointing 2012-13 season in which the Trojans missed the NCAA Tournament for the seventh consecutive season. At 18-12 overall and 11-7 in Pac-12 play to date this season, the 2013-14 Trojans have decisively passed up last year's win marks of 11 total and 7 in conference.
HEALTHY AND WISE
One thing that the team hadn't experienced in a while is the luxury of having 11 healthy players return to this year's roster. Injury depletion had crushed USC's ability to make progress in past seasons, but with a strong and experienced roster led by seniors Cassie Harberts, Desireé Bradley, Kate Oliver and Rachel Totten, this year is shaping up to be a different story. Harberts has maintained her constancy for the Trojans, having started every game since coming to Troy as a true freshman. Back from injury this year is sophomore point guard Jordan Adams, who has played in every this season, as has junior Alexyz Vaioletama, who has started every game. It wasn't until Jan. 3 that this Trojan squad was bitten by the injury bug, with two starters -- Ariya Crook and Kiki Alofaituli -- sidelined with injuries. Alofaituli missed three games, and Crook also missed three but returned to action on Jan. 17. Crook also missed the Feb. 27 game at Utah due to illness.
Alexyz Vaioletama has come into her own this season. She's nearly doubled her output from last season, going from 4.8 points and 4.6 rebounds per game as a sophomore in 2012-13 to stand as USC's third leading scorer (8.5 ppg) and No. 2 in rebounding (7.2 rpg) as a junior. She's recorded her first career double-doubles this season, and while in Arizona she led the team in scoring in both games, nailing a career-high 21 points (including the game-tying 3-pointer to force OT) at ASU and scoring 16 at Arizona.
BACK FOR MORE
USC returns all but one player from last year's roster, with grad Christina Marinacci the only loss from 2012-13. She was third on the team in scoring and second in rebounding, and finished her career as USC's No. 9 all-time rebounder (738), so the Trojans do have some sizable shoes to fill. In all, USC returns 11 letterwinners from last year's team, including nine players who started at least seven games in 2012-13. Ninety-one percent of USC's scoring was produced by those 11 players last season, including 88 percent of the rebounding. Cassie Harberts herself accounted for 29 percent of USC's points, 21 percent of its rebounds and 44 percent of its free throws made last season. Harberts, Kiki Alofaituli and Brianna Barrett all appeared in every game last year, while Alexyz Vaioletama and Ariya Crook missed only one game each.
THE NEW CLASS
USC has two true freshmen and three transfers added to the roster for this season. Drew Edelman and Courtney Jaco comprise the Trojan freshman class, with Edelman standing tall as a 6-foot-4 powerhouse under the basket. Fellow newcomer Jaco has fit in nicely at the point guard position has shown her knack for knocking down 3-pointers. Jaco had a big weekend in Arizona, scoring her first double-digit game at ASU (14 pts) and then adding nine points with a 6-for-6 effort from the free-throw line at Arizona. The Trojans have also brought in transfers Kaneisha Horn and Alexis Lloyd to add to the already impressive roster. Horn, a junior transfer from Alabama, adds a new dynamic to the team and the program as a versatile forward that fits well all over the court. Eligible to compete this season after having finished her undergraduate degree in three years at Alabama, Horn has played in all but one game this season. She has two seasons to play with the Trojans as she pursues a masters in social work. Lloyd will sit out the 2013-14 season after transferring from Virginia Tech. Maria Kemiji-McDonald has walked on to the team after a year at Michigan.
USC finished the 2012-13 season with an 11-20 overall record -- the program's first losing season since 2002-03 and matching the most overall losses in program history (USC also had 20 losses in 1998-99). Last year's Trojans finished seventh in the Pac-12 at 11-7, and was ousted in the Pac-12 Tournament quarterfinals by No. 2 seed California. Cassie Harberts, who scored her 1,000th career point on Jan. 13, 2013, would be selected to the All-Pac-12 Team while also setting USC program records for free throws made (207) and attempted (298) in a single season. Also scoring conference accolades last season were Brianna Barrett (Pac-12 All-Defensive Honorable Mention & Pac-12 All-Freshman Honorable Mention) and Ariya Crook (All-Pac-12 Honorable Mention).