USC Women Find A Winning Groove To Top Colorado 66-51
The USC women's basketball team turned the tide on a season slump by making it a winning weekend at home. The Trojans topped off a season sweep of Utah and Colorado by following up Friday's win over the Utes with a 66-51 win over the Buffs today at Galen Center. Four Women of Troy hit double figures in today's winning effort to keep USC charging to victory. The back-to-back wins improve USC's overall record to 13-10 and makes its Pac-12 mark now 5-7. Colorado goes to 10-13, 3-9.
USC Women Tally 79-63 Win In Exhibition Play
The USC women's basketball team got contributions from eight Trojans on Tuesday night in exhibition action at the Galen Center. The Women of Troy dealt out a 79-63 win over Love & Basketball in USC's first competition of the season, receiving a double-double from sophomore center Kari LaPlante along with double digit scoring from three other Trojans on the night. Love & Basketball's Jessica Cheeks - a former Trojan - led all scorers with 22 points.
The USC women's basketball team is bounds for Seattle once again, having picked up the No. 8 seed into this year's Pac-12 Tournament at KeyArena. The Women of Troy enter the 2015 tourney as the defending champions after making history 2014 with four wins in four days to win it all as a No. 5 seed. This year, USC wrapped conference play in a tie for a seventh-place finish alongside WSU, which got the No. 7 seed by virtue of its head-to-head win over the Trojans last week. So, the No. 8 seeded Trojans (15-14) are lined up to face No. 9 seed Colorado (13-16) in a 6 p.m. first-round clash on Thursday (March 5) to fight for the right to move on. The winner will face top-seeded Oregon State (26-3) in the quarterfinals at 6 p.m. on Friday (March 6). The path from there would include an 8:30 p.m. semifinal on Saturday (March 7) followed by the championship game at 6 p.m. on Sunday (March 8).
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 and with Jill Savage working on the sideline. Sunday's championship will be televised on ESPN. Live stats for all games will be available through the tournament central page. Live streaming broadcasts are also available online to Pac-12 Network recipients at pac-12.com/networks/pac-12-national/. Saturday's semifinals will also be streamed free for all viewers at pac-12.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. This week, there are three Pac-12 teams in the national AP poll along with two teams receiving votes. No. 8 Oregon State leads the way, with No. 9 Arizona State a step behind and No. 19 also ranked. California and Washington are receiving votes.
THIS TIME LAST YEAR
USC shocked everyone but itself last season, winning the program's first-ever Pac-12 Tournament Championship. In the championship game, the No. 5 seeded Trojans barely blinked when No. 3 seed Oregon State took an 11-point lead in the first half, and USC would drive right past the Beavers in the second half to win it all with a 71-62 final victory. USC had muscled top-seeded and No. 4-ranked Stanford out of the title match for the first time in history with a 72-68 semifinal upset. The Trojans had kick-started their winning rally with a 59-54 win over No. 12 seeded Arizona in the opening round. Another tight battle would ensue in the quarterfinals, where USC notched its first upset of the tourney with a 59-57 over No. 4 seed Arizona State. USC was the first team in the conference tournament's history to play four games in the four-day event, let alone the first team to WIN all four of those games. The relentless effort of the Women of Troy got them to a 22-12 overall record and punched a ticket to the 2014 NCAA Tournament with an automatic bid, marking the first time since 2006 that USC made an appearance in the tourney.
USC had a tough trip through Washington last week without the services of senior leading scorer and second leading rebounder Alexyz Vaioletama (concussion). USC first wound up outgunned by host Washington as the Huskies made a second-half push to a 60-48 win over the visiting Trojans in Seattle. USC had held a slim halftime advantage, but the Huskies heated up in the next 20 minutes to pass up the Trojans. The loss puts USC at 15-13 overall and now 7-10 in Pac-12 play, while Washington goes to 21-8, 10-7. The Trojans overcame a six-point deficit in the first half with a slow but steady effort in the final seven minutes of the first half. While Washington's hot shooting slumped to a simmer, USC overcame the deficit and moved into a 25-24 lead by halftime thanks to a 6-0 push to close the half. USC was shooting 32 percent through those first 20 minutes while the Huskies hit at 37 percent, but the Trojans were holding the slim advantage at the half. While the Trojans stayed the course in the second half with another 32-percent effort from the floor, Washington would up its game. The Huskies wrapped action with a 42-percent shooting effort in the game and picked up the pace on the boards, outrebounding the Trojans 26-14 in the second to keep USC at bay for a winning finish. The Women of Troy had two players finish in double figures. Senior Kaneisha Horn topped out with 13 points, and Jordan Adams added 12. Both finished just a board away from a double-double with nine rebounds apiece. Washington, meanwhile, got a game-high 27 points from Kelsey Plum along with 11 points apiece from Talia Walton and Jazmine Davis. Aminah Williams led all on the boards with 11 rebounds for the Huskies. Vaioletama would remain sidelined for the regular-season finale at Washington State, where USC ran out of juice in Pullman, pushing to close the gap late in the game but winding up on the losing end of a 68-62 decision to host Washington State. The Trojans had trailed by as much as 11 during the second half of play before muscling their way to within three in the final minute, only to see WSU finish it off from the line -- where both teams spent a great deal of the game. USC was shooting well in the first half but was plagued by a poor rebounding. An imbalanced 22-9 rebounding margin along with a 6-of-12 free-throw effort hamstrung the Trojans through the first 20 minutes. USC was shooting 55 percent from the floor to beat out WSU's 44 percent, but the Trojans still trailed 35-31 due to their struggles from the stripe. USC refocused its efforts on the boards in the second half, but WSU still retained the advantage as the final count tilted to a 54-28 Cougar rebounding lead. Both teams' scoring pace would cool in the second half, slowed by many more trips to the free-throw line. By the final whistle, USC had shot 42 percent from the floor and was 16-of-24 (67 percent) from the stripe. WSU wrapped at 37 percent from the floor and a 19-of-28 (68 percent) free-throw outing. Those three extra free throws made and one extra 3-pointer were the difference in this one. USC was led in scoring by McKenzie Calvert's 18 points, with Horn adding 14 points and Brianna Barrett delivering 10 points and a team-high seven rebounds. Washington State was paced by senior Tia Presley's 28 points to go with double-doubles from Mariah Cooks (13 points, 18 rebounds) and Lia Galdeira (11 points, 12 rebounds). USC freshman Kristen Simon was not on last week's trip to Washington due to violation of team rules.
BIG ON THE BOARDS
The Women of Troy enter the week leading the Pac-12 in offensive rebounds (14.7 per game through Feb. 28). USC was particularly impressive on the boards Jan. 23 and 25, when the Trojans hauled in 25 offensive rebounds vs. Cal and then tallied 20 vs. Stanford -- outrebounding both teams overall as well. In all, USC has grabbed 20 or more offensive rebounds in four games, and was just off that mark with 19 O-boards grabbed at Stanford and another 19 tallied vs ASU. The top rebounders for the Trojans are Kaneisha Horn and Alexyz Vaioletama, who average 6.9 and 6.8 rebounds per game, respectively, to date. Both seniors have upped their aggression on the boards in conference play, too. Vaioletama is averaging 7.6 rebounds per game in Pac-12 play, and Horn is at 7.1 in conference games.
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. 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 10.3 points per game and standing as the team's second leading scorer, Calvert trails only sophomore Courtney Jaco in total threes made with 35 makes to date. The freshman has hit double figures in 12 games for the Women of Troy, highlighted by a career-high 21 points nailed vs. Cal State Northridge on Dec. 9. She also hit a team-high 20 at Colorado and recently had 18 at WSU.
A big key to success for the Trojans in 2014-15 has been a well-balanced attack. All 10 of USC's active players have each hit double digits at least once this season. And USC has had four or more different scorers hit double digits in 11 games, including four in the Feb. 13 loss at Stanford. Even in a season-opening loss at now-No.2-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. Senior Vaioletama leads all with 12.3 ppg, followed by senior Horn and freshman Calvert at 10.3 ppg apiece. Junior Barrett is just off the mark at 9.3 ppg to date. As a team, USC has shot over 50 percent from the floor in seven games (all wins) and is shooting 41.5 percent overall, including a 31.2 percent effort from beyond the arc. Outside of two wins vs. Utah, the first at Colorado and the Feb. 15 win at Cal, the only games with three or fewer USC players in double digits have been losses (South Carolina, Saint Mary's, Oklahoma State, UCLA, Oregon State, Cal, Stanford, Oregon, ASU, Washington and WSU). The anomalies were big wins with just three double-digit scorers at Colorado and at Cal, at home vs. Utah, and then a low-scoring win at Utah with a season-low 46 points on 30.4 percent shooting with just Barrett finishing in double digits. The Feb. 13 loss at Stanford was the first time this season that USC has had four double-digit scorers and lost the game.
TIME TO SHINE
This 2014-15 season has seen at least four 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. What's more, senior Alexyz Vaioletama has upped her game even more. She had doubled her effort from her sophomore season to her junior season, and now as a senior she's going even bigger. Vaioletama tops the Trojans with 12.3 points per game after a junior campaign in which she averaged 8.6 ppg. Also this 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. She'd better that with a 21-point outing vs. Cal. After producing just 2.8 points per game last season, Adams has upped her game and is scoring 7.2 points per game to go along with 3.9 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 10.3 points per game after going for 3.0 last season and has notched her first career double-doubles this season. Another Trojan who has flourished 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 7.0 ppg this season for the Women of Troy with 23 starts. Jaco also stands as USC's top 3-point shooter with 46 makes to date, ranking her No. 16 all-time in single-season threes.
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 10.3 points per game with seven starts in her 26 appearances, and is shooting 35 percent from 3-point range. Simon has stepped in for 25 games and is averaging 6.8 points and 5.5 rebounds per game. After her first career start at Washington, Okonkwo has appeared in 26 games and is averaging 3.4 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 posted a 2-2 record against its 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 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. So far this season, USC is 0-7 against ranked teams (No. 2 South Carolina, No. 16 Oklahoma State, No. 11/7 Oregon State, No. 11/19 Stanford and No. 12 ASU).
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.).
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.
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).