Women's Basketball
    USC Women Ride Win Streak To Texas For SMU Thanksgiving Classic

    Brianna Barrett and the Trojans are off to Texas this week for action at SMU.
    Nov. 25, 2014

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    THIS WEEK
    The USC women's basketball team has a Texas Thanksgiving in store this week, taking a three-game win streak to Dallas for competition at the SMU Thanksgiving Classic on Nov. 28-29. The Women of Troy (3-1) open up against Sam Houston State (0-3) with a 5 p.m. CT game on Friday (Nov. 28). Depending on the outcome of that game, USC will face either host SMU (2-0) or Florida A&M (1-3) at either 5 or 7 p.m. CT on Saturday (Nov. 29).

    THE LAST MEETING
    Love & Basketball (Exhibition)63
    USC79
    October 28, 2008
    Galen Center
    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.

    SMU THANKSGIVING CLASSIC CENTRAL PAGE

    FOLLOW ALONG
    Live stats and available streaming information for games at the SMU Thanksgiving Classic this week are all located at the Tournament Central page, linked above.

    IN THE NATION
    USC received votes in the USA Today Coaches Preseason Poll, but does not appear in either of week's national polls. Sam Houston State, SMU and Florida A&M also are unranked in this week's national polls.

    LAST WEEK
    USC tacked up two more wins last week to craft a three-game win streak. The Trojans pulled off a 90-85 overtime win at Long Beach State first, and then cruised to a 68-50 victory over Fresno State in USC's home opener. In Long Beach on Friday, USC fought through a wildly tense game and prevailed in overtime. Up against host Long Beach State, the Trojans looked to be in control with a strong halftime lead. But the 49ers clawed back into the game and the Trojans had their work cut out for them to force overtime. Once there, USC kept fighting and finally got the buckets to go when it counted in overcoming a two-point deficit to close out OT with seven straight points for the 90-85 road win. After Jordan Adams took USC to a one-point lead with 23 seconds left in regulation, Long Beach State got just one free-throw to fall with 11.6 seconds left, and the teams went into overtime locked up 74-74. For the next few minutes, the 49ers and the Trojans matched each other shot for shot, three for three and free throw for free throw in keeping it locked up 81-81. It was still tied up with 1:45 left to play before Long Beach State grabbed its first lead of OT, up 85-83 with 1:35 to go. That's when USC's Jordan Adams kicked into gear. She nailed a go-ahead 3-pointer for the Trojans and then delivered in the lane with a score from under the basket that edged USC ahead 88-85 in the final minute. Another USC defensive stop and defensive board would help set up Brianna Barrett for the sealer, as she nailed both her free throws with just three second left to lock in a 90-85 Trojan win. USC had led by 13 at halftime thanks to 59-percent shooting form the floor during the first half, outpacing Long Beach State's 25-percent first-half effort. The 49er would warm up in the second half though, to heap pressure on the Trojans, who cooled town to 44 percent in that next 20 minutes. USC would finish out the game at 53 percent to LBSU's 40 percent. The Trojans committed 24 turnovers in the game and were outrebounded 41-40 by the 49ers. USC finished up with four Women of Troy in double digits, led by Alexyz Vaioletama's 19 points. Jordan Adams contributed 15 and Brianna Barrett added 14, with freshman McKenzie Calvert scoring all 13 of her points in the first half. Barrett went 10-of-12 from the free-throw line in the game. Long Beach State was led by Raven Benton's game-high 22 points, with 7-of-9 shooting from the line. Anna Kim was next for the 49ers with 16 points, and Devin Hudson had 13. Two days later at Galen Center, USC rang up a solid win in the its home opener. With another set of dangerously balanced scoring, the Women of Troy stayed even-keeled and cruised out of reach of visiting Fresno State for a 68-50 win today at Galen Center. USC and Fresno State were near even in their scoring output in the first half. The Trojans were hitting at a 45-percent clip to the Bulldogs' 44 percent. Both teams also had six scorers in the books, but it was USC's 12 points off turnovers that proved the difference as USC took a 29-23 lead by halftime. By the second half, however, USC was in a groove. The Trojans upped their shooting percentage and outpaced the Bulldogs, finishing up shooting 51 percent from the floor -- over 50 percent for the third straight game. Fresno State wrapped the game at 36 percent after a cool second half effort, and was almost doubled up on the board by the Trojans down the stretch. USC grabbed 40 boards to Fresno State's 21, and had four players finish in double digits. Courtney Jaco landed three 3-pointers on her way to a team-high 12 points alongside senior Alexyz Vaioletama. Jordan Adams and Brianna Barrett each added 10, while Kaneisha Horn was just a breath away from a double-double with nine points and nine rebounds. Fresno State was led by Alex Sheedy's 16 points and seven rebounds.

    SCOUTING SAM HOUSTON STATE
    The Bearkats are 0-3 overall after a 60-49 loss at South Dakota State on Monday. Shernise Robertson leads Sam Houston State in scoring with 16.3 points per game. Jazmin Wiley leads on the boards with 5.5 rebounds per game. The Bearkats return three starters from last year team, which went 13-16 overall and finished eighth in the Southland Conference. This will be the first-ever meeting between USC and Sam Houston State.

    SCOUTING SMU
    The Mustangs are 2-2 overall after a 69-53 win over Eastern Washington last weekend. Destynee Hive-McCray and Gabrielle Wilkins are SMU's top scorers, averaging 11.8 and 11.5 points per game, respectively. Hives-McCray also leads on the boards with 9.0 rebounds per game. The Mustangs return four letterwinners from last year's team, which went 18-14 overall and finished fifth in the American Athletic Conference. USC is 2-0 all-time against SMU, winning 80-58 when the teams last met in Dallas in the 2002-03 season, and getting a 64-48 win in Los Angeles in the 2003-04 season.

    SCOUTING FLORIDA A&M
    The Rattlers are 1-3 overall after a 65-59 loss to Troy on Monday. Taneka Rubin leads the team with 12.3 points per game, and Olivia Antilla averages 10.5 points. FAMU went 17-14 overall last season. This would be the first-ever meeting between USC and Florida A&M.

    DOUBLE TIME
    The key to success for the Trojans in the early going of 2014-15 is a ferociously balanced attack. USC has had at least four different scorers hit double digits in each of the past three games -- all victories -- since falling in its season opener to now top-ranked South Carolina. Even then, 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 has continued, with Jordan Adams, Brianna Barrett and Alexyz Vaioletama staying the most consistent as each averages at least 10 points per game to date. Vaioletama leads the pack with 12.8 ppg so far. As a team, USC is shooting 47.4 percent from the field, including a 41.8 percent effort from beyond the arc.

    TIME TO SHINE
    Now four 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 near-tripled 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 10.8 points to go along with 4.8 assists per game. Now a senior after playing her first season at USC last year as a transfer, Horn also notched a new career high with 11 in USC's opener at South Carolina. She's now up to 8.5 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 9.8 ppg this season for the Women of Troy.

    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.

    BALANCED ATTACK
    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 will most certainly be 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 enters the backcourt fray for her 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 8.3 points per game in her four appearances, with Simon also stepping in for four games and now averaging 5.8 ppg. Okonkwo, too, has appeared in all four games and is averaging 2.0 ppg. Freshman Chyanne Butler played in one game 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.

    LAST SEASON
    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). •