Dec. 2, 2014
USC Women's Basketball Release
Saturday, Dec. 6
USC at Saint Mary's
Moraga, Calif. -- 5:30 p.m.
THE LAST MEETING
December 19, 2013
USC Women Downed By Saint Mary's 71-55
The USC women's basketball team lost steam in the second half while visiting Saint Mary's heated up and left the Women of Troy out of reach, handing USC a 71-55 loss tonight at the Galen Center. Cassie Harberts hauled in a double-double for the Trojans, but USC struggled to catch the Gaels in the final minutes. USC goes to 5-5 overall with the loss, while Saint Mary's continues its historic best season start in improving to 9-1.
The USC women's basketball team rolls to the Bay Area this weekend for a one-game trip. Carrying a five-game win streak, the Trojans (5-1) will look to make it a six-pack when they pay a visit to Saint Mary's (4-1) for a clash at 5:30 p.m. on Saturday (Dec. 6) in Moraga, Calif.
USC's game at Saint Mary's will be streamed live and have live stats available through the link on the USC women's basketball schedule page at usctrojans.com.
IN THE NATION
USC received votes in the USA Today Coaches Preseason Poll, but does not appear in either of week's national polls. Saint Mary's also is unranked in this week's national polls. USC's RPI this week is 17.
USC made it a five-game win streak with a run to the SMU Thanksgiving Classic championship last weekend in Dallas. To get in position for the title win, USC charged up for an 88-67 decision over Sam Houston State in the opening game of the SMU Thanksgiving Classic at Moody Coliseum in Dallas. Ten Women of Troy inked their names in the scoring column in the win, led by McKenzie Calvert's game-high 19 points. The Bearkats kept a leash on the Trojans for the first nine minutes of the game, holding USC within three until the Women of Troy busted loose. That three-point edge would unfurl into as much as an 18-point advantage before USC closed the books on the first half holding a 44-28 lead. Seven different Women of Troy had a hand in building that first-half lead, with senior Kiki Alofaituli and freshman McKenzie Calvert in the scoring column already with double figures as USC shot 45 percent from the field in the first 20 minutes. Sam Houston State was slightly warmer, at 46 percent to that point, but USC was creating far more opportunities for itself on the offensive end. USC heated up in the second half and finished out the game shooting 49 percent -- barely under 50 percent for the first time in the past four games -- but spread the ball around in finishing with three players in double figures and two just off the mark. Calvert set a new career high for herself with a 19-point outing, while Alofaituli wrapped with 14 points alongside Courtney Jaco, who was a perfect 4-for-4 from beyond the arc and 5-of-5 overall tonight. Alexyz Vaioletama was just a point away from a double-double with nine points and 11 rebounds, and Brianna Barrett also finished up with nine. Sam Houston State shot 43 percent in the game, led by Shernise Robertson's 17 points and getting four other players in double digits in the losing effort. USC won out on the boards 42-35 and nabbed 18 steals in the win. The very next night, USC 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. USC senior Alexyz Vaioletama was named the tournament MVP and was joined on the all-tournament team by teammate Jordan Adams. 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.
The Gaels are 4-1 overall with a game set for Thursday against Cal State Northridge before taking on the Trojans on Saturday. Lauren Nicholson is SMC's top scorer with 18.2 points per game, and Carli Rosenthal leads on the boards with 8.4 rebounds per game. The Gaels return two starters from last year's team, which went 23-10 overall and went 11-7 in the WCC. USC is 0-1 all-time against Saint Mary's after falling 71-55 last year in the programs' first meeting, held at Galen Center.
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 five 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 11.8 ppg so far. As a team, USC is shooting 45.9 percent from the field, including a 40.9 percent effort from beyond the arc.
TIME TO SHINE
Now six 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 10.3 points to go along with 5.3 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 8.8 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 10.5 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.
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 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 10.0 points per game in her six appearances, with Simon stepping in for five games and is averaging 4.8 ppg. Okonkwo has appeared in all six games and is averaging 2.7 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.
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).