Dec. 8, 2014
USC Women's Basketball Release
The USC women's basketball team begins a stretch of seven straight home games this week, settling into Galen Center to first host Cal State Northridge and then Sacramento State. The Trojans (5-2) look to start another win streak, having seen a five-game rally come to a close on the road last weekend. USC will take on the Matadors (7-1) at 6 p.m. on Tuesday (Dec. 9) before clashing with the Hornets (1-6) on Sunday (Dec. 14).
Tuesday, Dec. 9
THE LAST MEETING
|Cal State Northridge||65
December 10, 2013
USC Women Fall Short In 65-64 Loss At Cal State Northridge
The USC women's basketball team just couldn't get over the hump in today's road journey to Cal State Northridge, needing a last-ditch effort to fall in order to steal away a win from the host Matadors. Down by one with 17 seconds left, the Women of Troy came up empty in the final stretch and took a 65-64 loss to Cal State Northridge, despite the heroic efforts of Alexyz Vaioletama, who secured her first career double-double with a booming 21 points and 18 rebounds tonight. USC falls to 5-4 overall with the loss, while Cal State Northridge improves to 3-7.
THE LAST MEETING
January 26, 1992
USC (5-2) vs. Cal State Northridge (7-1)
Galen Center -- 6 p.m.
Live stream: usctrojans.com
Sunday, Dec. 14
USC (5-2) vs. Sacramento State (1-6)
Galen Center -- 2 p.m.
Live stream: usctrojans.com
Both games this week will have live stats available through the Gametracker link on the USC women's basketball schedule page at usctrojans.com. Live streaming video will also be available at http://pac-12.com/videos/university-southern-california for both games.
IN THE NATION
As of Dec. 8, USC's RPI is listed as 4. The Trojans received votes in the USA Today Coaches Preseason Poll, but does not appear in this week's polls. CSUN and Sacramento State also are unranked this week.
Over the weekend at Saint Mary's, USC made a valiant second half effort to come back to tie the game after being down by as much as 10 points in the first half, but it wasn't quite enough, as the Gaels took care of business down the stretch, defeating the Women of Troy 64-58 on Saturday evening at McKeon Pavilion. The Women of Troy were led by Courtney Jaco and Brianna Barrett, who both finished with 11 points apiece. Jaco hit two big three-pointers, one at the end of the first half and another in the second half to keep the Trojans in the game. However, foul trouble hampered the Trojans all night and the Gaels were able to sink their free throws down the stretch to pull away in the final eight minutes of the game. Lauren Nicholson led the way for the Gaels, tallying 22 points on 9-for-17 shooting in the game. In the first half, both squads took a while to heat up, as the score was tied 0-0 until the Gaels' Hayley Hendricksen broke the deadlock at 18:09. The Gaels scored again to take an early 4-0 lead until Barrett sunk two free throws at 17:18 to put the Women of Troy on the board. At the 16:24 mark, Jordan Adams came up with the steal and converted the layup on the fast break to tie things up, 4-4. The Trojans took their only lead of the first half 6-4 at the 15:25 mark when Barrett drained two more free throws. The Gaels answered with an 8-2 run however, pulling their lead to seven, 20-13 with 5:33 to play. The Trojans answered and cut the lead back down to three with layups from Kristen Simon, Barrett and Kaneisha Horn with 2:40 to go. However, the Gaels went on a 10-2 run over the next two minutes to push their lead to 10, 31-21 with 20 seconds to go. Jaco hit a big three-pointer with seven seconds left in the half and the Trojans went into the break down just seven, 31-24. In the second half the Women of Troy came out with renewed energy, forcing the Gaels into early turnovers and converting on the offensive end. Just 44 seconds into the second half, after two free throws from Barrett, a layup by Alexyz Vaioletama pulled the Trojans within three, 31-28. The Trojan pressure continued and a layup by Kiki Alofaituli with 13:30 to go pulled the Trojans within one, 36-35. The Trojans held tight with the Gaels for the next five minutes, and with 8:25 to go, Alofaituli came up with a big steal and found Jaco on the fast break to tie the game 44-44. But that would be as close as the Trojans would get, as fouls hurt through the final eight minutes and the Gaels pushed to an eight point lead with just under two minutes to go. Horn converted a big three-point play with 1:33 to go to cut the lead to five, 58-53, and Jaco added a three-point play of her own with 55 second to go to put the score at 60-56, but the Gaels nailed their free throws in the final minute to put the game away, 64-58.
The Matadors are 7-1 overall after losing 73-63 to Saint Mary's and beating Pepperdine 74-48 last week. Janae Sharpe is CSUN's top scorer with 14.5 points per game, and Camille Mahlknecht leads on the boards with 9.9 rebounds per game. The Matadors return five starters from last years's team which won the Big West title and reached the NCAA First Round, finishing 18-15 overall. USC is 15-10 all-time against CSUN. The Trojans had won 11 straight meetings against the Matadors until CSUN beat USC 65-64 last year in Northridge.
SCOUTING SAC STATE
The Hornets enter the week 1-6 overall after losing 107-94 at Cal and falling 109-61 at Oregon State last week. Fantasia Hilliard and Hallie Gennett are the top scorers with 11.9 and 11.4 points per game, respectively. Margaret Huntington is the Hornets top rebounder with 5.4 per game. The Hornets return three starters from last year's team, which went 18-12 overall and finished sixth in the Big Sky. USC is 3-0 all-time against Sacramento State with the last face-off coming as an 87-61 Trojan victory in the 2000-01 season in Sacramento.
The key to success for the Trojans in the early going of 2014-15 has been a ferociously balanced attack. During its five-game win streak, USC had at least four different scorers hit double digits in each of the past five 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 the five-game rally. The streak was snapped when just two Trojans hit double digits in a loss at Saint Mary's, but the Trojans still boast great balance. Vaioletama leads the pack with 11.4 ppg so far, with sophomore Courtney Jaco next with 10.6 ppg and junior Barrett claiming 10.3 ppg. Freshman Calvert is just barely shy of double figures, with 9.9 ppg. As a team, USC is shooting 43.9 percent from the field, including a 39.0 percent effort from beyond the arc.
TIME TO SHINE
Now seven 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 9.3 points to go along with 5.1 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 and added to that with 13 at SMU. She's now up to 8.6 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 10.6 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 9.9 points per game in her seven appearances, with Simon stepping in for six games and averaging 4.3 ppg. Okonkwo has appeared in all seven games and is averaging 2.3 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 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).