Women's Basketball
    USC Women Kick Off Holiday Season With LMU & No. 16 Oklahoma State At Galen Center

    The Women of Troy continue their home stand with two more clashes before Christmas.
    Dec. 16, 2014

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    THIS WEEK
    The USC women's basketball team continues its stretch of seven straight home games with two more tilts on tap this week at Galen Center. The Women of Troy (7-2) will first line up against Loyola Marymount (2-6) for a 4 p.m. game on Thursday (Dec. 18). Coming up after that, USC makes its 2014-15 Pac-12 Networks debut with a televised clash against No. 16 Oklahoma State (7-1) at 12 p.m. on Sunday (Dec. 21).

    THE LAST MEETING
    USC51
    Oklahoma State82
    November 22, 2013
    Stillwater, Okla.
    USC Women Take First Loss Of Season To No. 20 Oklahoma State
    The USC women's basketball team came up against a hot-shooting Oklahoma State squad on a cold night in Stillwater, with the Trojans handed their first loss of 2013-14 with tonight's 82-51 defeat at the hands of the No. 20 Cowgirls. Already off to their best season start since 1998-99, the Women of Troy were up against their first ranked opponent with this trip to Oklahoma State. USC goes to 3-1 overall with the road loss, while No. 20 Oklahoma State improves to 5-0.

    Thursday, Dec. 18
    USC (7-2) vs. Loyola Marymount (2-6)
    Galen Center -- 4 p.m.
    Live stream: usctrojans.com

    Sunday, Dec. 21
    USC (7-2) vs. #16 Oklahoma State (7-1)
    Galen Center -- 12 p.m.
    TV: Pac-12 Network

    FOLLOW ALONG
    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 for the USC-LMU game on Thursday through usctrojans.com. Sunday's game vs. Oklahoma State will be televised on Pac-12 Networks with Tammy Blackburn as analyst and Anne Marie Anderson on play-by-play. A live streaming broadcast is also available online to Pac-12 Network recipients at pac-12.com/networks/pac-12-national/.

    IN THE NATION
    As of Dec. 15, USC's RPI is listed as 8. The Trojans received votes in the USA Today Coaches Preseason Poll, but does not appear in this week's polls. Loyola Marymount also is unranked this week. Oklahoma State ranks highest at No. 16 in the nation in this week's USA Today/Coaches poll and is No. 19 in the AP poll.

    LAST WEEK
    USC showed resolve and guts last week in pulling off two comeback victories at Galen Center. The Trojans fought back to force overtime against CSUN first, and was all business in OT en route to an 85-74 win over the Matadors. Days later, USC fell behind to a fast-paced and deep Sacramento State squad but again made a winning rally to victory, grabbing a 101-99 win over the Hornets in that one. Against CSUN, USC saw all its hard work in the first half dashed by a rocky second half and yet getting new life from a last-ditch 3-pointer to force overtime. In OT, the Trojans kept their eyes on the prize and overwhelmed visiting Cal State Northridge in a tone more like its first-half performance. By the close of overtime, USC had created plenty of space and finished out with an 85-74 victory over the Matadors. USC had double the fouls as CSUN in the first half, but the Trojans were clicking on offense. Fifteen first-half assists fed the USC offensive efforts, as the Trojans shot 55 percent from the floor through the first 20 minutes of action. CSUN was at 38 percent from the floor, and hit 7-of-9 free throws in the first half, trailing the Trojans 41-30 at the break. That's where the wind changed in a major way. USC's 11-0 run to a comfy lead in the first half was negated by a cold spell in the second half and an answering rally by the Matadors, leaving it locked up at 59-59 entering the last four minutes of action. Down by three with 21 seconds left, USC would come alive when McKenzie Calvert got a friendly bounce off the board on her 3-point blast to level things 65-65 and force overtime. In OT the Trojans snagged an early lead and just kept adding to it. By the final buzzer, several Women of Troy had locked in with new career highs. Senior Alexyz Vaioletama had shouldered the load and carried her team with a career-high 24 points. Freshman Calvert -- deliverer of that clutch 3-point equalizer -- wound up with 21 points with help from four 3-pointers. Jordan Adams, meanwhile, contributed a career-high eight assists, and freshman Kristen Simon tallied a career-high 11 rebounds to lead USC's efforts on the boards. USC finished out the game shooting 52 percent from the floor to CSUN's 41 percent. The Trojans owned the boards to the tune of a 43-33 rebounding margin, and served up 27 assists in the win. CSUN managed to force 20 turnovers by the Trojans in nabbing 14 steals down the stretch, but USC's resilience shined through to complete the tense win. Vaioletama and Calvert were joined in double figures by Kaneisha Horn and Kiki Alofaituli with 11 and 10 points, respectively. CSUN, too had four players hit double digits. On Sunday, USC gutted out an incredibly fast-paced and high-scoring battle at Galen Center, overcoming an 11-point deficit by digging deep for a push to a 101-99 victory over visiting Sacramento State. The short-staffed Women of Troy showed no quit even as the Hornets kept coming. USC's first lead of the second half came with 6:47 led to play, and the Trojans managed to stay a step ahead the rest of the way. With big numbers coming from seniors Kiki Alofaituli and Kaneisha Horn, who both recorded the first double-doubles of their careers, the Women of Troy notched the program's 35th 100-point game and the second such effort in Galen Center history. The wild tone of the game was set right from the start. USC would lead by as much as 10 points with 7:30 to go in the half, only to see the fast-paced Hornets plow into the lead minutes later. The scoring frenzy had the Hornets ahead 58-52 at the break on 54-percent shooting. USC was hitting at a 60-percent clip through the first 20 minutes but couldn't match Sacramento State's seven first-half 3-pointers made. Those threes kept coming for the Hornets in the second half, but USC finally worked out a way to counter that perimeter attack. The Trojans would fall behind by 11 on one of those Hornet threes with 15:00 on the clock in the second half, but set off on a 14-2 run in the next six minutes to pull even and find the energy for the rally to victory. By the final buzzer, USC had rounded out the game shooting 56 percent from the floor to Sacramento State's 49 percent. The Hornets had interrupted the USC offense with that full-court pressure to the tune of 27 Trojan turnovers, but USC had forced 23 turnovers at the other end. Sacramento State wound up nailing 13 threes in the game, but USC got a boost with its efforts on the boards, out-rebounding the Hornets 50-31 overall. A season-high six Trojans finished up in double figures, including four with new career highs. Top scorer Alofaituli tallied 26 points to go with 10 rebounds for the senior's first-ever double-double. Horn also went big, scoring 20 points and hauling in 15 rebounds for the Trojans. Freshman Kristen Simon set a new high for herself with 17 points, as did fellow freshman Amy Okonkwo with 12 points. Also joining the double-digit day for USC was Brianna Barrett with her own double-double, scoring 12 points and serving up 10 assists. USC's sixth payer to hit double figures was Courtney Jaco, who hit both of USC's 3-pointers in the game and finished up with 10 points. Sacramento State was led by a game-high 28 points from Fantasia Hilliard and had three other players finish in double figures. The Hornets had 14 players get on the court in the game, outmanning USC's seven active Trojans.

    SCOUTING LMU
    The Lions are 2-6 overall after an 81-55 loss to UC Riverside last week. Deanna Johnson and Leslie Lopez-Wood are LMU's top scorers, averaging 12.5 and 12.4 points per game, respectively. Emily Ben-Jumbo leads on the boards with 8.3 rebounds per game. The Lions return three starters from last year's team, which went 9-21 overall after a 6-12 finish in the West Coast Conference. USC is 2-0 all-time against Loyola Marymount. The teams last faced in the 2005-06 season, with USC beating host LMU 59-53 that season.

    SCOUTING OKLAHOMA STATE
    The No. 16 Cowgirls enter the week 7-1 overall after beating New Orleans 84-33 on Monday. Brittany Martin and Brittany Atkins are the top scorers with 14.9 and 14.8 points per game, respectively. LaShawn Jones is the Cowgirls' top rebounder with 7.6 per game. The Cowgirls return three starters from last year's team, which went 25-9 overall after an 11-7 finish in the Big 12 and a run to the NCAA Sweet Sixteen. USC is 1-2 all-time against Oklahoma State. In the last meeting, the Trojans fell 82-51 last year in Stillwater, Okla. USC's last win over the Cowgirls was a 92-83 victory in the 1986-87 season.

    DOUBLE TIME
    The key to success for the Trojans in the early going of 2014-15 has been a ferociously balanced attack. USC has had at least four different scorers hit double digits in all but two 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 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, USC piled six players in double figures, with Kiki Alofaituli, Barrett and Horn each recording the first double-doubles of their careers. To date, USC has four players averaging double-digit scoring. Vaioletama leads with 13.0 ppg, followed by Calvert at 11.3, Horn at 10.1 and Barrett at 10.0. Courtney Jaco is just a breath away, averaging 9.9 ppg to date. As a team, USC has shot over 50 percent from the floor in five games and is shooting 46 percent overall, including a 39.5 percent effort from beyond the arc.

    TIME TO SHINE
    Now nine 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 8.6 points per game to go along with 5.5 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 10.0 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 9.9 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 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 11.3 points per game in her eight appearances, with Simon stepping in for eight games and averaging 5.9 ppg. Okonkwo has appeared in all nine games and is averaging 3.1 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). •