USC Women Make Some Noise Against No. 2 Gamecocks Despite 70-61 Loss|
Nov. 15, 2014
COLUMBIA, S.C. -- The USC women's basketball team had three new faces on the list with double digits as the Trojans pushed the No. 2 team in the nation to the edge on the road tonight. The Women of Troy had No. 2 South Carolina on notice in sneaking into a slim lead in the second half, only to see the host Gamecocks respond with a 14-0 run that took back control of the game. USC would wind up with a 70-61 loss to South Carolina in its season opener in Columbia, S.C.
Up against a team with lots of height and power in the paint, USC had to battle down low and wound up with several players in foul trouble down the stretch. And still, the Trojans kept fighting. By the final horn, USC had taken the loss to the No. 2 Gamecocks, but the Women of Troy could still boast a strong performance on the road. Standing out tonight were three Women of Troy who set career marks for themselves. Senior Kaneisha Horn had a career performance with 11 points while carrying four fouls deep into the game. Freshman McKenzie Calvert also hit 11 points in her Trojan debut. And sophomore Drew Edelman went big with a 10-point outing to hit a career high for herself. South Carolina, meanwhile, was led by a double-double by Alaina Coates with 18 points and 13 rebounds. Tiffany Mitchell also provided 18 points for the Gamecocks.
USC shrugged off the referee's whistles in the first half with a stalwart effort that kept the Trojans in stride with the highly touted Gamecocks. Even a 7-0 scoring surge by the hosts wasn't enough to shake the Trojans, who finished up the half with six straight points to trail 27-24 at the break. Carrying 12 fouls in the first 20 minutes, USC shot 24 percent from the floor and was 4-of-4 from the line. Holding six fouls through the same span, South Carolina shot 36 from the floor and was 8-of-13 from the stripe. In the second half, the fouls evened out a bit. USC would finish up the game going 16-of-20 from the line to South Carolina's 19-of-27. From the floor, USC shot 33 percent and the Gamecocks hit at a 46-percent clip. The count on the boards 43-34 in South Carolina's favor.
The first points of the 2014-15 season came from USC senior Kaneisha Horn, who nabbed a steal on the Trojans' first defensive stand and finished off the basket at the other end. She'd grab another one, and finish again to give USC an early 4-0 lead. Senior Alexyz Vaioletama knocked down a three to bump USC to a 7-2 advantage. The Gamecocks kicked into gear with a 6-0 run to sneak into the lead, but USC's freshmen stepped up next. The first new face to check in, Kristen Simon grabbed a steal at the defensive end end. Later, fellow freshman McKenzie Calvert converted on both her free throw tosses, and USC edged back ahead 9-8 with 12:46 on the clock. Things would stay tight, with Drew Edelman prompting a 16-16 tie with a score in the paint. The Gamecocks got their inside game to click off a 7-0 run before Simon interrupted things with her first career basket. Again, however, South Carolina's Alaina Coates delivered with back-to-back buckets, only to see USC fire off a 6-0 surge to close the half. Edelman, Jordan Adams and Simon wrapped the half with buckets to trim it to a 27-24 halftime deficit.
In the second half of action, South Carolina got ahead 37-30 on a 3-pointer from Tina Roy, but again USC was unfazed. The Trojans kept coming and although the fouls kept piling up on USC, the Trojans manufactured a 9-3 run capped by a 3-pointer from Courtney Jaco that leveled the score a 42-42 with 12:10 on the clock. Minutes later, Edelman scored six straight points for the Trojan cause, working her way into double figures for the first time in the sophomore's career. Her 10th points of the night made it a one-point margin at a 49-48 Gamecock edge with 9:20 to go. The Trojans would force the issue further when Alexyz Vaioletama nabbed a steal to feed Calvert for the runner, and USC was up 53-52 for its first lead of the second half. The Gamecocks regrouped, however, and peeled out to a double-digit lead with a 14-0 scoring surge that built too great of a lead for USC to overcome. The Trojans manufactured a 7-0 run of their own on the hands of four different players in cutting it to 66-60 with 1:07 to go, but the rest of the game would take place on the free-throw line as South Carolina wound up with the 70-61 victory.
USC now heads up to Davidson to continue its East Coast road trip. The Trojans will face Davidson at 7 p.m. ET on Monday (Nov. 17) in Davidson, N.C.
ASSOCIATED PRESS ARTICLE:
South Carolina (1-0) used a late 12-0 run to rally past the Trojans, 70-61 on Saturday night.
Alaina Coates had 18 points and 13 rebounds, defending Southeastern Conference player of the year Tiffany Mitchell scored 18 points and the Gamecocks won their 19th straight at home to kick off their highly anticipated season.
Much of the buzz comes from the SEC champs returning squad and their recruiting class, led by the country's No. 1 player in 6-foot-5 A'ja Wilson. While things were closer than much of the 10,057 people at Colonial Life Arena expected, Staley was pleased her players overcame their issues to win.
"This is a great game for us," said Staley, starting her seventh year as coach. "Winning by 75 points, you're not going to learn a whole lot of lessons from it. Beating a team like USC, it opens eyes."
Especially this bunch of Trojans (0-1), which was coming off their first-ever Pac 12 Conference tournament title and first NCAA appearance in eight years. They looked like they'd take down the Gamecocks after McKenzie Calvert's breakaway basket with 6:55 left put them ahead 53-52.
That's when South Carolina responded with a 12 straight points over the next three minutes to take control.
Coates, the SEC's freshman of the year and co-sixth player of the year last season, had her 11th career double-double.
Southern Cal coach Cynthia Cooper said her players did a stellar job holding Coates to that many points and rebounds. "She runs the floor, she can finish with either hand and she gets that deep position that we tried to keep people from getting."
Highly touted newcomer A'ja Wilson, last year's No. 1 college prospect, struggled in her debut with four points on 2-of-7 shooting. "She played like a freshman," Staley said. "Obviously, she didn't play as she's capable of, but she needs room to grow."
Calvert and Kaneisha Horn had 11 points to lead Southern Cal.
The opener was supposed to an affirmation of the enormous preseason hype and an early victory lap for the defending Southeastern Conference champions. Instead, Southern Cal cut off the middle and made it difficult for the Gamecocks' inside players to operate.
Wilson, the country's top prospect who joined South Carolina over Connecticut, North Carolina and Tennessee, scored her team's first basket, but couldn't find any rhythm in her first college game.
The Gamecocks finally looked like they'd gotten going with an 11-2 run in the final five minutes of the first half to lead 27-18 behind Coates' four baskets. But Southern Cal coach Cynthia Cooper called a late timeout to settle her squad.
The Trojans rallied back, scoring the final six points of the half to cut South Carolina's lead to 27-24 at the break.
Coates and all-SEC first-teamer Aleighsa Welch helped the Gamecocks build a 39-32 lead early in the second period. Again, Southern Cal pushed back. The large crowd at Colonial Life Arena was silent when Calvert broke free for the go-ahead layup.
The mood lightened considerably when the Gamecocks went on their game-breaking run.
South Carolina finished with 19 turnovers, six coming by Mitchell. The Gamecocks had averaged just 14 a game last season. Staley said she can live with them - for now. "We're not playing for November," she said. "We're playing for March and April."
Southern Cal three starting guards - Jordan Adams, Courtney Jaco and Brianna Barrett - combined to shoot 5 for 23 for 16 total points. Those outside misses were a big reason the Trojans couldn't finish the upset.
Southern Cal: The Trojans were back in the NCAA tournament last season for the first time since 2005-06, winning their first Pac 12 Conference tournament title.
South Carolina: The Gamecocks have been ranked in the top 10 for the past 12 polls, their longest streak since a 13-week run in the top 10 from Jan. 22, 1980 through Dec. 16, 1980 when South Carolina coach Dawn Staley was 10.
Southern Cal is at Davidson on Monday night
South Carolina plays rival Clemson on Thursday night.