USC Women Press On In Pac-12 Play, Host No. 10 OSU & Oregon

    Brianna Barrett and the Women of Troy take on the Oregon schools to open the new year.
    Jan. 1, 2016

    USC women’s basketball gets back to Galen Center for the early goings of Pac-12 play. The Trojans look to start a new win streak after having its 12-0 start to the season come to a close with a hard-fought road loss in USC’s conference opener at UCLA. Now, the Women of Troy (12-1, 0-1 Pac-12) are set to host No. 10 Oregon State (9-2, 0-0) in a 6 p.m. faceoff on Saturday (Jan. 2) to kick off the New Year. After that, USC will host Oregon (11-0, 0-0) in a 5 p.m. clash on Monday (Jan. 4). Both games will be televised on Pac-12 Los Angeles and Pac-12 Oregon.

    FOLLOW ALONG
    Both games will be televised on Pac-12 Los Angeles and Pac-12 Oregon, with Tammy Blackburn and Krista Blunk on the call. Live stats for both games will be available through links on the USC women’s basketball schedule page at usctrojans.com. 

    IN THE NATION
    The Trojans remain unranked in this week’s USA Today and Associated Press national polls but are receiving votes in both polls. USC also weighs in at No. 8 on the latest RPI list as of Dec. 31. Oregon is ranked No. 10 in both polls, and Oregon is receiving votes in both polls.

    STRONG START
    USC posted a powerful 12-0 start to the 2015-16 season, doubling up on its most recent best season start of 6-0, last hit in 1993-94 with Cheryl Miller as head coach. That year also was the last time USC finished in first place in the Pac-10 conference. The 12-0 start also bettered another USC benchmark, last achieved in 1984-85 when Linda Sharp’s Women of Troy opened up the season 10-0. USC’s best-ever start was set in 1981-82 with an 18-0 mark to start Cynthia Cooper’s freshman season at USC. USC’s previous significant undefeated starts came in 1993-94 (6-0), 1985-86 (6-0), 1984-85 (10-0), 1983-84 (10-0), 1982-83 (13-0) and 1981-82 (18-0). When USC hit 9-0 this season, the Trojans were named the NCAA.com Team of the Week on Dec. 14.

    NATIONAL ATTENTION
    USC may not be recognized in the national polls, but the numbers the Trojans are pinning up are certainly registering in the national stat sheets. Now 12-1 overall, USC’s defense ranks No. 14 in the nation, holding opponents to just 51.9 points per game. USC’s average margin of victory of 23.4 points is ninth best in the land. The Trojans are averaging 11.3 steals per game to rank No. 22 in the nation in that category. Individually, senior Brianna Barrett ranks highest at No. 25 in the nation with her 5.8 assists per game. Courtney Jaco also has cracked the nation’s top-50 in 3-point percentage, ranking No. 43 with her 43.2% effort from beyond the arc. She’s also No. 52 in the land with her 2.69 threes hit per game.

    USC BY THE NUMBERS
    Led by Temi Fagbenle’s team-high 13.4 points and Kristen Simon’s 8.8 rebounds per game, the Women of Troy are putting up some big numbers in 2015-16. USC has beaten six teams by at least 30 points, and recently went a season-best 50 percent from the floor in another big win over visiting UNLV. In all, USC has four players averaging double digits, and three with at least 7.5 rebounds per game. The tightly knit group of scoring leaders has Fagbenle at the top with 13.4 ppg to go with her 7.8 rpg. Simon is just a step behind on the scoring front with 13.3 ppg along with her team-best 8.8 rpg, followed by Jordan Adams with 12.7 points and 8.0 rebounds. Sharpshooter Courtney Jaco is averaging 10.5 ppg thanks in part to her 35 threes nailed to lead the Trojans from beyond the arc so far. Jaco has hit at least one 3-pointer in USC’s last 14 games, dating back to the Trojans’ final game of the 2014-15 season. As a team, USC is averaging 75.3 points per game, shooting .432 from the floor and .695 from the free-throw line. USC is outrebounding opponents 527-406 and defensively has held opponents to just 51.9 points per game.

    BATTLING THE BRUINS
    USC and No. 21-ranked rival UCLA went toe-to-toe in Westwood for both teams’ Pac-12 opener on Wednesday. The game was a shootout from the start, and stayed high-intensity through all 40 minutes of action at Pauley Pavilion. The host Bruins would make a late move and managed to fend off the visiting Trojans in the end, snapping USC’s 12-game win streak to hand the Trojans their first loss of the year. UCLA’s final 78-73 victory tonight put USC at 12-1 overall and 0-1 to open conference action. USC received powerful performances in the paint by posts Temi Fagbenle and Kristen Simon, both of whom finished with double-doubles for the Trojans. Brianna Barrett, too, was a warrior down the stretch as the Trojans kept reeling in the Bruins. Fagbenle finished with a game-high 23 points along with 10 rebounds, while Simon added 11 points and hit a new career high of 14 rebounds. Barrett scored 18 points and delivered seven assists, and Sadie Edwards also hit double digits with 10 points in just her third game as a Trojan. UCLA received 23 points and 12 rebounds from Monique Billings, 22 points from Jordin Canada and 19 points from Nirra Fields. Fagbenle would pull the Trojans even twice in the fourth quarter, last at a 62-62 lockup with 6:10 on the clock. USC had taken a slim 58-57 lead on Sadie Edwards’ second 3-pointer of the game with 8:20 on the clock, but UCLA always seemed to have an answer for the Trojans. USC worked back within one point on a jumper from Courtney Jaco with 5:20 remaining, only to see the Bruins score the next six point to pad their lead to 73-66 with 3:20 to go. Barrett put the Trojans on her shoulder to the tune of four straight points to make it a three-point margin with 2:30 on the clock, but USC would get no closer. While USC’s 12-game win streak came to a close, Jaco’s 3-point streak remains alive and well. Her three drained with 20 ticks to go secures the junior with 14 straight games with at least one 3-pointer made. In all, the Trojans and the Bruins traded the lead seven times and saw seven ties in the game. USC outrebounded UCLA 50-36 but fell behind on the offensive end, shooting 38 percent to UCLA’s 49 percent.
     
    CLASSIC FINISH TO WOMEN OF TROY CLASSIC CHAMPIONSHIP
    After claiming an 88-45 win over Florida A&M, USC took its place in the title match of the Women of Troy Classic for the fifth time in seven installments of the event. Up against Albany in the championship, USC’s top gun on the day was undoubtedly Courtney Jaco, whose career-best sixth 3-pointer was the final word in the Trojans’ 68-67 win over the visiting Great Danes. Jaco knocked down the killer three with just five seconds left, nudging USC into the lead and leaving Albany with just one off-balance look before the buzzer. The heart-stopping win also kept intact USC’s perfect start to the season. The Trojans are now 11-0 overall, marking the best season start since 1982-83. For just the second time this season, USC was trailing entering the fourth quarter of play. It may not have been familiar territory, but the Trojans were up to the task, intent on preserving their undefeated start to the 2015-16 campaign. The lead traded hands 11 times in the fourth frame, including a heated tug-of-war in the last 2:35 of regulation. Kristen Simon delivered a three-point play to work into a double-double and take USC ahead 60-59 with 2:34 on the clock. Each team had an answer for the other down the stretch, and in the final minute Albany pulled the game to a 65-65 tie. Two Great Dane free throws with 26 ticks to go had Albany up 67-65, giving USC a look at the lead. The Trojans opted for the sure hands of Jaco, who faced a far-from-easy shot from beyond the arc. She took the feed from Khaedin Taito and sailed in the go-ahead bucket with her sixth 3-pointer of the game, making it 68-67 Trojans with 5 seconds left. Albany took the ball the other way and misfired on an off-balance attempt at the win, falling short of the rim as USC emerged victorious with the tight finish. Two Trojans and one Great Dane would foul out before game’s end as both teams spent considerable time at the free-throw line. In the second half of play, USC was a perfect 12-for-12 from the free-throw line, while Albany went 18-of-21. Brianna Barrett finished up the game 8-for-8 from the stripe, finishing matched with Jaco for a team-high 18 points apiece. Simon also had double figures for the Trojan cause, scoring 13 points to go with 11 rebounds. Albany was led once again by Richards, who scored 33 points for the Great Danes, including a 14-of-17 effort from the line. Imani Tate (14 points and Zakiya Saunders (12 points) also hit double figures for Albany. USC finished out the game shooting 36 percent from the floor, trailing Albany’s 48 percent. Albany also won out on the boards 33-31. USC was helped by eight 3-pointers landed in the win, while Albany hit three. Courtney Jaco was named the Women of Troy Classic MVP after her 18-point performance in the title match, joined by fellow Trojan Kristen Simon on the All-Tournament Team. Albany’s Shereesha Richards, Florida A&M’s Olivia Antilla and UC Davis’ Morgan Bertsch were also named to the Women of Troy Classic All-Tournament Team. 
     
    PERFECT PERFORMANCE AT HALL OF FAME CHALLENGE
    USC made an undefeated run through competition at the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame Challenge, grabbing three wins in Spokane, Wash., before heading to the Mohegan Sun Arena in Connecticut to top it all off with another victory — giving the Trojans a 6-0 start to the 2015-16 season. USC’s four wins came over Grand Canyon (75-44), West Virginia (78-67 OT), Gonzaga (60-56) and Iona (76-56). USC’s gutsiest performances came in its first two big tests of the season — overtime action vs. West Virginia and a clash on Gonzaga’s home court.  After winning its previous three games by at least 30-point margins, USC was put to the test as West Virginia dug out of a 10-point hole in the third quarter to lead the game 52-49 entering the fourth. The teams endured 14 lead changes and 11 ties, snarled up for the 11th time in the final minute of regulation. In overtime, USC would go 7-of-7 from the free-throw line to go along with some big buckets from the floor. Kristen Simon scored seven of her final 13 points during overtime, while Brianna Barrett was a perfect 4-for-4 from the stripe. The biggest basket of the final five minutes came from the hot hands of Courtney Jaco, who drained her sixth 3-pointer of the night to set a new career high for herself while boosting the Trojans ahead 69-64 with 3:06 on the clock. West Virginia would manage only one lone score from the floor in OT, converting a three-point play with 31 seconds left to make it 75-67. USC would finish it off from the line, wrapping up a powerful performance with a 78-67 final victory. The very next night, USC stood its ground for another win on Gonzaga’s home court, this time staring down the host Bulldogs and tacking up a gutsy 60-56 win to improve to 5-0 on the year. USC had to counter a loud Gonzaga fan base and a foul-filled final frame to fend off the Zags, who had cut the Trojans’ lead down to one in the final minute. USC would finish out the game from the free-throw line, pairing three successful tosses with a strong defensive stand to wrap up the win in Spokane, Wash. Brianna Barrett would come up clutch in the final stretch for the Trojans. The senior nabbed a big steal and was sent to the line. She nailed both with 26 seconds left to bump USC to a 59-56 lead. Simon forced two Gonzaga turnovers to keep the Zags out of rhythm, and she’d go to the line with 0.2 seconds on the clock, hitting the all-important front end to make it a 60-56 Trojans victory. Temi Fagbenle served up a game-high 21 points for the Trojans in the win. Fagbenle would finish out the Naismith Hall of Fame Challenge as the Trojans’ top scorer after scoring in double digits in the final three games of the event. Fagbenle averaged 16.3 points and 8.5 rebounds per game in the four-game road trip. Simon was next in line with 14.8 ppg and 8.3 rpg. Jaco also averaged double figures, scoring 12.0 ppg, thanks in large part to her 13 threes nailed across the four wins. Barrett served up 21 assists and was 14-of-17 from the free-throw line. Fagbenle was named USC’s MVP at the close of the tourney at Mohegan Sun Arena.

    TROJANS AT A GLANCE
    Cynthia Cooper-Dyke and her returning staff of associate head coach Beth Burns and assistants Jualeah Woods and Taja Edwards have constructed a 2015-16 group of Women of Troy with great potential to improve on last year’s 15-15 finish. USC graduated its top scorers and rebounders Kaneisha Horn and Alexyz Vaioletama -- who provided 12.0 and 10.3 points per game, respectively, along with 6.9 rebounds per game apiece – from last year’s squad. Replacing those veterans may not be easy, but Cooper-Dyke is happy with her new roster of players and expects to fill the statistical void that the departed players have left. In fact, she sees this group of Trojans as decidedly capable of making a strong run in the Pac-12 and beyond. Five Women of Troy return from last year’s roster, with Jordan AdamsBrianna Barrett and Courtney Jaco standing out as the only players with at least two seasons of work under their belts at Troy, but they also boast winning experience as members of the 2014 Pac-12 Tournament Championship team. Returners Alexis Lloyd and Kristen Simon played their first seasons as Trojans last year. As the veterans of the bunch, that group is joined by a solid seven new Trojans set to hit the court this season. Two transfers, three international additions, one California product and one North Carolina native will all don Cardinal and Gold for the first time in 2015-16. 

    WORLDLY WOMEN OF TROY
    The international flavor coming to Troy this season adds a new element to the USC gameplan. In the recent past, no more than one international player has been on a USC roster at a time. This year, USC welcomes Candela Abejón from Spain, Dani Milisic from Australia and Khaedin Taito from New Zealand. Milisic is set to join the Trojans as a Spring 2016 enrollee. Two more Trojan newcomers also have strong ties overseas. A 2012 Olympian for Great Britain, Temi Fagbenle was raised in London and her family now lives in Nigeria. She joins the Trojan Family with one year of eligibility left after finishing her degree at Harvard. True freshman Marguerite Effa, meanwhile, also has roots in Africa, having lived in Cameroon before moving to California, where she attended high school. 

    STICKING STATESIDE
    USC’s two homegrown newcomers are true freshman Aliyah Mazyck – from Charlotte, N.C. – and Connecticut transfer Sadie Edwards, who joined the Women of Troy in January 2015 and became eligible for competition on Dec. 17.

    COMMITTED!
    The USC women’s basketball program will grow four players stronger with the signing of a solid set of new Women of Troy set to come to campus in 2016. With national letters of intent signed and delivered on Nov. 11, USC head coach Cynthia Cooper-Dyke and her coaching staff are proud to announce the addition of Valerie HigginsAsiah JonesMinyon Moore and Ja’Tavia Tapley to the USC program next season. In all, the stellar new class weighs in at No. 7 in the nation according to Blue Star and No. 10 according to espnW HoopGurlz. A 6-0 guard, Valerie Higgins is a Southern California product who has a laundry list of accolades from her prep career at Chaminade College Prep and with the Nike Cal Stars club team. Named to the All-CIF First Team, she also has been named SoCal Player of the Year and was ranked as an ESPN Top-10 Wing. She’s put up big numbers, too, averaging 15 points, 10 rebounds, 6 assists and 6 steals per game. A two-time Nike EYBL National Champion, Higgins also helped lead her Chaminade Prep squad to a 27-4 record while grabbing two wins over top-ranked Mater Dei last season. A 6-3 forward, South Carolina product Asiah Jones is coming off a junior season at Woodmont High in which she averaged 19 points and 9 rebounds per game. She also has notched a career-high nine blocks in a single game, a testament to her size and skill that makes her a powerful addition to the Trojan gameplan. A Northern California product, 5-8 guard Minyon Moore comes to Troy from Salesian High in the Bay Area. A proven producer, Moore averaged 14 points, 7 assists, 5 steals and 5 rebounds per game and helped lead Salesian to the North Coast Section Division IV Championship. A 6-3 forward, Ja’Tavia Tapley joins the Trojan Family from Florida. The out-of-state import will be at home among the well-traveled Women of Troy, who will have nine different states and overseas nations represented when Tapley joins the crew along with fellow signee and South Carolina product Jones. Tapley ranks as the No. 39 overall prospect in the nation and stands as the No. 6 small forward in the land. An All-State First Team selection in 2015, Tapley is sure to bring a powerful presence to USC next season.

    TUNE IN TO THE TROJANS
    The Women of Troy have 14 televised regular-season games this season, with Pac-12 Networks also planning to broadcast games at the Pac-12 Tournament. All of USC’s regular-season televised appearances will air on Pac-12 Los Angeles, with some games also airing nationally or in other regions. Check the USC schedule at usctrojans.com for more info. Also check with your local cable provider for channel information. All told, USC will potentially cross paths with seven teams that reached the NCAA Tournament last year. All non-televised USC home games will be streamed live at http://pac-12.com/live/usc-2

    LAST SEASON
    USC finished up the 2014-15 season with a 15-15 overall record in head coach Cynthia Cooper-Dyke’s second season at Troy. The Trojans had posted a 7-11 record in Pac-12 play and were the No. 8 seeded team in the 2015 Pac-12 Tournament. USC would fall in the first round of the tourney, ending a tough season for the Trojans, who had entered the tournament as the defending champions. Seniors Alexyz Vaioletama and Kaneisha Horn wrapped up their Trojan careers with All-Pac-12 honors. Vaioletama landed a spot on the All-Pac-12 Team for the first time in her USC career, and Horn earned All-Pac-12 Defensive Honorable Mention. Freshman McKenzie Calvert was selected to the All-Freshman Team. •
     
    THE LAST MEETING
    USC35
    Oregon State68
    January 31, 2015
    Corvallis, Ore.
    No. 7 Oregon State Outshoots USC Women
    The USC women's basketball team was overmatched by No. 7 Oregon State today in Corvallis, Ore. After a slow start to the game, the Beavers heated up and hit the afterburners, leaving the Trojans behind and posting a final 68-35 victory. The program-low scoring output by USC spelled doom for the Trojans, who go to 11-9 overall and 3-6 in Pac-12 play with the loss to the hot-handed Beavers. Oregon State stays perfect in the conference with the win, now at 19-1 overall and 9-0 in Pac-12 action.

    THE LAST MEETING
    USC57
    Oregon63
    February 2, 2015
    Eugene, Ore.
    Ducks Heat Up To Pass USC Women 63-57
    The USC women's basketball team was passed up late in the game by host Oregon, which broke up a game that saw 11 tie scores with a nine-point run to the lead. The Ducks would not look back, and finished out the game by fending off the Trojans for a final 63-57 victory in Eugene. The Women of Troy suffer their fifth straight loss and go to 11-10 overall and 3-7 in Pac-12 play. Oregon improves to 10-11 overall and is also 3-7 in conference play with tonight's result.