USC Women Line Up For Back-to-Back Battles With No. 11 Bruins|
Jan. 17, 2017
Wednesday, Jan. 18 | 8 p.m.
USC (10-7, 1-5) vs. #13/11 UCLA (13-4, 4-2)
PxP: Kate Scott | Analysts: Mary Murphy & Layshia Clarendon
USC’s tough stretch of Pac-12 action continues with rivalry week bringing up back-to-back clashes against crosstown rival UCLA. The Trojans (10-7, 1-5 Pac-12) host the first Crosstown Showdown in an 8 p.m. matchup against the No. 13/11 Bruins on Wednesday (Jan. 18) at Galen Center. Then, the teams will reconvene at Pauley Pavilion for another tilt on Sunday (Jan. 22) at 5 p.m. in Westwood. Both games will be televised on Pac-12 Network and Pac-12 Los Angeles, with live audio also available through usctrojans.com.
IN THE NATION
USC is unranked in the latest national polls but is receiving votes in this week’s AP poll. UCLA is ranked No. 13 in the AP poll and No. 11 in the USA Today/Coaches poll.
In the fifth game of the season (Nov. 23), redshirt senior Jordan Adams suffered a season-ending ACL tear (left knee). She was averaging 8.8 points and 5.6 rebounds per game before being sidelined for the season. Dani Milisic was sidelined for the first four games (knee) and was cleared to play for her first action on Nov. 23. Aliyah Mazyck has missed the past five games (foot). Marguerite Effa missed four games (12/30, 1/1, 1/6, 1/8) with injury. Kristen Simon missed the Jan. 13 and 15 games for personal reasons. Valerie Higgins missed the Jan. 15 game vs. OSU with injury (knee).
The No. 11 Bruins are 13-4 overall and 4-2 in Pac-12 play beating No. 10 Oregon State 66-56 and Oregon 79-63 last week. Monique Billings leads UCLA in scoring (18.0 ppg) and rebounding (10.9 rpg). USC is 48-42 all-time against UCLA after a split last year. UCLA beat the Trojans 78-72 at Pauley Pavilion before USC beat the Bruins 71-68 at Galen Center in the 2015-16 season.
USC was swept at home by the Oregon schools last week. First, the Trojans stalled out in the second half and saw their healthy halftime lead soured by a lukewarm outing in the last 20 minutes against Oregon. The Ducks would take their first lead of the game in the final two minutes, and then pressed on to a 59-53 victory over the host Trojans on Friday night. USC looked to be in control of things in the first half as the Trojans fired at a 42-percent clip from the floor through those first 20 minutes and held a 36-20 lead at the break. Sadie Edwards had accounted for 17 of those first-half points to help USC power into the lead. But in the second half, Oregon countered and shot 61 percent in the second half while the Trojans cooled to 23 percent in the final 20. USC mustered only 17 points in the second half of action — the last of those coming with 1:52 to play, just before Oregon made its winning push. By the final buzzer, USC had shot 33 percent in the game to Oregon’s 50 percent. The teams finished even on the boards at 32 apiece. USC received a game-high 23 points from Edwards, while Courtney Jaco also finished in double figures with 10 points. Oregon got 17 points from Sabrina Ionesco along with 14 apiece from Ruthy Hebard and Lexi Bando. Against the Beavers two night later, USC put forth a strong performance against the nation’s No. 10 team, but visiting Oregon State was able to keep the host Trojans at bay in pressing on for a 74-60 win. OSU hit at a 44-percent clip and manufactured a couple key runs in the first half to overcome an early USC lead. The Beavers’ 10-0 run in the second quarter was sandwiched by threes from USC’s Courtney Jaco, as the Trojans trailed 34-27 at halftime on a 31-percent shooting effort in the half. USC had the margin at five in the third quarter before the foul count teetered farther against the Trojans. OSU would mount a 15-0 run while the game’s foul count climbed to 18 for USC and just eight whistled on the Beavers, whose lead expanded to 58-38 at the close of the third. USC would carve that deficit down to 10 on a 9-0 run during the fourth, but OSU was able to fend off the Trojans and round out the 74-60 road win. USC finished the game shooting 36 percent from the floor, landing five 3-pointers — three of which came from Courtney Jaco, who moved up to No. 3 all-time in career threes at USC with her outing. Oregon State shot a hot 52 percent from the floor and outrebounded the Trojans 44-34 in the game. USC was led by Sadie Edwards’ 17 points, with Courtney Jaco adding 16 and freshman Ja’Tavia Tapley registering a career-high 11 points. Oregon State was led by Kolbie Orum’s 16 points, with Marie Gülich adding a double-double with 11 points and 10 rebounds. Breanna Brown and Mikayla Pivec each scored 10 points for the Beavers.
USC BY THE NUMBERS
Led by Kristen Simon’s team-high 15.7 points and 9.7 rebounds per game, the Women of Troy have put together a 10-7 overall record to date. Defensively, USC is holding opponents to 64.9 points per game and has forced 19.3 turnovers per game by its opponents. Individually, USC has three players averaging double digits and one just shy of that mark. The group of scoring leaders has Simon on top with her 15.7 ppg, followed by junior Sadie Edwards at 11.6 ppg and freshman Minyon Moore with 11.4 ppg, while senior Courtney Jaco is closing in with 9.9 ppg. USC’s top distributor is easily Moore, who averages 5.0 assists per game. As a team, USC is averaging 71.9 points per game, shooting .439 from the floor and .701 from the free-throw line. USC is being outrebounding by opponents 635-613.
HOT-HANDED IN SACRAMENTO
In a mad scramble in Sacramento, USC outshot the host Hornets in an all-out shootout for an 111-95 road win that pumped up the Trojans’ overall record to 7-1. Five Women of Troy hit double digits in the fast-paced win, led by a career-high 24 points from Aliyah Mazyck. The high-scoring affair also saw freshman Minyon Moore serve up 15 assists — second most by a Trojan in program history to stand just behind 17 tallied by Rhonda Windham back in 1982. USC’s 111 points scored also was the sixth most in program history, last hit in 1981. In the first half, the Trojans rattled off 60 points — the most in a half since 1987 and the sixth most points in a half in program history. USC also shot a season-high 58.8 percent from the floor in the fast-paced victory.
ON THE RISE
USC senior guard Courtney Jaco’s 3-point threat has been well established, and the sharpshooter continues to stake her claim in the USC record books. She started her senior season ranked as USC’s No. 5 all-time 3-point shooter. With 36 threes landed this season, she climbed up to No. 3 all-time when she landed three more 3-pointers against Oregon State on Jan. 15. Jaco is now locked even at No. 3 with Shay Murphy with 181 career 3-pointers made. She also stands as USC’s second most productive 3-pointer shooter with a career average of 38.3% from beyond the arc to date (181-of-472).
USC junior forward Kristen Simon has tacked up double-doubles in seven of USC’s first 15 games, including back-to-back double-double outings at the Great Alaska Shootout, where she was named Most Outstanding Player at the tournament. She now boasts 15 career double-doubles, and still holds the rights to one of USC’s most dominant recent rebounding effort in her 21-board game last season. That marked the fourth most single-game rebounds ever collected by a Trojan, placing her just behind efforts by such USC greats as Lisa Leslie and Cheryl Miller. After setting a new career high for herself with a 23-point outing at Sacramento State, and delivering a perfect 6-for-6 effort from the free-throw line in USC’s upset of Texas A&M, Simon was named Pac-12 Player of the Week for the first time in her career on Dec. 5. She has since upped that career best with a 25-point day at WSU on Jan. 8.
PUNCH FROM THE BENCH
USC freshman guard Minyon Moore was the first 20-point scorer this season (vs. UC Riverside, Nov. 16) and also served up a whopping 11 assists (vs. Missouri State, Nov. 22) -— the most by a Trojan since Briana Gilbreath in 2012 — in a single game. Against Long Beach State, she set a new career high for herself with 23 points — a season high for the Trojans to date. And at Sacramento State, the freshman dished out 15 assists — second most ever by a Trojan and the most since Rhonda Windham delivered 17 in 1982. Those efforts all came off the bench from Moore, who has averaged 11.4 points, 5.0 assists and 2.7 steals through her first 17 games as a Trojan. After her stellar showing in wins at Texas A&M and Sacramento State, Moore was named the Pac-12 Freshman of the Week on Dec. 5. Moore’s first career start came on Jan. 15 against OSU.
A WELCOME HOMECOMING
USC kicked off homecoming weekend with a true reunion, welcoming home Trojan great Cheryl Miller for USC’s exhibition clash against Cal State LA on Nov. 4. Miller is in her first year at the helm of CSULA, and her trip to Troy marked a rare opportunity for two former NCAA championship teammates and fellow Hall of Famers to face off. Miller and USC head coach Cynthia Cooper-Dyke were reunited on the court of their shared alma mater, with a pregame ceremony held to honor Miller’s visit to Troy, with many former Women of Troy in attendance for the game.
PLAYING THE LONG GAME
The first thing opponents will notice about the 2016-17 Trojans is their size. USC opens the year with five players standing 6-foot-3 or taller — a first for any USC roster in program history. In the past two decades, no USC roster has had more than three players with that kind of height. Such a notable influx has upped the Trojans’ post presence, adding key balance to pair with its returning backcourt savvy. Led by 6-foot-6 senior transfer Ivana Jakubcova, USC’s lofty post presence includes 6-4 Dani Milisic and a trio of Trojans standing at 6-3 in Marguerite Effa, Asiah Jones and Ja’Tavia Tapley.
Three years ago, the Trojans won the Pac-12 Tournament title for the first time in program history and got back to the NCAA Tournament after several years of near misses. Three members of that 2014 squad remain — Jordan Adams, Courtney Jaco and Alexis Lloyd — to help guide their 2016-17 team toward another postseason appearance, The loss of redshirt senior Adams was a hit to the Trojans, but fellow seniors Jaco and Lloyd and juniors Sadie Edwards and Kristen Simon have stepped up their leadership roles to help keep the bar high for their team. Sophomores Aliyah Mazyck, Candela Abejón and Marguerite Effa, meanwhile, have taken last season’s experience to add to the powerful blend of talent on the Trojan roster for 2016-17.
Redshirt freshman forward Dani Milisic has checked in for her first action as a Trojan this season alongside true freshmen Minyon Moore, Valerie Higgins, Asiah Jones and Ja’Tavia Tapley, while USC welcomes the savvy and skill of grad student transfer Ivana Jakubcova. USC’s supersized post presence is comprised of 6-foot-6 Jakubcova, 6-4 Milisic and a trio of 6-3 youngsters in Effa, Jones and Tapley. Altogether, USC’s four true freshmen (Higgins, Jones, Moore and Tapley) have combined for 403 points (23.7 ppg) through the first 17- games of the season.
The team got an early dose of experience together this summer with a trip to Italy, where the Trojans combined incredible cultural experiences in Pisa, Venice, Florence, Treviso and Rome with valuable game action against international squads. It was an invaluable chance to grow as a team. From bike rides along the Sile River, to climbing the Tower of Pisa, to photo ops in the Coliseum in Rome (a little older than the Los Angeles Coliseum!), the Women of Troy made many powerful new memories. Plus, they got to hit the court for three games against pro and semi-pro teams from Italy, Germany and Lithuania, offering up a fantastic opportunity for new teammates to get comfortable with on-court competition as a team.
USC has hauled in two key Californians with the signing of Shalexxus Aaron and Destiny Littleton to national letters of intent. The two newest Women of Troy are shining stars from Southern California, and are now set to make themselves at home at Troy in 2017. Aaron and Littleton are highly anticipated additions to the USC roster for 2017-18, offering up distinct backcourt strengths to bring to the Trojan gameplan. Shalexxus Aaron will come to Troy from Martin Luther King High in Riverside, and is actually already a member of the Trojan Family by blood. Her brother, Shaqquan, is a redshirt sophomore on the USC men’s basketball team. A 6-1 guard, Aaron was league MVP as a freshman and participated in the USA Under-16 and under-17 team trials. Ranked as the #16 guard in the nation by ESPN, Aaron truly has basketball in her blood. Her mother. Madinah, is a former college basketball player. Her father, Carl, played professionally in Australia. And her oldest brother, Shaddean, played basketball at Mercer College. A 5-9 guard, Destiny Littleton has racked up plenty of accolades for her work at The Bishop’s School in La Jolla. Ranked as the #9 guard in the nation by ESPN, Littleton was the 2014 CIF Freshman of the Year, 2015 CIF Sophomore of the Year, 2016 CIF Junior of the Year and was named to the 2016 California All-State First Team. She also was a member of the 2015 USA Basketball U16 National Team. She’s also closing in on the California state scoring record. She entered her senior season 905 points shy of passing record-holder Charde Houston (3,837), who was also coached by Littleton’s high school coach and guardian, Marlon Wells.
USC finished up the 2015-16 season with a 19-13 overall record in head coach Cynthia Cooper-Dyke’s third season at Troy. USC’s 13th win of the year also notched Cooper-Dyke’s 200th career win as a head coach. The Trojans had opened up the year with a 12-0 record, doubling up on its most recent best season start of 6-0, last hit in 1993-94 with Cheryl Miller as head coach. The 12-0 start was the best opening for the Women of Troy since an 18-0 start in the 1981-82 season. After opening up 12-0, however, USC had two key Trojans sidelined with eligibility issues, which interrupted USC’s flow the rest of the way. USC would go 6-12 in Pac-12 play and reach the Pac-12 Tournament quarterfinals. At the close of the season, senior Temi Fagbenle would earn WBCA All-Region honors to go along with her spot on the All-Pac-12 Team. Courtney Jaco also earned conference accolades with All-Pac-12 Honorable Mention. Fagbenle had led the Trojans in scoring (13.6 ppg), rebounds (8.7 rpg) and steals (1.8 spg) while Jaco ruled the backcourt, adding 2.0 assists and 1.7 steals per game to go along with her 72 three-pointers made. •
UPSETTING THE AGGIES
USC dealt No. 19 Texas A&M its first loss of the year while improving to 4-0 in beating the host Aggies 66-62 in College Station on Nov. 30. The Women of Troy trailed nine in the first half and had to overcome foul trouble before righting the ship and making a stubborn push to victory with a strong second-half showing. USC forced two ties in the fourth quarter and was down by two with 4:25 to go, but still pressed on for the upset road win. The lead had traded hands eight times in the first 12 minutes before the foul count tipped against the Trojans during the second quarter to stall things out as the hosts maneuvered out ahead 34-27 by halftime. By the time the second half unfurled, however, the Trojans made adjustments and got 10 points from Kristen Simon in those 10 minutes to help fuel a USC comeback. USC’s first lead since the early second quarter came care of an 8-0 run that took the Trojans ahead 47-44 late in the third. In the fourth, USC continued to hit key shots while finally getting to the free-throw line more than twice in the frame. Texas A&M had worked ahead 59-57 with 4:25 to go, but the Trojans stood their ground. After Sadie Edwards broke a tie in the final minute, Simon’s sixth straight free throw finishes made it 65-62 Trojans with 21 seconds left, and USC held on for the upset win. Simon, who was 6-for-6 from the stripe on the day, topped out with 20 points for the Trojans along with a team-high eight rebounds. Edwards delivered 18 points for USC to join Simon in double digits. USC’s defense forced 22 turnovers out of the Aggies, while the Trojans committed 13. USC shot 39 percent from the floor to trail Texas A&M’s 41 percent. The Trojans finished up 16-of-22 from the free-throw line after shooting 4-of-6 in the first half. Texas A&M went 18-of-23 from the line in the game after making 11-of-15 in the first half. USC’s last win over a ranked team had been an upset of No. 15 UCLA last season, winning 71-68.
WOMEN OF TROY CLASSIC WRAP
USC wound up as runner-up in the 2016 Women of Troy Classic last weekend after opening with a 75-64 win over Grambling State and then taking No. 5 Mississippi State down to the wire before falling 76-72 in the championship game. Against the Lady Tigers, USC grabbed its sixth straight victory, leaping out of the gate quickly with a 10-0 run in the opening four minutes. Kristen Simon was strong the whole game, leading the team with 13 points and 12 rebounds. This marks Simon’s sixth straight game scoring in double digits, and her fifth double-double of the season. Courtney Jaco also was unstoppable tonight, scoring with 100 percent accuracy. She was 3-for-3 on 3-point attempts and racked up 11 total points for the Trojans. Minyon Moore kept the ball in the Trojans’ hands with eight total steals — the fourth most ever in a single game by a Woman of Troy. Grambling State’s top scorer Jazmin Boyd had 19 points on the night, followed closely by Monisha Neal’s 17 points. Neal also finished up with a double-double in adding 10 rebounds to her night’s effort. Yet, by the end of the game, the field goal accuracy made the difference for the Trojans. USC shot 48 percent from the floor and 55 percent from 3-point range on a 6-for-11 effort beyond the arc. Grambling, meanwhile, was 36 percent overall and went 6-of-18 from 3-point range. USC also won out on the boards 43-33, but turned the ball over 20 times. Up against the No. 5 Bulldogs in the title match, an 8-0 run had carried USC into the lead during the second quarter, and it wasn’t until the end of the third quarter that undefeated Mississippi State nudged ahead, benefiting from 10 Trojan fouls whistled in that 10-minute span. Five lead changes would come in the fourth before the Bulldogs maneuvered ahead and USC was just off the mark in its effort to equalize in the final seconds, leaving the Trojans with just their second loss of the year. Kristen Simon had secured double digits by halftime to help anchor a strong stand by the Trojans through those first 20 minutes. Simon’s 11 points on 5-of-7 shooting -- including the first 3-pointer of her career -- boosted USC to a 33-29 halftime lead as the Trojans shot 42 percent from the floor in the first half. Mississippi State was shooting 39 percent by the break, and each team had landed three 3-pointers apiece. A 13-of-16 outing from the free-throw line in the third quarter helped the Bulldogs build some steam as they worked ahead 55-54 at the end of the third. By the final buzzer, USC had outshot Mississippi State, going 48 percent from the floor and 6-of-11 from 3-point range to outpace the Bulldogs’ 42 percent from the floor and 5-of-14 effort from beyond the arc. Mississippi State outrebounded the Trojans 40-24 but committed 15 turnovers to USC’s 11. From the stripe, Mississippi State landed 23-of-29 free throws compared to USC’s 14-of-18 outing. USC was led in scoring by Sadie Edwards’ 24 points -- 18 of which came in the second half. Kristen Simon wound up with 15 points, and Minyon Moore added 14 while fellow freshman served up eight blocks -- the most by a Trojan since Lisa Leslie hit eight in 1993. It’s the third most blocks ever tallied by a Trojan in a single game, with Cheryl Miller holding the top counts of 9 and 10. Mississippi State was led by 19 points from Victoria Vivians, along with 18 from Morgan William and 17 from Breanna Richardson.