USC Women Conclude Regular Season At Galen Center|
Feb. 23, 2016
USC women’s basketball closes down the regular season on the Trojans’ home court this weekend, searching to improve its conference standing for a solid seed in the coming Pac-12 Tournament. This week, USC (18-10, 6-10 Pac-12) will host No. 9 Arizona State (24-4, 15-1) in a 6 p.m. clash on Friday (Feb. 26) at Galen Center. Then, on Sunday (Feb. 28), USC looks to close out a season sweep of Arizona (11-17, 2-14) in the Trojans’ home finale at 2 p.m. Before the game, USC will honor its departing seniors, Brianna Barrett and Temi Fagbenle, in a Senior Day ceremony. Sunday also marks USC’s Day in Troy event, where USC Athletics hosts hundreds of children and family for an on-campus tour and take part in the educational S.C.O.R.E. program. For more information, go to usctrojans.com/ot/day-in-troy-faq.html
Friday’s USC-ASU game will be televised live on Pac-12 Los Angeles and Pac-12 Arizona with play-by-play by Guy Haberman and analysis from Ros Gold-Onwude. A live streaming broadcast is also available online to Pac-12 Network recipients at pac-12.com/live. The USC-Arizona game on Sunday will be streamed live at pac-12.com/live/usc-2. Live audio from Carey Noakes and Caroline Deisley. Live stats for both games also will be available through the USC women’s basketball schedule page at usctrojans.com.
IN THE NATION
After USC’s upset win over No. 15-ranked rival UCLA on Jan. 10, the Women of Troy had risen to rank No. 25 in the nation in the AP poll on Jan. 11 — USC’s first national ranking since 2014. USC fell out of the rankings the week of Jan. 18, and remains unranked in both polls again this week. USC weighs in at No. 42 on the latest RPI list as of Feb. 22. Arizona State ranks No. 9 in the AP poll and also is No. 9 in the USA Today Coaches Poll. Arizona is unranked.
USC took two road losses last week in a tough trip through Oregon. The Trojans were right in stride with the nation’s No. 7 team in the first half of action, but host Oregon State hit a high gear in the third quarter to cruise out of reach of USC in a final 76-52 Beaver win in Corvallis. USC was right in stride with the nation’s No. 7 team. If not for the Beavers’ success from 3-point range in the first half, USC would have had the upper hand at the break. OSU landed four 3-pointers by halftime but was only just ahead of the Trojans from the floor, shooting 31 percent through the first 20 minutes to USC’s 29-percent effort. USC was ahead on the boards 23-19 but was trailing the Beavers 29-23 on the scoreboard at the half. In the second half, though, OSU found a scoring rhythm and just kept pounding away. The Beavers shot a fiery 79 percent from the floor in the third to disarm the Trojans. By the final buzzer, the hosts had upped their efforts to finish out shooting 47 percent in the game to USC’s cooler 27 percent. Oregon State would finish on top on the boards as well, outrebounding USC 44-35. USC received a team-high 17 points from Aliyah Mazyck in this one, with Alexis Lloyd providing a spark in finishing with 10 points for the Trojan cause. OSU was paced by Jamie Weisner’s 18 points -- 15 of which came in the Beavers’ third-quarter surge. Two days later, USC carved a 15-point deficit down to two to heap pressure on host Oregon, but the Ducks would win out from the line in the end as the Trojans fell 69-60 in Eugene. Effective in the first frame, the Trojans stalled out in the second as Oregon heated up and USC fouls and turnovers built up. USC’s 58-percent shooting was trimmed down to 44 percent by halftime, while Oregon warmed from 31 percent to 52 percent as the Ducks overcame a seven-point deficit to lead 32-26 at the break. After a rough third period for the Trojans, USC was staring at a 52-37 hole. With work from Kristen Simon and threes from Courtney Jaco and Khaedin Taito, USC was able to muster up some scoring. The Trojans would cut the Oregon lead down to two with 1:45 left to play, but the Ducks would hold on and finish out the game from the free-throw line to wrap the game as an Oregon victory. The Ducks shot 53 percent from the floor and was 16-of-23 from the free-throw line. USC was 38 percent from the floor and went 9-of-14 from the stripe. The Trojans ended up out rebounding the Ducks 32-31 in the game on a well-balanced effort on the boards. Simon would lead the scoring charge for USC with 19 points, and Jaco finished up with 11 for the Trojans, nailing a trio of threes in the process. Oregon got 26 points from Maite Cazorla and a double-double from Jilian Alleyne with 23 points and 18 rebounds.
COOP’S COUNT GROWS
USC’s 74-67 comeback win over visiting Oregon on Jan. 4 not only got the Trojans’ first Pac-12 win on the board, it marked Cynthia Cooper-Dyke’s 200th career victory as a head coach. Cooper-Dyke got all hands on deck in the landmark victory, with eight Trojans in on the scoring action, including double-digit efforts from her own hand-picked additions Temi Fagbenle and Aliyah Mazyck. Cooper-Dyke now holds a 205-144 career record as a head coach. Now in her third season at USC, Cooper-Dyke is 55-38 at Troy.
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.
The numbers USC is pinning up are registering in the national stat sheets. Entering the week, USC’s defense ranks No. 57 in the nation, having given up just 58.3 points per game. USC’s average margin of victory of 9.5 points ranks 54th in the land. The Trojans average 10.3 steals per game to rank No. 23 in the nation in that category. Individually, Temi Fagbenle pops up on a couple top-100 lists, ranking No. 54 in the nation in field goal percentage at 51.9% and at No. 76 with 8.8 rebounds per game. Courtney Jaco also stands out, ranked No. 64 in the land with her 63 threes made to date, and No. 61 with her 3-point shooting percentage of 38.7%.
USC BY THE NUMBERS
Led by Temi Fagbenle’s team-high 13.8 points and 8.8 rebounds per game entering this week, the Women of Troy are putting up some strong numbers in 2015-16. USC has beaten six teams by at least 30 points and is holding opponents to just 58.3 points per game. In all, USC has four players averaging double digits, and three with at least 7.7 rebounds per game. The tightly knit group of scoring leaders has Fagbenle on top with 13.8 ppg followed closely by Jordan Adams and Kristen Simon. Sidelined for 14 games this season to date, Adams averages 12.8 ppg and 7.7 rpg. Simon is now No. 3 on the scoring charts with 11.0 ppg along with her powerful 8.3 rebounds per game. Next in line is sophomore Sadie Edwards, who has appeared in 18 games is providing 10.7 ppg. Meanwhile, Courtney Jaco is just outside the double-digit scoring zone with 9.9 ppg. Sharpshooter Jaco had her 14-game 3-point scoring streak come to a close on Jan. 2 but still leads the Trojans with 63 threes nailed this season — a new single-season best for her. USC’s top distributor is easily Brianna Barrett, who had been serving up 5.8 assists per game before missing the first game of her USC career on Jan. 15 due to eligibility issues. As a team, USC is averaging 67.8 points per game, shooting .408 from the floor and .699 from the free-throw line. USC is outrebounding opponents 1034-989.
TEMI TAKES THE STAGE
Post player Temi Fagbenle picked up honors as the Pac-12 Player of the Week on Jan. 11 after a particularly powerful performance in two big victories. Fagbenle is the first Trojan to win the award in almost two years, when Cassie Harberts earned the honor on Jan. 20, 2014. Fagbenle tacked up back-to-back double-doubles in the two Pac-12 wins. Her dominance was key in notching a 75-67 win over Oregon and a 71-68 victory over rival UCLA. Against the Ducks, Fagbenle delivered 19 points and hauled in 11 rebounds. In the rivalry clash against the Bruins, Fagbenle went bigger. She set the tone for the Trojans in snagging 12 of her final 15 rebounds during the first half. Later, Fagbenle scored USC’s first eight points of the fourth to build a strong lead for the Trojan cause. Fagbenle would finish the win with 20 points to go with her 15 boards. Fagbenle currently leads USC in scoring and rebounding with 13.8 points and 8.8 rebounds per game. In Pac-12 play to date, Fagbenle also is averaging a team-best 14.7 points and 19.8 rebounds per game.
SIMON STEPS UP
Sophomore Kristen Simon has made this season her time to shine as she has come up big in her role down low. Increased minutes and increased confidence has seen the sophomore almost double her production from her freshman season. Simon has bumped up her scoring numbers from 6.7 points per game as a freshman to stand as USC’s third leading scorer this season with 11.0 ppg. On the boards, Simon has upgraded her tally from 5.5 rebounds per game to stand at No. 2 on the boards for the Trojans with 8.3 rpg this season to date. A full-time starter now, Simon is putting in 29.3 minutes per game to overmatch last season’s 17.3 average minutes played. She’s also recorded her first career double-doubles in her sophomore campaign, holding eight so far and boasting a total of 17 games in which she’s scored in double figures.
Junior Courtney Jaco — USC’s returning top gun from 3-point range — has some new backup beyond the arc in sophomore Sadie Edwards and freshman Aliyah Mazyck. Jaco has already eclipsed her season-best mark of 48 threes nailed last season. She’s hit 63 to date and continues to climb in the USC career charts. Now with 136 career 3-pointers hit, Jaco sits in the #6 all-time spot in that category, and her sharpshooting also has her No. 4 all-time in career 3-point percentage at 37.7%. Jaco, Edwards and Mazyck have proven a potent tandem for the Trojans this season. Edwards, who became eligible for action on Dec. 18 after coming to Troy last season as a midyear transfer from UConn, has stepped into her role and nailed 15 threes in her 18 games played to date. Mazyck, meanwhile, hit her first career three in her second game as a Trojans and has gone on to collect 21 threes so far. Not to be counted out from 3-point land is redshirt junior Jordan Adams, who found her scoring touch from distance and hit 13 threes in her 12 appearances this season. That count is a significant upgrade from past seasons. Adams hit six as a redshirt freshman and a total of nine last season.
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 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 Adams, Brianna 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 — two transfers, three international additions, one California product and one North Carolina native.
WORLDLY WOMEN OF TROY
The international flavor at 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 joined 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.
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.
The USC women’s basketball program has added of a solid set of new Trojans set to come to campus in 2016. With NLIs signed and delivered on Nov. 11, Cynthia Cooper-Dyke and her staff are proud to announce the addition of Valerie Higgins, Asiah Jones, Minyon Moore and Ja’Tavia Tapley. 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, Higgins is an All-CIF First Team honoree out of Chaminade College Prep who also has been named SoCal Player of the Year and was ranked as an ESPN Top-10 Wing. A 6-3 forward, South Carolina product Jones is coming off a junior season at Woodmont High in which she averaged 19 points and 9 rebounds per game. A Northern California product, 5-8 guard Moore averaged 14 points, 7 assists, 5 steals and 5 rebounds per game and helped lead Salesian High to the North Coast Section Division IV Championship. A 6-3 forward from Florida, Tapley ranks as the No. 39 overall prospect in the nation and stands as the No. 6 small forward in the land.
BEATING THE BRUINS
USC found vengeance on its home courton Jan. 10, delivering a 71-68 upset win over visiting crosstown rival UCLA. The No. 15 Bruins were a perfect 3-0 in Pac-12 play entering the rematch with the Trojans, but this time USC was ready for its rivals. After trailing by six points midway through the first quarter, USC shrugged off a slow start and moseyed into the lead. The Trojans would never trail again after skipping ahead to close the first, fending off the Bruins in holding UCLA to 31 percent shooting. The upset win — USC’s first over a ranked team since topping No. 4 Stanford in the 2014 Pac-12 Tournament semifinal -— improved the Trojans to 14-2 overall and to 2-2 in Pac-12 play. The Bruins go to 11-4 and 3-1. In a fitful start for both teams, USC would come up with the hotter hand in the first half of action. After a slow beginning, the Trojans hit their stride and pulled into the lead late in the first quarter. USC would stay a step ahead in the second quarter while UCLA went silent from the floor for the first five-plus minutes. By the halftime buzzer, USC was gripping a 27-24 lead on its rival. The Trojans had shot 30 percent from the floor in the first half to outpace the Bruins’ 24-percent effort. In the second half, USC dug in its heels further, steaming ahead thanks to a 52-percent shooting effort in the last 20 minutes of play. That was enough to pad the lead out to as much as 14, and although the Bruins closed the gap late in the fourth, USC would hold on for the victory. The Trojans finished out the game shooting 40 percent from the floor to overmatch UCLA’s 31 percent. The Trojans did commit a season-high 23 turnovers, but were aided by a strong performance on the boards in outrebounding the Bruins 51-45. Temi Fagbenle reigned supreme on the boards, hauling in 15 to go with her team-high 20 points for her second straight double-double. Kristen Simon, too, netted a double-double with 14 points and 11 rebounds. The hero of the day, however, was quite possibly Jordan Adams, who returned from injury to tally 13 points, including a perfect 7-for-7 effort from the free-throw line. Sadie Edwards also hit double figures for the Trojans with 13 points. Brianna Barrett was USC’s top distributor with seven assists on the night. UCLA received a game-high 23 points from Jordin Canada -— 18 of which came in the second half of play. UCLA also had Nirra Fields finish with 13 points. USC would secure its first national ranking since 2014 after beating the Bruins. In the Jan. 11 AP poll, the Trojans were ranked No. 25 in the nation.
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. Additionally, USC will have live audio-only streams for all home games in 2016. Those links are available on the USC women’s basketball schedule page.
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. •