USC Women Set Up Camp In Seattle For 2016 Pac-12 Tournament|
March 1, 2016
The USC women’s basketball team sets up for a journey to Seattle as the No. 8 seed in the 2016 Pac-12 Tournament once again. The Women of Troy will open this year’s run with a first-round clash against No. 9 seeded Washington State in a rubber match that could provide a key lift for USC in its postseason bid. The Trojans (18-12) and the Cougars (14-15) are set to face off in a 6 p.m. clash on Thursday (March 3) at KeyArena. A win in that game would advance the Trojans into the quarterfinals against top-seeded Oregon State at 6 p.m. on Friday (March 4). The path from there would include an 8:30 p.m. semifinal on Saturday (March 7) followed by the championship game at 6 p.m. on Sunday (March 8). USC is now two years removed from its historic run to the 2014 Pac-12 Tournament Championship, where the fifth-seeded Trojans became the first team ever to win four games in the tournament.
Pac-12 Networks will be televising the first three rounds of competition at the Pac-12 Tournament, with Anne Marie Anderson, Tammy Blackburn, Krista Blunk and Mary Murphy in rotation on the calls and with Jill Savage working on the sideline. Sunday’s championship will be televised on ESPN. Live stats for all games will be available through the tournament central page at pac-12.com/womens-basketball/womens-basketball-tournament. Live streaming broadcasts are also available online to Pac-12 Network subscribers at pac-12.com/live/. All USC games will also have live audio with play-by-play from Caroline Deisley available through links on 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. 55 on the latest RPI list as of March 1.
THIS TIME LAST YEAR
USC finished up last season tied for seventh at 7-11 in the conference standings and picked up the No. 8 seed into the 2015 Pac-12 Tournament. Up against No. 9 seed Colorado in the first round last year, the Trojans saw the Buffs heat up from beyond the arc and stay strong from the free-throw line as Colorado served up a 75-63 win over the Trojans. That loss closed USC’s 2014-15 season with a 15-15 overall record.
USC shocked everyone but itself in 2014, winning the program’s first-ever Pac-12 Tournament Championship under first-year head coach Cynthia Cooper-Dyke. In the championship game, the No. 5 seeded Trojans barely blinked when No. 3 seed Oregon State took an 11-point lead in the first half, and USC would drive right past the Beavers in the second half to win it all with a 71-62 final victory. USC had muscled top-seeded and No. 4-ranked Stanford out of the title match for the first time in history with a 72-68 semifinal upset. The Trojans had kick-started their winning rally with a 59-54 win over No. 12 seeded Arizona in the opening round. Another tight battle would ensue in the quarterfinals, where USC notched its first upset of the tourney with a 59-57 over No. 4 seed Arizona State. USC was the first team in the conference tournament’s history to play four games in the four-day event, let alone the first team to WIN all four of those games. The relentless effort of the Women of Troy got them to a 22-12 overall record and punched a ticket to the 2014 NCAA Tournament with an automatic bid, marking the first time since 2006 that USC made an appearance in the tourney.
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 205-146 career record as a head coach. Now in her third season at USC, Cooper-Dyke is 55-40 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. 56 in the nation, having given up just 58.2 points per game. The Trojans average 10.3 steals per game to rank No. 22 in the nation in that category. Individually, Temi Fagbenle pops up on a couple top-100 lists, ranking No. 50 in the nation in field goal percentage at 52.5% and at No. 55 with her 254 total rebounds collected. Courtney Jaco also stands out, ranked No. 66 in the land with her 66 threes made to date, and No. 68 with her 3-point shooting percentage of 37.5%.
USC BY THE NUMBERS
Led by Temi Fagbenle’s team-high 13.6 points and 8.5 rebounds per game entering this week, the Women of Troy have been putting up some strong numbers in 2015-16. Defensively, USC is holding opponents to just 58.2 points per game and has forced 19.5 turnovers per game by its opponents. Individually, USC has four players averaging double digits, and two with at least 8.0 rebounds per game. The tightly knit group of scoring leaders has Fagbenle on top with 13.6 ppg. Sidelined for 18 games this season to date, Jordan Adams is still next in line on the stat sheet with her 12.8 ppg and 7.7 rpg. Kristen Simon comes in next in scoring with 10.9 ppg along with her powerful 8.2 rebounds per game. Next is sophomore Sadie Edwards, who has appeared in 20 games since become eligible for action in late December and is providing 10.6 ppg. Meanwhile, Courtney Jaco is just outside the double-digit scoring zone with 9.8 ppg. Sharpshooter Jaco leads the Trojans with 66 threes nailed this season — a new single-season best for her and the fifth most makes by a Trojan in a season. 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 66.7 points per game, shooting .406 from the floor and .699 from the free-throw line. USC is outrebounding opponents 1085-1065.
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 after having provided a team-best 14.3 points and 9.1 rebounds per game during Pac-12 play.
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 10.9 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 8.2 rpg this season to date. A full-time starter now, Simon is putting in 29.5 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 18 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 139 career 3-pointers hit, Jaco has taken over the No. 5 all-time spot in that category, and her sharpshooting also has her No. 4 all-time in career 3-point percentage at 37.2%. 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 17 threes in her 20 games played to date. Mazyck, meanwhile, hit her first career three in her second game as a Trojans and has gone on to collect 22 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.
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.
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. •