Pac-12 Champion USC Women Head To NCAA Tournament

    Cynthia Cooper and the Trojans are off to Knoxville for the Big Dance!

    March 18, 2014

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    The USC women's basketball team has captured a No. 9 seed into its first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2006. The Women of Troy (22-12) will make their 16th overall trip to the tourney with a six-game win streak in their sails following a historic run to the 2014 Pac-12 Tournament Championship. With an unprecedented four wins in four days, the Trojans upset three other NCAA-bound teams to leave no doubt of their return to the NCAA scene. Under the guidance of head coach Cynthia Cooper -- who won two national championships during her playing career as a Trojan -- USC has scored a trip to Knoxville, Tenn., to open its 2014 NCAA campaign against No. 8 seed St. John's (22-10) at 6:30 p.m. ET on Saturday (March 22) with a shot at facing either No. 1 Tennessee (27-5) or No. 16 Northwestern State (21-12) in the NCAA Second Round on Monday (March 24).

    • USC is 29-13 in the NCAA Tournament, with two NCAA title victories (1983 and 1984).

    • This is the Trojans' 16th trip to the NCAA Tournament

    • USC captured an automatic berth in this year's NCAA Tournament by way of the Trojans' first-ever Pac-12 Tournament Championship. The Trojans were the first team ever to play four games in the conference tournament and won all four, upsetting Arizona State, #4 Stanford and Oregon State along the way.

    • The 2006 Tournament was USC's last trip to the NCAA tourney. USC was a No. 8 seed that year, beating South Florida 67-65 in the first round before falling to No. 1 seed Duke 85-51 in the Second Round in Norfolk, Va.

    • USC has played nine other teams in the 64-team field of the 2014 NCAA Tournament, posting a 6-9 record against those opponents this season (0-1 against No. 1 seed South Carolina; 1-2 against No. 2 seed Stanford; 0-1 against No. 5 seed Oklahoma State; 0-1 against No. 6 seed Iowa; 1-1 against No. 7 seed California; 2-1 against No. 9 seed Oregon State; 1-1 against No. 9 seed Arizona State; 1-0 against No. 13 seed Fresno State; 0-1 against No. 16 seed Cal State Northridge).

    • As a player at USC, Cooper won back-to-back NCAA Championships with the Women of Troy in 1983 and 1984. In four trips to the NCAA Tournament as a player, she went 13-2 overall with her only NCAA losses coming to Tennessee (1982 Mideast Regional Final in Knoxville) and Texas (1986 NCAA Final in Lexington, Kentucky).

    • Head coach Cynthia Cooper -- in her first season as head coach of her alma mater -- has made two previous trips to the NCAA Tournament as a coach. As head coach of Prairie View A&M, Cooper and Panthers reached the NCAA First Round in 2007 and 2009. WATCH THIS!

    ESPN will be televising the first- and second-round games in Knoxville, with Joe Davis and Maria Taylor on the calls. Live stats for USC's games will be available through the Gametracker link on the women's basketball schedule page at

    USC has moved into the national rankings this week for the first time since preseason 2011. In this week's AP poll, USC weighs in at No. 25 in the nation. The last time the Trojans were ranked was at No. 23 on Nov. 11, 2011.

    USC shocked everyone but itself last week, winning the program's first-ever Pac-12 Tournament Championship. The Trojans barely blinked when No. 3 seed Oregon State took an 11-point lead in the first half, and drove right past the Beavers in the second half to win it all with a 71-62 final victory. 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 has punched a ticket to the NCAA Tournament with an automatic bid, marking the first time since 2006 that USC will make an appearance in the tourney. USC had muscled top-seeded Stanford out of the title match for the first time in history with a 72-68 semifinal upset. Both teams dropped four 3-pointers apiece in the first 20 minutes, but it was Oregon State's 44-percent effort from the floor overall that helped outpace USC by the break. The Trojans were shooting 33 percent as they trailed the Beavers 36-29 at halftime. USC had trailed by 11 in the first half, but constructed a 23-point swing in taking a 12-point lead during the second half thanks in part to a defensive effort supercharged by a stubborn press and an improved offensive push at the other end. USC would shoot 39 percent from the floor to finish at 36 percent in the game. OSU, meanwhile, cooled down to 31 percent in the second half and finished up at 38 percent. USC landed seven 3-pointers and went 20-of-24 from the free-throw line to build the difference and lock in the comeback victory. USC got four Trojans in double digits for the win, led by 16 points from the tournament's Most Outstanding Player, Ariya Crook. Kiki Alofaituli came up big with 15 points tonight, while Pac-12 All-Tournament Team member Cassie Harberts added 12. Also finishing in double digits was Brianna Barrett with 11 points on the night. Oregon State was paced by Deven Hunter with 19 points and 11 rebounds, with Sydney Wiese adding 17 points and Ruth Hamblin putting in 10 for the Beavers.

    USC showed no fear against top-seeded and No. 4 ranked Stanford in the Pac-12 Tournament semifinals, ignoring the Cardinal's attempts to take over the game en route to a huge 72-68 upset to muscle into the title match. Stanford nudged into a three-point lead with 5 minutes to go, only to see USC senior Cassie Harberts explode with 10 straight points to carry the Women of Troy into a lead they would not relinquish. USC's last Pac-12 title match trip had been in 2009, when the No. 6-seeded Trojans fell to top-seeded Stanford 89-64. The first conference tournament was in 2002. The semifinal win over Stanford snapped a 14-game losing streak to the Cardinal. USC's last win over Stanford had been a 73-72 victory at Galen Center in 2007. USC was up to the task against top-seeded Stanford, holding tight through six ties as the Trojans were level with the Cardinal 32-32 by halftime. USC shot 35 percent and Stanford 36. Ariya Crook had 13 first-half points for USC, and Chiney Ogwumike also had 13 by the break. USC would charge up and put Stanford in a 10-point hole, but the Cardinal would benefit from a foul count tipped heavily against the Trojans. The Cardinal would get almost half its points from the free-throw line as they manufactured a comeback push into a 60-57 lead with 3:40 to go in the game. Cue Cassie Harberts. The senior carried the Trojans along on a 10-point run all her own to lead Stanford 67-60 lead with 1:23 to go. From there, the Trojans kept their eye on the prize, as Stanford got to within two but no further. USC finished the game shooting 39 percent from the floor and was 8-of-16 from 3-point range to lead Stanford's 32 percent overall effort and a 4-of-14 night on threes. USC was led by tonight's X-factor, Alexyz Vaioletama, who had 19 points and 15 rebounds to get the Trojans a big spark. Ariya Crook would add in 15 points in passing the 1,000-point mark, and Cassie Harberts added 13 points and seven rebounds. She moved up to No. 7 all-time in career rebounds with her effort on the night. Stanford was led by Chiney Ogwumike's 30 points and 21 rebounds, joined by Lili Thompson and Amber Orrange in double figures with 13 and 11 points, respectively. Ariya Crook broke the 1,000-point mark in scoring USC's first five points of the game, dropping a 3-pointer to bust past 1,000 and move up to No. 5 all-time in career 3-pointers.

    The Women of Troy made some historic moves during their winning weekend against the Oregon schools. Against the Beavers on Jan. 17, it was a career day for USC senior Cassie Harberts and junior Ariya Crook, who both cracked the all-time top-10 in different categories. Harberts passed up USC head coach and Trojan great Cynthia Cooper on the all-time scoring list, while Crook broke the century mark in career 3-pointers to climb to No. 10 there. Against Oregon, the USC women became the first team ever to score 100 points at the Galen Center with the Trojans' 109-85 victory. The fast-paced game saw 12 different Women of Troy score -- led by 30 points from Harberts -- as USC built up its highest-scoring game since 1982. The Trojans' whopping 109 final points notched the 34th triple-digit game in USC women's program history and the first ever at Galen Center by any team -- men's or women's, home or opponent. USC also dished out 33 assists in the game -- second most in program history. Crook matched her career best with seven to lead all, while Harberts served up a career-high six assists and finished up just one point away from her career high, tallying 30 points today. Freshman Courtney Jaco, meanwhile, matched her career high with 14 points on a 5-of-6 effort from the floor.

    USC tallied its first win over a ranked opponent since 2011 when the Trojans upset No. 12 Colorado 55-45 during a busy stretch of three games in seven days -- all wins by the Women of Troy. On Jan. 3 against the Buffs, USC held No. 12 Colorado scoreless for the first seven minutes and last four minutes in a focused finish by the Trojans, who shrugged off six ties and 10 lead changes to clamp down and end the game on a 13-0 run to victory. After an 0-for-12 start, Colorado was able to warm up to a cool 21 percent in the half. It was enough of a warmup to cut into what had been a 12-point USC lead and make it a 23-20 margin with the Trojans in the lead at the break, shooting 26 percent from the floor. The tough Trojan defensive effort had the Buffs with a season-low 20- points at the half, while both teams held more rebounds than points with USC up 25-23 on the boards. In the second half, the Buffs worked into the lead for the first time, and were up by three points with 4:01 remaining. The Trojans locked in and dominated the rest of the game, getting four players in on the scoring to finish out the victory. USC ended up shooting 31 percent from the floor to Colorado's 28 percent. Both were season lows for the teams, but it was a marked drop off for the Buffs, who came into this game shooting 44 percent overall and averaging 77.5 points per game. USC won out on the boards as well, 45-41, and tallied a season-high 10 blocks in the victory. Cassie Harberts led all scorers with 19 points, finishing just a rebound away from a double-double with nine on the night. She would climb up in the USC record books as well, taking over at No. 12 all-time with 1,498 career points. USC's last win over a ranked team had been a 58-51 victory over No. 24 Gonzaga on Dec. 5, 2011, snapping a stretch of 16 winless games against ranked opponents.

    USC made it a 3-0 start to its 2013-14 campaign under new head coach and Trojan great Cynthia Cooper-Dyke. The Women of Troy turned the tide on three opponents to kick off the new season, avenging losses taken last season to UC Davis, Fresno State and San Diego State. USC beat the Aggies 64-55 in a season-opening road tilt, then took down Fresno State 63-54 in Fresno. And in the Trojans' home opener, USC topped the Aztecs 65-61 to make it a 3-0 start, marking the first time since the 1998-99 season that USC has made such a winning start.

    Senior Cassie Harberts is the centerpiece of the USC team and has established herself as one of USC's top players all-time. As she and the Trojans enter the Pac-12 Tournament, Harberts has played in and started more games than any other Trojan in USC history, beating out Cheryl Miller and two others to have set the program record with 132 starts and games played. Harberts entered her senior season ranked No. 16 all-time in scoring with 1,293 career points, having scored her 1,000th point as a junior. Now with 1,824 total points, she has overtaken USC head coach and Trojan great Cynthia Cooper, former teammate and current pro Briana Gilbreath, and Sparks standout Ebony Hoffman to now rank as USC's No. 7 all-time leading scorer. And with 919 career rebounds, she already ranks at No. 8 all-time in USC's history books. From the stripe, Harberts has taken over Lisa Leslie and Tina Thompson to now rank No. 3 all-time with 558 free throws made. As a freshman, Harberts tallied a 31-point game, which was the most points scored by a Trojan freshman since 1981. On Jan. 19, 2013, she tallied her second career 30-point game in leading the Trojans to a 109-85 victory over Oregon -- making the Women of Troy the first team, male or female, ever to score in triple digits at the Galen Center. Harberts also picked up the Pac-12 Player of the Week selection following the win. She recently picked up a repeat spot on the All-Pac-12 Team, and earned her second set of honors on the Pac-12 All-Tournament Team. During her USC career to date Harberts has earned 2011 Pac-10 All-Tournament Team and 2011 Pac-10 All-Freshman Team honors, 2012 All-Pac-12 Honorable Mention, and 2013 All-Pac-12 Team and a pair of Pac-12 Player of the Week awards to go along with her consistent academic accolades. With nine double-doubles this season to date, she has recorded 26 in her career, and in her junior season she became USC's all-time record holder for free throws made (207) and attempted (298) in a single season. This past summer, Harberts won a gold medal as a member of the USA's World University Games team. She's since picked up national acclaim with selection to the Wooden Award Preseason Top-30 and Naismith Award Early Watch List. Harberts also was a nominee for the WBCA, NBCA and Allstate Good Works Team.

    A USC legend has come home and the Women of Troy are ready to rise once again to the elite level of their glory days. Trojan great Cynthia Cooper has returned to USC, this time as head coach of the women's basketball team, having helped to lead the Women of Troy to back-to-back NCAA Championships as a student-athlete. Cooper then won an Olympic gold medal, four WNBA titles and went on to launch a successful career as a head coach. In the past seven years, Cooper has resurrected three collegiate programs and received three league coach of the year honors in return. But now she's returned to her roots to coach the 2013-14 Women of Troy back to dominance in collegiate women's basketball. Cooper is aided by a strong staff of coaches, including the new additions of associate head coach Brandy Manning and assistant coach Jualeah Woods. Woods is a Trojan herself, having played with Lisa Leslie and Tina Thompson and graduating USC in 1994. Assistant coach Evan Unrau is back for her second season with the Women of Troy. Cooper takes over the USC program following a disappointing 2012-13 season in which the Trojans missed the NCAA Tournament for the seventh consecutive season. At 22-12 overall and an 11-7 finish in Pac-12 play this season, the 2013-14 Trojans have decisively passed up last year's win marks of 11 total and 7 in conference.

    One thing that the team hadn't experienced in a while is the luxury of having 11 healthy players return to this year's roster. Injury depletion had crushed USC's ability to make progress in past seasons, but with a strong and experienced roster led by seniors Cassie Harberts, Desireé Bradley, Kate Oliver and Rachel Totten, this year is shaping up to be a different story. Harberts has maintained her constancy for the Trojans, having started every game since coming to Troy as a true freshman. Back from injury this year is sophomore point guard Jordan Adams, who has played in every this season, as has junior Alexyz Vaioletama, who has started every game. It wasn't until Jan. 3 that this Trojan squad was bitten by the injury bug, with two starters -- Ariya Crook and Kiki Alofaituli -- sidelined with injuries. Alofaituli missed three games, and Crook also missed three but returned to action on Jan. 17. Crook also missed the Feb. 27 game at Utah due to illness.

    Alexyz Vaioletama has come into her own this season. She's nearly doubled her output from last season, going from 4.8 points and 4.6 rebounds per game as a sophomore in 2012-13 to stand as USC's third leading scorer (8.6 ppg) and leader on the boards (7.6 rpg) as a junior. She's recorded her first career double-doubles this season, and while in Arizona she led the team in scoring in both games, nailing a career-high 21 points (including the game-tying 3-pointer to force OT) at ASU and scoring 16 at Arizona.

    USC returns all but one player from last year's roster, with grad Christina Marinacci the only loss from 2012-13. She was third on the team in scoring and second in rebounding, and finished her career as USC's No. 9 all-time rebounder (738), so the Trojans do have some sizable shoes to fill. In all, USC returns 11 letterwinners from last year's team, including nine players who started at least seven games in 2012-13. Ninety-one percent of USC's scoring was produced by those 11 players last season, including 88 percent of the rebounding. Cassie Harberts herself accounted for 29 percent of USC's points, 21 percent of its rebounds and 44 percent of its free throws made last season. Harberts, Kiki Alofaituli and Brianna Barrett all appeared in every game last year, while Alexyz Vaioletama and Ariya Crook missed only one game each.

    USC has two true freshmen and three transfers added to the roster for this season. Drew Edelman and Courtney Jaco comprise the Trojan freshman class, with Edelman standing tall as a 6-foot-4 powerhouse under the basket. Fellow newcomer Jaco has fit in nicely at the point guard position has shown her knack for knocking down 3-pointers. Jaco had a big weekend in Arizona, scoring her first double-digit game at ASU (14 pts) and then adding nine points with a 6-for-6 effort from the free-throw line at Arizona. The Trojans have also brought in transfers Kaneisha Horn and Alexis Lloyd to add to the already impressive roster. Horn, a junior transfer from Alabama, adds a new dynamic to the team and the program as a versatile forward that fits well all over the court. Eligible to compete this season after having finished her undergraduate degree in three years at Alabama, Horn has played in all but one game this season. She has two seasons to play with the Trojans as she pursues a masters in social work. Lloyd will sit out the 2013-14 season after transferring from Virginia Tech. Maria Kemiji-McDonald has walked on to the team after a year at Michigan.

    Lots of talent returns at the guard position with juniors Ariya Crook, Kiki Alofaituli and Alexyz Vaioletama and sophomore Brianna Barrett back for another season. Crook averaged 13.4 points per game and received All-Pac-12 Honorable Mention after playing in 30 games for the Trojans last season. Barrett is coming off a fantastic freshman debut in which she finished the year with Pac-12 All-Freshman Honorable Mention and Pac-12 All-Defensive Honorable Mention. Off the injured list this season is highly touted guard Jordan Adams, who was a McDonald's All-American before being sidelined by injury early last year. She's back in action to boost up the Trojan backcourt for 2013-14. Additional youthful experience comes for the Trojans in the form of sophomore Destinie Gibbs and redshirt sophomore Deanna Calhoun, who bring another important depth charge to the USC roster along with the feisty Alofaituli and athletic Vaioletama.

    USC women's basketball has hauled in a stellar class of talent to add to Troy in 2014. In her first season as head coach at USC, Cynthia Cooper-Dyke welcomes four newcomers to the Women of Troy next season, as she announced the signing of national letters of intent by Chyanne Butler, McKenzie Calvert, Amy Okonkwo and Kristen Simon. All together, it's a freshman class that ranks No. 13 in the nation according to All Star Girls Report. The group is comprised of highly regarded players from Southern California and Texas, and is also a well-balanced core of guards and forwards. Weighing in as a five-star recruit and the No. 16 prospect in the ESPN HoopGurlz 100 is Texas native McKenzie Calvert. A 5-9 guard, she hails from Byron P. Steele High School in Cibolo, Texas. In 2012, she participated in the U-17 U.S. National Team Trials after also being called into the U-16 team trials the previous year. Calvert also considered Baylor, Texas A&M, Duke and Texas Tech before making her decision to become a Trojan.Tabbed at No. 47 in the nation is 6-1 forward Kristen Simon, coming from across town as a product of Windward School in Los Angeles. Also a five-star recruit, Simon will be a familiar face for at least one current Trojan, as she rejoins her high school and club teammate Courtney Jaco, who won a state championship alongside Simon in 2011 and is now a freshman this season with the Women of Troy. Simon also considered California, Louisville and Ohio State before deciding to come to USC. Another California native added to the Trojan talent pool is Amy Okonkwo, a 6-2 forward ranked as the No. 92 prospect in the nation. The Rancho Cucamonga resident joins the Women of Troy from Etiwanda High School, where she was named the 2013 Inland Valley Player of the Year after averaging 16. points and 10 rebounds per game. Okonkwo also considered California, Oregon, San Diego State and Arizona before becoming a member of the Trojan Family. One more Los Angeles-area product is staying close to home in 5-6 point guard Chyanne Butler, who ranks as the No. 24 point guard in this 2014 crew and hails from Junipero Serra High School. The Costa Mesa native averaged 20.5 points and 5.3 assists on her way into her senior season at Serra High. Butler also considered California, Washington and Arizona before deciding to sign with the Women of Troy. Butler, Calvert, Okonkwo and Simon combine with Alexis Lloyd -- a Virginia Tech transfer who joined the Trojans this year and will be eligible to compete next season with this freshman class -- as a highly anticipated group of newcomers for the Women of Troy. Together, they stand as the No. 13 class in the nation as they set up to kick off their USC playing careers in 2014.

    USC finished the 2012-13 season with an 11-20 overall record -- the program's first losing season since 2002-03 and matching the most overall losses in program history (USC also had 20 losses in 1998-99). Last year's Trojans finished seventh in the Pac-12 at 11-7, and was ousted in the Pac-12 Tournament quarterfinals by No. 2 seed California. Cassie Harberts, who scored her 1,000th career point on Jan. 13, 2013, would be selected to the All-Pac-12 Team while also setting USC program records for free throws made (207) and attempted (298) in a single season. Also scoring conference accolades last season were Brianna Barrett (Pac-12 All-Defensive Honorable Mention & Pac-12 All-Freshman Honorable Mention) and Ariya Crook (All-Pac-12 Honorable Mention).

    Since fielding a football team in 1888, USC has had an unparalleled athletic tradition, including 120 national team championships, an unprecedented 419 Olympians and 52 NCAA Postgraduate Scholars as the Trojan family celebrates its 125th anniversary this 2013-14 academic year. Including the USC women's soccer team's historic 2007 NCAA Championship victory, USC boasts a grand total of 120 national team championships, including a national-best 82 men's NCAA crowns. Trojan men have won more individual NCAA titles (309) than those from any other school, while the Women of Troy have added another 69 individual NCAA titles. Four Trojans have won the prestigious Sullivan Award as the nation's top amateur athlete. Two Women of Troy athletes have won the Honda Cup as the top collegiate female athlete of the year and there have been 15 Honda Award winners as the top female athlete in their sport. USC not only has more Olympians than any school, but more Olympic medalists (287) and gold medalists (135). USC water polo is a big part of that Olympic tradition, having sent 10 Trojans to the 2012 Olympics in Beijing, with four Trojans winning medals. Thanks in part to USC's water polo participants, a Trojan has won a gold medal in every summer Olympics since 1912. Go to to revisit the athletic highlights for Trojans the past 125 years. •