Dec. 1, 2015
USC Women's Basketball Release
USC has matched its best start since 1993-94 with its 6-0 overall record. Four of those victories were collected on the road, with the Women of Troy going undefeated in their journeys through the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame Challenge. Now, USC returns to Los Angeles for a stretch of six straight home games. This week, the Trojans look first to add to their win streak with a 5 p.m. matchup on Friday (Dec. 4) against Southern Utah (1-6). That game will be held at the Lyon Center, and admission will be free for all fans. On Sunday (Dec. 6), USC will return to the Galen Center to host UNLV (5-1) at 2 p.m.
THE LAST MEETING
December 9, 1989
Las Vegas, Nev.
Both games will be streamed live online, with Carey Noakes on the call. Go to usctrojans.com/ot/live-streams.html
to access the streams. Live stats also will be available through links on the USC women’s basketball schedule page at usctrojans.com. USC-SOUTHERN UTAH LIVE STREAM
USC-UNLV LIVE STREAM
IN THE NATION
The Trojans are unranked in this week’s USA Today and Associated Press national polls but are receiving votes in the AP poll. Southern Utah and UNLV are both unranked.
With a 6-0 record out of the gates of 2015-16, USC has matched its best season start since 1993-94, when the Women of Troy opened up 6-0 with Cheryl Miller as head coach. That year also was the last time USC finished in first place in the Pac-10 conference. USC’s previous best season starts came in 1985-86 (6-0), 1984-85 (10-0), 1983-84 (10-0), 1982-83 (13-0) and 1981-82 (18-0).
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. USC would keep coming, stalling out the Mountaineers on the defensive end while converting when it counted on offense. 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. USC carried a 51-38 advantage into the fourth quarter, and that’s when Gonzaga turned up the noise and turned up the pressure. The Bulldogs benefited from Trojan foul trouble, spending plenty of time on the free-throw line and finding plenty of success there as they interrupted the Trojan flow and ate away at the USC lead. As the foul count climbed for the Trojans, Gonzaga trimmed the lead down to one with a late 9-0 run. Brianna Barrett would come up clutch in the final stretch, though, 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. Kristen Simon came up huge in forcing two Gonzaga turnovers to keep the Zags out of rhythm, and she’d go to the line with 0.2 seconds on the clock, and the sophomore hit 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. 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. Kristen Simon was next in line with 14.8 ppg and 8.3 rpg. Courtney Jaco also averaged double figures, scoring 12.0 ppg, thanks in large part to her 13 threes nailed across the four wins. Brianna 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 Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame Tournament 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 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 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. 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 will be eligible for competition after this fall stretch of 2015.
Temi Fagbenle will preside over the paint for the Trojans along with returning sophomore post Kristen Simon. Newcomers Marguerite Effa and Dani Milisic also will loom large down low to help deepen the USC inside presence. Milisic is set as a Spring 2016 enrollee, joining the Trojans after the fall semester.
In the backcourt, USC returns a set of three starting guards. Jordan Adams and Brianna Barrett combined forces as USC’s assist leaders last season. The redshirt junior and senior, respectively, are called upon to help drive the USC offense. Adams boasts the ability to fit in at any spot on the court, while Courtney Jaco steps back into her sniper position beyond the arc. Jaco was USC’s top 3-point shooter last season, and as junior she’s again primed for her key role in the USC attack. True freshman Aliyah Mazyck can also step in at the point, and Khaedin Taito brings additional power to the plan of attack. Meanwhile, Candela Abejón, Sadie Edwards and Alexis Lloyd add further depth to the USC backcourt.
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 Higgins, Asiah Jones, Minyon 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
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. •