USC Women Host Women of Troy Classic On Dec. 18 & 20

    Khaedin Taito and the Trojans look to keep their undefeated start to 2015-16 rolling through another home stand at Galen Center.
    Dec. 16, 2015

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    USC women’s basketball remains in town this week, enjoying a stretch of six straight games at home. USC will play host to three visiting teams for action at the Women of Troy Classic. The seventh installment of the event will bring Albany, Florida A&M and UC Davis to the Galen Center for competition on Dec. 18 and 20. The undefeated Trojans have a chance to match their best season start since 1984-85 when they open up the Classic on Friday (Dec. 18). USC (9-0) will face off against Florida A&M (4-6) at 6 p.m. to start things off. At 8 p.m., Albany will take on UC Davis. Action resumes on Sunday (Dec. 20), with the losing teams playing in a 1 p.m. consolation game. At 3 p.m., the winners square off in the championships bout. 

    All four games at this week’s Women of Troy Classic will be streamed live online, with Carey Noakes on the call on Friday. Go to to access the stream. Live stats for all games also will be available through Gametracker links on the USC women’s basketball schedule page at  
    The Trojans are unranked in this week’s USA Today and Associated Press national polls but are receiving votes in both polls. USC also weighs in at No. 3 on the latest RPI list. Albany, Florida A&M and UC Davis are all unranked.
    With a 9-0 record out of the gates of 2015-16, USC has bettered its most recent best season start of 6-0, last hit in 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. Now, USC is looking to hit a new benchmark, last achieved in 1984-85 when Linda Sharp’s Women of Troy opened up the season 10-0. 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). USC was recognized for its hot 9-0 start by being named the Team of the Week on Dec. 14.

    USC has hosted the Women of Troy Classic six previous times. The inaugural season of the event was in 2006-07, followed by installments in 2007-0, 2008-09, 2009-10, 2010-11 and 2012-13. USC has posted a 9-3 overall record at the event, losing twice to Duke and once to UC Davis when the Aggies last attended in 2012. The Trojans have played in and won the championship game four times (2006, 2007, 2009 & 2010), won the consolation game in 2008 following an opening overtime loss to Duke, and then lost both games in 2012. 
    Led by Temi Fagbenle’s team-high 14.1 points per game and Jordan Adams’ 8.4 rebounds per game, the Women of Troy are putting up some big numbers in 2015-16. USC has beaten five teams by at least 30 points, and recently went a season-best 50 percent from the floor in another big win over visiting UNLV. In all, USC has four players averaging double digits, and three with at least 7.0 rebounds per game. As mentioned, Fagbenle leads the scoring charge with 14.1 ppg to go with her 8.2 rpg. Kristen Simon averages 13.2 ppg and 7.6 rpg. Adams has provided 12.9 ppg along with her team-high 8.4 rpg. And Courtney Jaco is averaging 10.0 ppg thanks in part to her 23 threes nailed to lead the Trojans beyond the arc so far. Jaco has nailed at least one 3-pointer in USC’s last 10 games, dating back to the Trojans’ final game of the 2014-15 season. As a team, USC is averaging 75.0 points per game, shooting .440 from the floor and .682 from the free-throw line. USC is outrebounding opponents 361-282 and defensively has held opponents to just 47.7 points per game.
    USC held visiting Long Beach State to just 12 points in the second half of action at Galen Center while the Trojans rattled off their ninth straight win of the season on Sunday night. With the 69-43 win over Long Beach State, the undefeated Women of Troy further closed the gap on USC’s most recent best season start — a 10-0 mark last hit in 1984-85. Now 9-0 on the season, USC had four Trojans hit double figures in tonight’s win, including a double-double from Temi Fagbenle. In the first half of play, USC had its work cut out for it to keep a step ahead of Long Beach State, as the 49ers kept reeling the Trojans back in the first half. USC’s effective 52-percent shooting from the floor was key in the Trojans gripping a 38-31 lead by halftime, having trailed early in the game and fending off a 9-0 run by the 49ers during the second quarter. USC would hit the gas in the second half, stepping up defensive pressure and continuing to click offensively. The Trojans shot 39 percent in the second half while cooling the 49ers down to 21 percent from the floor. By the final buzzer, USC had wrapped up with a 45-percent effort from the floor to Long Beach State’s 31 percent. USC also outrebounded the 49ers 41-28 and forced 23 turnovers. Fagbenle owned the boards to the tune of 16 rebounds -- a career high as a Trojan -- and added 13 points to notch her second double-double of the year. Jordan Adams led USC in scoring with 16 points and finished up just a rebound shy of a double-double. USC also saw Kristen Simon (12 points) and Aliyah Mazyck (10 points) hit double digits in the Trojan victory. Long Beach State was paced by a game-high 20 points from Jewelyn Sawyer and a team-high seven rebounds from Chanterria Jackson.
    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.

    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 AdamsBrianna 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. 

    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. Milisic is set to join 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 will be eligible for competition after this fall stretch of 2015.

    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 HigginsAsiah JonesMinyon 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.

    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 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

    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. •