USC Women Stay Home For The Holidays, Host Saint Mary's & Hawai'i

    Courtney Jaco and the Trojans defend their home court this week.

    Dec. 17, 2013

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    The USC women's basketball team settles back at Galen Center for a stretch of three games that span the Christmas break. This week, the Women of Troy (5-4) line up to host two visitors, up against Saint Mary's (8-1) first at 6 p.m. on Thursday (Dec. 19) and then turning to take on Hawai'i (6-4) at 2 p.m. on Saturday (Dec. 21). The home stand give senior star Cassie Harberts the opportunity to climb up in the USC history books in front of a home crowd, as Harberts enters the week 16 points away from the No. 14 all-time scoring spot and two rebounds from cracking the all-time top-10 in career rebounding.

    December 21, 1982
    Honolulu, HI (Wahine Tournament)
    Thursday, Dec. 19
    USC vs. Saint Mary's
    Galen Center -- 6 p.m.
    Live Stream

    Saturday, Dec. 21
    USC vs. Hawai'i
    Galen Center -- 2 p.m.
    Live Stream

    USC Athletics is collecting toys for the Children's Hospital of Los Angeles with a Holiday Toy Drive at Saturday's game vs. Hawai'i! Fans who donate a new, unwrapped toy (please, no stuffed animals) to Galen Center for the 2 p.m. game will receive two complimentary tickets to Saturday's game!

    USC welcomes dads and daughters to next week's game vs. Long Beach State! A $30 package includes two tickets to the Dec. 28 game at 2 p.m., along with two lunches, an official USC blanket and a silver frame to commemorate the day! Go to for more information and to get signed up!

    Live stats via Gametracker and a live video stream will be available for both games this week. Visit the women's basketball schedule page at for Gametracker links, and CLICK HERE to watch the live stream.

    USC is unranked in the national polls as the Trojans enter the seventh week of 2013-14 competition. Saint Mary's and Hawai'i also are unranked.

    The Gaels are 8-1 overall after beating UC Davis 88-71 last week to continue their best season start in program history. Saint Mary's lone loss this season has been a 94-92 loss at Sacramento State. Jackie Nared and Danielle Mauldin lead SMC in scoring and rebounding with 22.7 points and 9.8 points per game, respectively, and 8.9 and 14.0 rebounds per game, respectively. The Gaels went 23-11 overall last season with a trip to the WNIT Quarterfinals. This will be the first-ever meeting between USC and Saint Mary's.

    The Rainbow Wahine enter the week 6-4 overall after losing 76-64 at Oregon State and beating Pacific 81-70 last week. Kamilah Jackson leads Hawai'i with 18.1 points and 10.4 rebounds per game. The Rainbow Wahine are in their second season under former USC associate head coach Laura Beeman, who took over the Hawai'i program in 2013 in leading UH to a 17-14 season and the WNIT first round. USC is 3-0 all-time against Hawai'i with the last meeting coming in the 2006-07 season as a 72-52 USC victory in Los Angeles.

    USC just couldn't get over the hump in last week's road journey to Cal State Northridge, needing a last-ditch effort to fall in order to steal away a win from the host Matadors. Down by one with 17 seconds left, the Women of Troy came up empty in the final stretch and took a 65-64 loss to Cal State Northridge, despite the heroic efforts of Alexyz Vaioletama, who secured her first career double-double with a booming 21 points and 18 rebounds. USC shot 42 percent from the floor and was a cool 10-of-21 from the free-throw line in the losing effort. Cal State Northridge shot 42 percent from the floor and went 9-of-12 on free throws. USC's Vaioletama led all with her 21 points and 18 rebounds, joined in double figures by Cassie Harberts with a double-double on 18 points and 12 boards. Ariya Crook finished with 19 points for USC. Cal State Northridge was led by 16 points from Ashlee Guay, followed by Cinnamon Lister with 11 and Bernadette Fong with 10, while Camille Mahlknecht hauled in 10 rebounds for the Matadors. USC dominated the boards 47-34, but was plagued a final 17 turnovers, which fed 15 points for CSUN.

    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 played their home opener against San Diego State, which had handed USC a big loss last season. This year, the Trojans were ready for the Aztecs and stayed composed down the stretch to fend off a late push and lock in a 65-61 win over visiting San Diego State. The win puts the Trojans at 3-0 overall, marking the first time since the 1998-99 season that USC has made such a winning start. San Diego State scored more points from the free-throw line than it did from the floor in the first half as the referees' whistles blew 13 fouls against the Trojans in the first 20 minutes of play. USC's counterattack was a stifling defense that forced 15 Aztec turnovers and converted 12 points off those pickoffs. USC led by as much as 19 points during the first half, but that was trimmed down to a 32-19 lead at the half. USC had hit at a 42-percent clip from the floor to outpace the Aztecs' 16-percent effort, although SDSU was 13-of-16 from the free-throw line by halftime. In the second half, USC's foul trouble put the Trojans on the heels a bit more and created some space for San Diego State's Cierra Warren to heat up. She had zero points at halftime but would finish with a game-high 21 to fuel a late push from the Aztecs. San Diego State cut things down to three points in the final seconds but ran out of time. Credit the Trojans with some key surges of scoring in the second half to help build up a lead that would prove just insurmountable for the Aztecs. By the final buzzer, the Women of Troy had cooled to 40 percent shooting while SDSU finished out at 43 percent thanks to a hot 64-percent effort in the second half. USC overmatched the Aztecs on the board 38-32 and finished with 11 steals to SDSU's seven. USC's scoring effort was led by Ariya Crook with 18 points and Cassie Harberts with 17, with Alexyz Vaioletama adding 12. Warren was the top scorer on the night with her 21 points, joined by teammate Danesha Long with 12 for the Aztecs.

    Senior Cassie Harberts is the centerpiece of the USC team and has established herself as one of USC's top players all-time. She entered her senior season ranked No. 16 all-time in scoring with 1,293 career points, having scored her 1,000th point during her junior season. Now with 1,392 total points, she's just five points away from taking over at No. 15 all-time. And with 708 career rebounds, she ranks at No. 11 all-time in USC's history books. As a freshman, Harberts tallied a 31-point game, which was the most points scored by a Trojan freshman since 1981. Last season, the 2013 All-Pac-12 selection led the Trojans in almost every major statistical category and ranked third in the Pac-12 in scoring (18.0 ppg) and sixth in rebounding (8.2 rpg). During her USC career to date she 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 Pac-12 Player of the Week awards to go along with her consistent academic accolades. She has recorded 17 double-doubles 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 United States' 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 is 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 returns 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 finished 11-20 and seventh in the Pac-12, missing the NCAA Tournament for the seventh consecutive season.

    One thing that the team hasn't experienced in a while is the luxury of having 11 healthy players return to this year's roster. Injury depletion has 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 is hitting her stride as she enters her final season as an All-Pac-12 Team pick last year after averaging leading the Trojans in points (18.0 ppg), rebounds (8.2 rpg), and blocks and finishing third in the Pac-12 in points per game, while she also set USC records in free throws made (207) and attempted (298). Fellow senior Kate Oliver averaged 5.7 points per game and a 66.7 free-throw percentage last season. The Australian lefty brings a skillful shooting ability to the Trojan front court and saw much development in only her first season at USC last year. She and Harberts make for a dynamic and daunting presence at the post position, as both players boast an ability to pop out and knock down shots from distance. Their senior compatriots Bradley and Totten are primed for the perimeter in their final seasons as Trojans, as both are proven sharp-shooters for the Women of Troy.

    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, so the Trojans do have some sizable shoes to fill. Fortunately, USC returns standout post Cassie Harberts, who led USC in scoring, rebounding and free throws last season as a junior. She started every single game for the Trojans -- the only player to do so. 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. 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.

    Lots of talent returns at the guard position with juniors Ariya Crook, Kiki Alofaituli and Alexyz Vaioletama and sophomore Brianna Barrett ready 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 our of Mater Dei High 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 will come 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.

    The Women of Troy only graduated one player from last year's squad, but it won't be an easy hole to fill. The Trojans need to find a way to replace Christina Marinacci, a force on the boards as USC's No. 9 all-time rebounder (738) and a stubborn defensive specialist. Don't be surprised to see freshman Drew Edelman step up to fill that role as a 6-foot-4 powerhouse under the basket. Fellow newcomer Courtney Jaco is fitting in nicely at the point guard position and can knock down 3-pointers like there's no tomorrow. Cooper is already been impressed by what these two newcomers have to offer. The Trojans are also excited to bring 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. Horn is good to go this season, having finished her undergraduate degree in three years at Alabama. 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.

    The 2013-14 Women of Troy will get plenty of face-time this season with 18 USC women's basketball games scheduled to be televised this season. The Trojans have one matchup with Stanford set for a national audience on ESPN2, along with 17 games on the Pac-12 Networks. All but one conference game is due to be televised. All told, USC will face eight teams that reached the NCAA Tournament last year, and will play a total of 12 regular-season contests against teams that were either ranked or receiving votes in the final national polls last season.

    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 lead USC on the honor rolls, picked to the All-Pac-12 Team while also setting USC program records for free throws made (207) and attempted (298) in a singles season. She also was selected as Pac-12 Player of the Week on Jan. 7, 2013. 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. •