USC Women Take Aim At Anteaters Before Holiday Break|
Dec. 20, 2016
-- Wednesday, Dec. 21 --
USC (8-2) at UC Irvine (1-11)
Bren Events Center | Irvine, Calif. -- 2 p.m.
USC wraps up this opening nonconference stretch of the 2016-17 season with a journey down the 405 freeway to Irvine, Calif. The Trojans (8-2) will pay a visit to UC Irvine (1-11) for a 2 p.m. faceoff on Wednesday (Dec. 21) at the Anteaters' Bren Events Center. After this, USC will take a short break for the holidays before turning to Pac-12 conference play Dec. 30 and Jan. 1 at Galen Center.
IN THE NATION
USC is unranked in the latest national polls but is receiving votes in this week's AP poll. UC Irvine is unranked.
In the fifth game of the season (Nov. 23), redshirt senior Jordan Adams suffered a season-ending ACL tear (left knee). She was averaging 8.8 points and 5.6 rebounds per game before being sidelined for the season. Dani Milisic was sidelined for the first four games (knee) and was cleared to play for her first action on Nov. 23.
SCOUTING UC IRVINE
The Anteaters are 1-11 overall after a 70-58 loss to Southern Utah on Monday. 91-42 win over SMU on Friday. Shereen Sutherland leads UCI in scoring (11.8 ppg) and rebounding (7.3 rpg). USC is 1-0 all-time against UC Irvine after a 75-56 win in the teams' first-ever meeting last season at Galen Center.
USC wound up as runner-up in the 2016 Women of Troy Classic last weekend after opening with a 75-64 win over Grambling State and then taking No. 5 Mississippi State down to the wire before falling 76-72 in the championship game. Against the Lady Tigers, USC grabbed its sixth straight victory, leaping out of the gate quickly with a 10-0 run in the opening four minutes. Kristen Simon was strong the whole game, leading the team with 13 points and 12 rebounds. This marks Simon's sixth straight game scoring in double digits, and her fifth double-double of the season. Courtney Jaco also was unstoppable tonight, scoring with 100 percent accuracy. She was 3-for-3 on 3-point attempts and racked up 11 total points for the Trojans. Minyon Moore kept the ball in the Trojans' hands with eight total steals -- the fourth most ever in a single game by a Woman of Troy. Grambling State's top scorer Jazmin Boyd had 19 points on the night, followed closely by Monisha Neal's 17 points. Neal also finished up with a double-double in adding 10 rebounds to her night's effort. Yet, by the end of the game, the field goal accuracy made the difference for the Trojans. USC shot 48 percent from the floor and 55 percent from 3-point range on a 6-for-11 effort beyond the arc. Grambling, meanwhile, was 36 percent overall and went 6-of-18 from 3-point range. USC also won out on the boards 43-33, but turned the ball over 20 times. Up against the No. 5 Bulldogs in the title match, an 8-0 run had carried USC into the lead during the second quarter, and it wasn't until the end of the third quarter that undefeated Mississippi State nudged ahead, benefiting from 10 Trojan fouls whistled in that 10-minute span. Five lead changes would come in the fourth before the Bulldogs maneuvered ahead and USC was just off the mark in its effort to equalize in the final seconds, leaving the Trojans with just their second loss of the year. Kristen Simon had secured double digits by halftime to help anchor a strong stand by the Trojans through those first 20 minutes. Simon's 11 points on 5-of-7 shooting -- including the first 3-pointer of her career -- boosted USC to a 33-29 halftime lead as the Trojans shot 42 percent from the floor in the first half. Mississippi State was shooting 39 percent by the break, and each team had landed three 3-pointers apiece. A 13-of-16 outing from the free-throw line in the third quarter helped the Bulldogs build some steam as they worked ahead 55-54 at the end of the third. By the final buzzer, USC had outshot Mississippi State, going 48 percent from the floor and 6-of-11 from 3-point range to outpace the Bulldogs' 42 percent from the floor and 5-of-14 effort from beyond the arc. Mississippi State outrebounded the Trojans 40-24 but committed 15 turnovers to USC's 11. From the stripe, Mississippi State landed 23-of-29 free throws compared to USC's 14-of-18 outing. USC was led in scoring by Sadie Edwards' 24 points -- 18 of which came in the second half. Kristen Simon wound up with 15 points, and Minyon Moore added 14 while fellow freshman served up eight blocks -- the most by a Trojan since Lisa Leslie hit eight in 1993. It's the third most blocks ever tallied by a Trojan in a single game, with Cheryl Miller holding the top counts of 9 and 10. Mississippi State was led by 19 points from Victoria Vivians, along with 18 from Morgan William and 17 from Breanna Richardson.
UPSETTING THE AGGIES
USC dealt No. 19 Texas A&M its first loss of the year while bumping up the Trojans' own win streak to four in a row, beating the host Aggies 66-62 in a tense morning matchup at Reed Arena in College Station on Nov. 30. The Women of Troy trailed by as much as nine in the first half and had to overcome foul trouble before righting the ship and making a stubborn push to victory with a strong second-half showing. USC forced two ties in the fourth quarter and was down by two with 4:25 to go, but the Trojans would not fold, instead pressing on for the upset road win. Both teams had made 11 field goals apiece in the first half of play, but the hosts had the advantage at the free-throw line, going 11-of-15 from the stripe to USC's 4-of-6 as Texas A&M crafted a 34-27 halftime lead. The lead had traded hands eight times in the first 12 minutes before the foul count tipped against the Trojans during the second quarter to stall things out as the hosts maneuvered out ahead. By the time the second half unfurled, however, the Trojans made adjustments and got 10 points from Kristen Simon in those 10 minutes to help fuel a USC comeback. USC's first lead since the early second quarter came care of an 8-0 run that eclipsed a 5-point deficit and took the Trojans ahead 47-44 in the late stages of the third. In the fourth, USC continued to hit key shots while finally getting to the free-throw line more than twice in the frame. Simon -- who had hit two free throws late in the third -- kept coming in the fourth. Texas A&M had worked ahead 59-57 with 4:25 to go, but the Trojans stood their ground. After Sadie Edwards broke a tie in the final minute, USC's defense stymied the Aggies while USC converted from the line to work out ahead. Simon's sixth straight free throw finishes made it 65-62 Trojans with 21 seconds left, and USC would hold strong to round out the upset win. Simon, who was 6-for-6 from the stripe on the day, topped out with 20 points for the Trojans along with a team-high eight rebounds. Edwards delivered 18 points for USC to join Simon in double digits. USC's defense forced 22 turnovers out of the Aggies, while the Trojans committed 13. USC shot 39 percent from the floor to trail Texas A&M's 41 percent. The Trojans finished up 16-of-22 from the free-throw line after shooting 4-of-6 in the first half. Texas A&M went 18-of-23 from the line in the game after making 11-of-15 in the first half. USC's last win over a ranked team had been an upset of No. 15 UCLA last season, winning 71-68.
HOT-HANDED IN SACRAMENTO
In a mad scramble in Sacramento, USC outshot the host Hornets in an all-out shootout for an 111-95 road win that pumped up the Trojans' overall record to 7-1. Five Women of Troy hit double digits in the fast-paced win, led by a career-high 24 points from Aliyah Mazyck. The high-scoring affair also saw freshman Minyon Moore serve up 15 assists -- second most by a Trojan in program history to stand just behind 17 tallied by Rhonda Windham back in 1982. USC's 111 points scored also was the sixth most in program history, last hit in 1981. In the first half, the Trojans rattled off 60 points -- the most in a half since 1987 and the sixth most points in a half in program history. USC also shot a season-high 58.8 percent from the floor in the fast-paced victory.
ON THE RISE
USC senior guard Courtney Jaco's 3-point threat has been well established, and the sharpshooter continues to stake her claim in the USC record books. She started her senior season ranked as USC's No. 5 all-time 3-point shooter. With 19 threes landed this season, she has climbed up to No. 4 all-time, now with 164 career 3-pointers made. She also stands as USC's most productive 3-pointer shooter with a career average of 38.5% from beyond the arc.
USC junior forward Kristen Simon has tacked up double-doubles in five of USC's first 10 games, including back-to-back double-double outings at the Great Alaska Shootout, where she was named Most Outstanding Player at the tournament. She now boasts 13 career double-doubles, and still holds the rights to one of USC's most dominant recent rebounding effort in her 21-board game last season. That marked the fourth most single-game rebounds ever collected by a Trojan, placing her just behind efforts by such USC greats as Lisa Leslie and Cheryl Miller. After setting a new career high for herself on a 23-point outing at Sacramento State, and delivering a perfect 6-for-6 effort from the free-throw line in USC's upset of Texas A&M, Simon was named Pac-12 Player of the Week for the first time in her career on Dec. 5.
PUNCH FROM THE BENCH
USC freshman guard Minyon Moore was the first 20-point scorer this season (vs. UC Riverside, Nov. 16) and also served up a whopping 11 assists (vs. Missouri State, Nov. 22) --- the most by a Trojan since Briana Gilbreath in 2012 -- in a single game. Against Long Beach State, she set a new career high for herself with 23 points -- a season high for the Trojans to date. And at Sacramento State, the freshman dished out 15 assists -- second most ever by a Trojan and the most since Rhonda Windham delivered 17 in 1982. Those efforts all came off the bench from Moore, who has averaged 12.8 points, 5.7 assists and 3.3 steals through her first 10 games as a Trojan. After her stellar showing in wins at Texas A&M and Sacramento State, Moore was named the Pac-12 Freshman of the Week on Dec. 5
USC BY THE NUMBERS
Led by Kristen Simon's team-high 16.0 points and 9.9 rebounds per game entering this week, the Women of Troy have been putting up some strong numbers in 2016-17. Defensively, USC is holding opponents to 66.2 points per game and has forced 19.6 turnovers per game by its opponents. Individually, USC has three players averaging double digits and one more just barely off that mark. The tightly knit group of scoring leaders has Simon on top with her 16.0 ppg, followed by freshman Minyon Moore with 12.8 ppg and junior Sadie Edwards at 10.9 ppg. On the cusp of double digits is senior Courtney Jaco with 9.3 ppg. USC's top distributor is easily Moore, who averages 5.7 assists per game off the bench. As a team, USC is averaging 77.1 points per game, shooting .475 from the floor and .686 from the free-throw line. USC is outrebounding opponents by a slim margin, 363-360.
A WELCOME HOMECOMING
USC kicked off homecoming weekend with a true reunion, welcoming home Trojan great Cheryl Miller for USC's exhibition clash against Cal State LA on Nov. 4. Miller is in her first year at the helm of CSULA, and her trip to Troy marked a rare opportunity for two former NCAA championship teammates and fellow Hall of Famers to face off. Miller and USC head coach Cynthia Cooper-Dyke were reunited on the court of their shared alma mater, with a pregame ceremony held to honor Miller's visit to Troy, with many former Women of Troy in attendance for the game.
PLAYING THE LONG GAME
The first thing opponents will notice about the 2016-17 Trojans is their size. USC opens the year with five players standing 6-foot-3 or taller -- a first for any USC roster in program history. In the past two decades, no USC roster has had more than three players with that kind of height. Such a notable influx will significantly up the Trojans' post presence, and bring some key balance to their gameplan to pair with its returning backcourt savvy. Led by 6-foot-6 senior transfer Ivana Jakubcova, USC's lofty post presence includes 6-4 Dani Milisic and a trio of Trojans standing at 6-3 in Marguerite Effa, Asiah Jones and Ja'Tavia Tapley.
There's plenty of experience coming back to aid the Trojan cause this season. Redshirt senior Jordan Adams pairs with fellow seniors Courtney Jaco and Alexis Lloyd while juniors Sadie Edwards and Kristen Simon will continue the upward trajectory they set off on as sophomores. True sophomores Aliyah Mazyck, Candela Abejón and Marguerite Effa now have a year of competition under their belts to help anchor a powerful blend of talent on the Trojan roster for 2016-17. Three years ago, the Trojans won the Pac-12 Tournament Championship for the first time in program history and got back to the NCAA Tournament after several years of near misses. Three members of that 2014 squad remain and those veterans -- Adams, Jaco and Lloyd -- look to help lead their 2016-17 team to another postseason appearance.
Redshirt freshman forward Dani Milisic will check in for her first action as a Trojan this season alongside true freshmen Minyon Moore, Valerie Higgins, Asiah Jones and Ja'Tavia Tapley, while USC welcomes the savvy and skill of grad student transfer Ivana Jakubcova. USC's supersized post presence is comprised of 6-foot-6 Jakubcova, 6-4 Milisic and a trio of 6-3 youngsters in Effa, Jones and Tapley.
The team got an early dose of experience together this summer with a trip to Italy, where the Trojans combined incredible cultural experiences in Pisa, Venice, Florence, Treviso and Rome with valuable game action against several international squads. It was an invaluable chance to grow as a team. From bike rides along the Sile River, to climbing the Tower of Pisa, to photo ops in the Coliseum in Rome (VERY different from the Los Angeles Coliseum, we learned!), the Women of Troy made many powerful new memories. Plus, they got to hit the court for three games against pro and semi-pro teams from Italy, Germany and Lithuania, offering up a fantastic opportunity for new teammates to get comfortable with on-court competition as a team.
USC women's basketball has hauled in two key Californians with the signing of Shalexxus Aaron and Destiny Littleton to national letters of intent, USC head coach Cynthia Cooper-Dyke announced on Nov. 9, 2016. The two newest Women of Troy are shining stars from Southern California, and are now set to make themselves at home at Troy in 2017. Aaron and Littleton are highly anticipated additions to the USC roster for 2017-18, offering up distinct and significant backcourt strengths to bring to the Trojan gameplan, and overall are exciting and welcome new members of the Trojan Family. Shalexxus Aaron will come to Troy from Martin Luther King High School in Riverside, Calif., and is actually already a member of the Trojan Family by blood. Her brother, Shaqquan, is a redshirt sophomore on the USC men's basketball team. A 6-1 guard, Aaron was league MVP as a freshman and participated in the USA Under-16 and under-17 team trials. Ranked as the #16 guard in the nation by ESPN, Aaron truly has basketball in her blood. Her mother. Madinah, is a former college basketball player. Her father, Carl, played professionally in Australia. And her oldest brother, Shaddean, played basketball at Mercer College. A 5-9 guard, Destiny Littleton has racked up plenty of accolades for her work at The Bishop's School in La Jolla, Calif. Ranked as the #9 guard in the nation by ESPN, Littleton was the 2014 CIF Freshman of the Year, 2015 CIF Sophomore of the Year, 2016 CIF Junior of the Year and was named to the 2016 California All-State First Team. She also competed as a member of the 2015 USA Basketball U16 National Team. She's also closing in on the California state scoring record as she digs into her senior season at The Bishop's School. She is 905 points shy of passing record-holder Charde Houston (3,837), who was also coached by Littleton's high school coach and guardian, Marlon Wells.
USC finished up the 2015-16 season with a 19-13 overall record in head coach Cynthia Cooper-Dyke's third season at Troy. USC's 13th win of the year also notched Cooper-Dyke's 200th career win as a head coach. The Trojans had opened up the year with a 12-0 record, doubling up on its most recent best season start of 6-0, last hit in 1993-94 with Cheryl Miller as head coach. The 12-0 start was the best opening for the Women of Troy since an 18-0 start in the 1981-82 season. After opening up 12-0, however, USC had two key Trojans sidelined with eligibility issues, which interrupted USC's flow the rest of the way. USC would go 6-12 in Pac-12 play and reach the Pac-12 Tournament quarterfinals. At the close of the season, senior Temi Fagbenle would earn WBCA All-Region honors to go along with her spot on the All-Pac-12 Team. Courtney Jaco also earned conference accolades with All-Pac-12 Honorable Mention. Fegbenle had led the Trojans in scoring (13.6 ppg), rebounds (8.7 rpg) and steals (1.8 spg) while Jaco ruled the backcourt, adding 2.0 assists and 1.7 steals per game to go along with her 72 three-pointers made.