Michelle Smith WBB Feature: Minyon Moore powering USC to recent success

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If it’s true that everybody has a superpower, then Minyon Moore’s is her energy, that boundless source of go-power that the USC women’s basketball team is depending on as the Pac-12 season comes to a rapid close.

“Her elite skill is that she plays hard,” said USC coach Mark Trakh of his junior point guard. “It’s just in her.”

Moore’s energy will be key to the USC fortunes as the Women of Troy enter a crucial weekend series against Cal and Stanford at home that could determine whether they have postseason prospects. USC is 4-8 in conference play after a 1-7 start with three wins in its last four games.

“We have to have no doubt, no fear,” Moore said. “In the preseason, the winning was easy and when you hit a wall and take some losses, you have to figure everything out again and go back to square one. I have not lost any hope or faith in my team and I don’t feel like anyone else has either.”

Moore, the Hercules, California native leads USC in scoring, rebounding, assists and steals. She has bumped her season scoring average (14.8 ppg) to 15.9 points a game over the past eight games, including three games of at least 20 points in that stretch. She ranks third in the Pac-12 at 6.2 assists per game (ninth nationally), and with 414 career assists, finds herself tied with USC legend Cheryl Miller for 10th place in the school record books.

Moore said she feels good about her performance thus far.

“I wish my shot was falling a little better, but I don’t only look at my points,” Moore said. “My assist-to-turnover ratio is good, so I’m pretty proud of that, as a point guard.”

Trakh calls Moore an “overachiever,” an athlete who wasn’t as highly recruited as some others because of two serious knee injuries during her high school career, who now plays with something to prove.

“She plays with a chip on her shoulder,” Trakh said. “She has this energy and this passion and she wants to prove you wrong. And she does a great job.”

Moore said she has worked hard this season on keeping her composure and setting a tone for her team.

“I wear my emotions on my sleeve and my emotion helps me, but I had to learn to take a deep breath and be a leader,” Moore said. “Over the course of the year, I’ve learned to keep my emotions in check.”

Moore was the driver in USC’s three-game win streak that included a win over then-No. 21 Utah and ended with a loss at Colorado on Sunday. But the difference in the last four games – including the loss – was the uptick in the USC offense. The Women of Troy averaged a little more than 80 points over that stretch.

“We weren’t scoring a lot of points and then we started this winning streak,” Trakh said. “It’s because Minyon got us going up and down the floor, getting easy baskets.”

Moore said that her team was lackadaisical against Colorado.

“We can’t do that in the Pac-12 when every team is talented and dynamic,” Moore said. “We should have been more focused, but all we can do is move on to the next game.

Moore’s sister Mariya, a senior guard, transferred to USC from Louisville two years ago to have the opportunity to play one season with her sister. She is the Trojans’ third-leading scorer at 12.8 points a game. The siblings have a rhythm and a connection that comes through on the court. They complement one another’s games, Minyon bringing the speed, Mariya the steadiness.

“They play together, they love each other and it’s a dream come true for them both to have this opportunity to play together for a year,” Trakh said.

Minyon said it has been great to “ride the ups and downs” of this season with her sister.

“I feel like she is really finding her groove. And we have relied on her senior leadership. I wish we were winning more for her senior season.”

Minyon Moore will have a challenging weekend, defending Cal’s Asha Thomas and Stanford’s Kiana Williams, two of the most dynamic point guards in the Pac-12.

“It’s going to be a tough, tough weekend, but she’s always stepped up,” Trakh said. “It’s going to be a big weekend for her and for us. For us to have any outside chance of making the tournament, we are going to have to win at least one of these games and probably both.”

Minyon Moore, not surprisingly, said it all comes down to energy and moving on from a tough loss last weekend.

“We just need to get back to what we are here for,” Moore said. “Cal and Stanford are coming and here we are. We have to bring the energy.”

Michelle Smith is a contributing writer for pac-12.com. She has covered pro and college sports for espnW, the San Francisco Chronicle and AOL Fanhouse. For previous Michelle Smith features on pac-12.com, visit the archives page. She was just named winner of the WBCA's Mel Greenberg Media Award, presented annually to a member of the media who has best displayed commitment to advancing the role of the media in women's basketball.

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