USC Women Set Up For No. 25 WSU and UC Riverside
USC (5-5, 3-5) vs. #25 WSU (7-1, 5-1)
Galen Center | Los Angeles, Calif.
Friday, Jan. 15 | 4:30 p.m.
Series Record: USC leads 51-18 (W6)
Last Meeting: W 66-60 [2/23/20 • Pullman]
TV: Pac-12 Los Angeles / Pac-12 Washington (Talent: Anne Marie Anderson & Maylana Martin Douglas)
STREAM | STATS
USC vs. UC Riverside (2-5)
Galen Center | Los Angeles, Calif.
Sunday, Jan. 17 | 3 p.m.
Series Record: USC leads 4-0
Last Meeting: W 76-59 [11/14/20 • Riverside]
USC Live Stream (Announcer: Carlo Jiménez)
STREAM | STATS
USC remains at home this week as the Trojans set up for a slightly different look to their schedule with one Pac-12 and one nonconference game on the agenda. USC (5-5, 3-5 Pac-12) will first host No. 25 Washington State for a 4:30 p.m. conference clash on Friday (Jan. 15) at Galen Center. With Washington's current pause on activities, USC has filled that open date with a nonconference meeting against UC Riverside. The Trojans and the Highlanders will square off at 3 p.m. on Sunday (Jan. 17) at Galen Center. Friday's game will be televised by Pac-12 Networks with Anne Marie Anderson and Maylana Martin Douglas on the call. Sunday's game will be streamed live with Carlo Jiménez on the call.
IN THE NATION
USC is unranked in this week's AP and Coaches polls. As of Jan. 11, USC is No. 60 in the NET rankings.
The No. 25 Cougars are 7-1 overall and 5-1 in Pac-12 play after upsetting No. 7 Arizona 71-69 in overtime last week. Charlisse Leger-Walker leads WSU in scoring with 18.8 points per game, and Ula Motuga leads on the boards with 6.6 rebounds per game. In a series dating back to 1981-82, USC is 52-18 all-time against the Cougars with wins in the past six meetings. Last season, USC beat WSU 74-63 at Galen Center and won 66-60 in Pullman.
The Highlanders are 2-5 overall after beating UC Irvine 63-45 and then falling 62-20 to UC Irvine last week. Keilanei Cooper leads UC Riverside in scoring with 16.4 points per game, and Daphne Gnago leads on the boards with 6.0 rebounds per game. In a series dating back to 2016-17, USC is 4-0 all-time against UC Riverside. Last season, the Trojans beat the Highlanders 76-59 in Riverside.
In completing a sweep of the Mountain schools, USC made another stout home stand in another tight finish at Galen Center, fending off visiting Colorado this time as the Trojans tacked up a 56-52 victory. The Buffs had carved a 12-point USC lead down to two entering the final minute, but the Trojans held their ground again to chalk up another Pac-12 win, following Friday's 60-59 comeback win over Utah. Against the Buffs, USC was shooting 44 percent from the floor by halftime, overshadowing Colorado's 38 percent effort. The Trojans had landed five first-half 3-pointers to three by the Buffs, accounting for USC's 30-24 halftime advantage. The Trojans would stay the course from an efficiency standpoint, wrapping the game at 44 percent from the floor to beat out Colorado's final 35 percent outing. The Buffs missed 10 free throws in the game but had the edge on the boards 34-31. Four Women of Troy scored in double digits, led by Jordan Sanders' 16 points. Desiree Caldwell finished with 13 points with three 3-pointers made, while Endyia Rogers had 12 points along with five assists. Angel Jackson recorded a double-double for the Trojan cause with 10 points and 13 rebounds. Colorado had two players finish in double figures. Peanut Tuitele led the Buffs with 15 points, and Mya Hollingshed had a double-double with 14 points and 10 rebounds.
- SR F Jordan Sanders scored in double digits for the eighth straight game.
- JR G Desiree Caldwell hit a season-high three 3-pointers.
- SO G Endyia Rogers scored in double digits for the sixth straight game.
USC has three players who have been sidelined since the start of this season in redshirt sophomore Shalexxus Aaron (ankle), sophomores Alyson Miura (knee) and Alissa Pili (ankle). All three are expected to return to competition this season. Freshman Zayla Tinner (foot) missed the first three games, making her USC debut on Dec. 13 vs. UCLA. Freshman Jordyn Jenkins (knee). missed the first eight games and made her USC debut on Jan. 8 vs. Utah.
As a tumultuous 2020 came to a close, the USC women's basketball team had shown its resilience and resolve in ringing up a shining academic performance in the fall semester. For the first time in at least 10 years, the team has cracked the 3.0 GPA barrier in amassing a 3.01 team cumulative GPA. The notable academic achievement was truly a team effort, with seven Women of Troy finishing the fall with a term GPA of at least 3.0. Among that group, Alissa Pili and Kyra White earned their highest term grades and GPAs of their academic careers. Joining those two in the over-3.0 GPA territory are Shalexxus Aaron, Alyson Miura, Amaya Oliver, India Otto and Jordan Sanders. Shining brightest among the Trojans' academic all-stars is Miura, who leads the pack with a perfect 4.0 semester GPA. Oliver, Otto and White all banked GPAs of 3.5 or better while taking at least 12 units of letter-graded courses, with Oliver shouldering a hefty courseload of 18 units in her first semester as a Trojan.
SANDERS MAKES A SPLASH
The Pac-12 Conference leader in 3-point percentage, Jordan Sanders led USC in scoring in back-to-back Trojan victories last week and was selected as the Pac-12 Player of the Week on Dec. 28. The grad transfer set new USC scoring highs for herself with 22 points against Cal and 23 versus Long Beach State, while also hitting a career-high five 3-pointers in USC's first Pac-12 win of the season. Sanders followed up her impressive 22-point outing against the Golden Bears — where she was 5-of-7 from 3-point land — with the forward's first career start as a Trojan when USC squared off against the Beach. She would haul in her highest rebound count as a Trojan with eight boards to go along with her season-high 23 points in USC's 71-65 win. Sanders landed two more threes in that game, finishing her week's work averaging 70 percent from beyond the arc. That bumped her season average to 68.2 percent, keeping her solidly atop the Pac-12 leaderboard in 3-point percentage while also lifting her to fifth overall in the nation. Sanders is the first Trojan to earn the honor since Kristen Simon on Dec. 5, 2016. Also on Dec. 28, Sanders was selected as College Sports Madness' Pac-12 Player of the Week. Sanders currently stands as the nation's top 3-point shooter with her 66.7 percent efficiency.
The only true senior on the USC roster this season is grad transfer Jordan Sanders, who has joined the Trojans from UC Irvine. Sanders' presence gives USC its second conference freshman of the year, as Sanders was the Big West's 2018 top freshman while USC's Alissa Pili picked up the Pac-12 Freshman of the Year award last season. Pili and fellow sophomore Endyia Rogers are a proven one-two punch for USC, as the pair were the Trojans' top scorers in 2019-20. Pili and sophomore Angel Jackson packed the paint for the Trojans as freshmen, while sophomore sharpshooters Alyson Miura and India Otto were significant three-point threats, and Kyra White stood tall as a staunch defender and playmaker. That group got great experience as freshmen, making for a shiny sophomore campaign ahead. USC's "veterans" this year are junior Desiree Caldwell and redshirt sophomore Shalexxus Aaron — both captains alongside Pili this season.
USC's roster boasts five fresh-faced Trojans making their USC debuts in 2020-21. Jordan Sanders, as mentioned, spent three years at UC Irvine, joining true freshmen Jordyn Jenkins, Amaya Oliver and Zayla Tinner for their first seasons in Cardinal and Gold. Also tabbed for action this season is redshirt freshman Madison Campbell, who is coming off a redshirt season following back surgery last year.
Sophomore strength abounds for the USC women's basketball team this season, with Alissa Pili and Endyia Rogers at the forefront of the Trojans' youth movement. As the 2020-21 campaign drew near, Pili upgraded her national acclaim with a spot on the 2021 Jersey Mike's Naismith Trophy Watch List — recognized as one of the nation's top 50 players in line for the highest collegiate honor bestowed by the Atlanta Tipoff Club. Also Pili and Rogers both picked up spots on the Pac-12 preseason honor roll. The Pac-12 Freshman of the Year and an All-Pac-12 Team honoree last season, Pili finished her debut year ranked in the nation's top-100 in five statistical categories. Already on the 2021 Watch List for the Katrina McClain Award as one of the top 20 small forwards in the land, Pili's placement on the Naismith Trophy Watch List further cements her as the Trojans' top gun and a player to keep a close eye on as her career continues to blossom. Pili's power has been well-known in the Pac-12 conference, and as her sophomore year unfurls the Trojan post has earned her place on the Pac-12 Preseason All-Conference Team. Fellow sophomore Rogers — USC's second leading scorer and top 3-point shooter last year — picked up Pac-12 Preseason All-Conference Honorable Mention.
Amidst a tumultuous summer, the USC women's basketball team found a powerful way to set a course for themselves away from the gym. All 13 Women of Troy registered to vote, marking an important benchmark for the program as the 2020 elections approach. What's more, their action helped spark a department-wide initiative that was embraced by USC Athletics' Black Lives Matter Action Team to challenge every USC team to reach 100 percent registration for eligible U.S. voters. Thanks to their 2020 registration, USC women's basketball was able to have a voice in elections in five different states — Alaska, California, Oregon, Texas and Washington — in the 2020 elections and beyond.
USC gets another boost in the backcourt with the addition of transfer Shemera Williams, head coach Mark Trakh has announced. After a season played at Virginia, Williams is on her way to Troy to become a Trojan this spring 2021. The state of Wisconsin's second leading scorer in girls high school basketball history with 3,120 career points, the Milwaukee Academy of Science product went on to average 8.9 points and 2.6 rebounds in her freshman campaign with the Cavaliers. A 5-8 guard, Williams was Virginia's third leading scorer as a freshman in 2019-20 and was a two-time ACC Freshman of the Week while also picking up national honors as a USBWA Tamika Catchings Freshman Player of the Week. Williams has joined the USC roster as of January 2021, with her eligibility for competition pending NCAA transfer rules.
USC welcomes a pair of powerful local products who combine forces as the nation's No. 7-ranked recruiting class according to ESPN. The No. 2-ranked center in the country, Clarice Uche Akunwafo comes to Troy from nearby Inglewood, Calif. ESPN's No. 27-ranked player in the land, guard/forward Rayah Marshall is a Los Angeles native. Both new Trojans signed their national letters of intent on Nov. 11. Both Akunwafo and Marshall also were recently named to the Watch List for the 2021 Jersey Mike's Naismith Trophy for High School Girls Player of the Year. A 6-6- center, Clarice Uche Akunwafo averaged 20.1 points, 12.7 rebounds and 1.8 blocks per game at Rolling Hills Prep. The Inglewood native also shot 56 percent from the floor and is a two-time All-CIF honoree. Her power at the post has earned her the nod as the No. 2 center in the nation and No. 21 player overall, according to ESPN. A Los Angeleno and another All-CIF regular, Rayah Marshall ranks No. 27 in the nation among this class of prospects. The 6-4 guard/forward hails from nearby Lynwood High, where she averaged 18.1 points, 10.5 rebounds, 2.6 blocks and 2.4 steals per game.
USC's postseason plans of a 2020 WNIT run were dashed back in March with the cancellation of all competition due to the pandemic. That left the Trojans with a 17-14 overall record, having reached the quarterfinals of the Pac-12 Tournament as the No. 7 seed. USC's top scorer and rebounder, Alissa Pili was named the Pac-12 Freshman of the Year, earning a spot on the All-Pac-12 Team. Fellow freshman Endyia Rogers picked up All-Pac-12 Honorable Mention after standing as USC's second leading scorer. USC lost three seniors from that roster in Aliyah Jeune, Kayla Overbeck and Stephanie Watts. •