USC Women Roll On For Two More Pac-12 Road Tests
After snagging its first road wins of the season last week to claim three straight victories, USC (9-7, 7-6 Pac-12) has another Pac-12 road trip on the agenda, traveling first to Boulder, Colo., to face Colorado (7-9, 5-8) at 6 p.m. MT on Friday (Feb. 12). From there, USC goes to Salt Lake City to square off against Utah (5-11, 4-11) at 4 p.m. MT on Sunday (Feb. 14).
IN THE NATION
USC is unranked in this week's AP poll and is receiving voted in the and Coaches Poll. As of Feb. 9, USC is No. 51 in the NET rankings.
The Buffs are 7-9 overall and 5-8 in Pac-12 play after falling 62-54 at Stanford and beating Cal 67-52 last week. Mya Hollingshed leads Colorado with 16.3 points and 8.5 rebounds per game. In a series dating back to the 2002-03 season, USC is 15-8 all-time against Colorado. In the last meeting, USC beat Colorado 56-52 at Galen Center last month.
The Utes are 5-11 overall and 4-11 in Pac-12 play after beating Cal 62-51 and falling to Stanford 83-41 last week. Brynna Maxwell is Utah's top scorer with 12.8 points per game, and Andrea Torres leads on the boards with 5-5 rebounds per game each. In a series dating back to the 1977-78 season, USC is 16-7 all-time against Utah. In the last meeting, USC beat Utah 60-59 at Galen Center last month.
USC rounded out an important road win with a powerful comeback victory in Pullman as the Trojans topped Washington State 81-71 after trailing by 11 in the first quarter. Five Trojans scored in double digits in the victory to provide a balanced attack that kept the Cougars off balance. After trailing 18-7 in the first quarter, USC stole into the lead and would never trail again thanks to a 10-2 scoring rally midway through the second quarter. Shalexxus Aaron's third 3-pointer of the half was followed by a buzzer-beater from Endyia Rogers, and the Trojans were up 41-34 at halftime. USC had shot 46.7 percent from the floor and from 3-point range as the Trojans nailed seven threes in the first half. WSU had hit five threes in those first 20 minutes and was shooting 44 percent overall. In the third quarter, USC and WSU matched each other with 22 points each, with Rogers providing another buzzer-beating bucket to give USC a boost entering the fourth. That's where the Trojans dug deep. WSU fought back to tie it up on its ninth 3-pointer of the game, locking it at 71-71 with 2:30 to go. Amidst several USC trips to the free-throw line in the remaining time, Rogers came up with back-to-back acrobatic finishes to help the Trojans take back control en route to the final 81-71 win. WSU outshot the Trojans from the floor in the game, shooting 50 percent overall to outpace USC's final 35.7 percent output. Both teams nailed nine 3-pointers apiece, but the Cougars committed 15 turnovers that the Trojans turned into 26 points. WSU also couldn't match the balance of USC's game today. Led by Rogers' team-high 22 points, USC had Alissa Pili score 18, Aaron add 15, Desiree Caldwell provide 14 and Alyson Miura serve up 10 points for the Trojan cause. WSU's scoring load, meanwhile, was shouldered by Ula Motuga (25 points) and Charlisse Leger-Walker (24 points).
AND PILI MAKES THREE
For the first time in program history, USC has three different Trojans honored as a conference Player of the Week. With her first career selection as the Pac-12 Player of the Week on Feb. 8, sophomore forward Alissa Pili joined teammates Endyia Rogers and Jordan Sanders as USC's honorees for the award this season. Sidelined with injury until recently, Pili was back to form in the Trojans' trip to Washington, where USC scooped up its first road wins of the season in beating Washington 63-57 and Washington State 81-71. Pili had back-to-back double-digit games on the trip — her first double-digit outings since returning to action. Against the Huskies, Pili led the Trojans with 17 points, and against the Cougars she went one better with 18 points. Pili also was a near-perfect 10-of-11 from the free-throw line in games where foul shots were key. A four-time Pac-12 Freshman of the Week last season, Pili now has her first Pac-12 Player of the Week award. Pili's pick makes it back-to-back weekly awards for USC, as she follows Rogers' selection on Feb. 1.
30 ON 31
Arizona State will be hoping its next meeting with Endyia Rogers is not on Jan. 31. A year to the day apart, Rogers served up 30-point games against the Sun Devils -- first on Jan. 31, 2020 in Tempe and then on Jan. 31, 2021 at Galen Center. In matching her career high of 30 points in this past meeting, Rogers helped the Trojans to victory and also earned herself her first selection as Pac-12 Player of the Week. The honor made her the second Trojan to earn that award this season, following Jordan Sanders' pick on Dec. 28, and marked the first time since the 2010-11 season that USC has had multiple winners of the conference's Player of the Week award. Rogers was instrumental in USC's 65-57 win over Arizona State, tallying 20 points in the first half to help build a powerful lead for the Trojans over the visiting Sun Devils. Her next 10 points came in the fourth quarter, where she would go 6-for-6 from the free-throw line to keep ASU out of reach. Those last two tosses gave USC an eight-point lead with 18 seconds to go, sealing victory for the Trojans while also tying Rogers' career high of 30 points — set last season. In addition to her game-high 30 points, Rogers led the Trojans with six rebounds and five assists. She also landed four 3-pointers in the game, matching another career high.
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 leader in 3-point percentage at the time, Jordan Sanders led USC in scoring in back-to-back Trojan victories 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.
With the return of Alyson Miura (knee) to action on Feb. 5, USC has had all five players who were sidelined at the start of the season return to the court. Shalexxus Aaron (ankle) got her first minutes on Jan. 17 vs. UC Riverside for her first game action since the end of the 2018-19 season. On Jan. 15 vs. WSU, Alissa Pili (ankle) returned to action after 10 games on the sidelines. Zayla Tinner (foot) missed the first three games, making her USC debut on Dec. 13 vs. UCLA. Jordyn Jenkins (knee) missed the first eight games and made her USC debut on Jan. 8 vs. Utah. Madison Campbell missed the last five games with injury (knee) and returned on Feb. 5. Jordan Sanders (concussion protocol) and Angel Jackson (knee) missed the last two games but are expected to return. Tinner has missed the last four games with injury and is expected to return.
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. •