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USC Women's Basketball Hosts Hawai’i Thursday In Season Opener

Nov 9, 2021

USC (0-0) vs. Hawai'i (0-0)
Galen Center | Los Angeles, Calif.
Thursday, Nov. 11 | 7 p.m. 
Series Record: USC leads 6-0 (W6)
Last Meeting: W 71-60 [11/26/17 • Honolulu]

USC at Virginia
John Paul Jones Arena | Charlottesville, Va.
Sunday, Nov. 14 | 1 p.m. ET
Series Record: Tied 2-2 (W1)
Last Meeting: W 59-49 [11/9/20 • Los Angeles]

THIS WEEK        
USC officially opens 2021-22 action under the Trojans' new head coach Lindsay Gottlieb this week. On Thursday (Nov.  11), USC hosts Hawai'i for a season opener at Galen Center, taking on the Rainbow Wahine at 7 p.m. From there, the Trojans will take off for Virginia, where USC will take  on the Cavaliers — coached by Trojan great Tina Thompson — in a 1 p.m. ET meeting on Sunday (Nov.  14) in Charlottesville.

USC is unranked the 2021-22 preseason AP and Coaches polls. 

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The Rainbow Wahine open their season Tuesday night at San Diego before coming to USC on Thursday. Hawai'i's top retuning scorer is Amy Atwell, who provided 12.6 points per game last season. She also is the top returning rebounder, having averaged 5.9 rebounds per game last season. Hawai'i is coming off a 2020-21 season in which it posted a 9-8 overall record and reached the Big West semifinals. In a series dating back to the 1982-83 season, USC is 6-0 all-time against Hawai'i. The teams last met in Honolulu in 2017, with USC winning 71-60.

Coached by Trojan great Tina Thompson, the Cavaliers open their season Tuesday afternoon at JMU before USC comes to town for Sunday's clash. Virginia's retuning top scorer from last season is Amandine Toi, who was averaging 14.0 points per game. The top returning rebounder is Meg Jefferson, who averaged 5.3 rebounds per game in three appearances last year. The Cavaliers were 0-5 overall last year before cancelling the remainder of its season due to the coronavirus pandemic. In a series dating back to the 1991-92 season, USC is 2-2 all-time against Virginia. The teams last met at Galen Center in 2019, with USC winning 59-49. This will be the first-ever meeting between the two in Charlottesville.

USC got out to a hot start and never looked back in a 120-34 exhibition win over visiting Antelope Valley last weekend at Galen Center. Playing in front of fans for the first time at home in over a year, the Women of Troy put on a great show for those in attendance. USC peeled out to a 27-0 lead on the visiting Pioneers. The Trojan defense kept Antelope Valley to just 17.5 percent shooting from the floor, while USC knocked out a 66.2 percent effort on the day. Six Trojans hit double digits in the win, led by Alissa Pili's 18 points. Sophomore Jordyn Jenkins, meanwhile, was a perfect 5-for-5 from the floor and 6-for-6 from the free-throw line to finish up with 16 points. Jordan Sanders and freshman Clarice Akunwafo each scored 13 points, with Akunfao providing the bucket that got USC into triple digits in the fourth quarter. Fellow freshman Rayah Marshall and junior Angel Jackson wrapped with 11 points apiece, with Marshall leading all Trojans with eight rebounds. Also highlighting the stat sheet for USC was Kyra White's six assists, followed by five from Pili, while Sanders nabbed four steals. Jackson and Akunwafo each had three blocks apiece in the powerful performance by the Trojans.

PILI POWER        
Junior Alissa Pili's talents continue to receive national acclaim as the 2021-22 women's basketball season gets underway. On November 9, the USC forward was named to the John R. Wooden Award Preseason Top 50 Watch List as well as the Naismith Trophy Watch List. It is Pili's second selection to the Naismith Watch List. One of the most versatile and impressive players in the game today, Pili has been an impact player since arriving at USC as a freshman. Named Pac-12 Freshman of the Year and to the All-Pac-12 Team in 2020, Pili fought through injury as a sophomore to earn All-Pac-12 Honorable Mention. This year, the junior is a captain for the Women of Troy and is tabbed for duty in several different roles. An unquestionable power in the paint, Pili boasts great ball skills as well as the range to knock down 3-pointers. She enters her junior year averaging 14.7 points and 6.8 rebounds per game to go along with a .502 shooting effort from the floor and .799 mark from the free-throw line. Recently, Pili was also named to the Katrina McClain Award Preseason Watch List for the second straight year, recognizing her again as one of the top 20 power forwards in the nation. She also has a spot on the 2021-22 Pac-12 Preseason All-Conference Team.

First up for the Women of Troy is an exciting nonconference stretch that features eight home games at Galen Center. USC's road action includes a visit to Virginia to face Trojan great Tina Thompson's Cavalier squad, two tilts at the Cancun Challenge and a visit to one of USC's longest rivalries — Long Beach State. Meanwhile, USC's nonconference home slate opens with an exhibition matchup against Antelope Valley on November 6, followed by the official home opener against Hawai'i. That game has some sentimental value with former associate head coach Laura Beeman now at the helm of the Rainbow Wahine, with two USC alums and former women's basketball staff members Alex Delanian and Jason Hill also on the Hawai'i coaching staff. Other out-of-state visitors to Troy will be Western Michigan (Nov. 18) and Missouri State (Nov. 20) before the Trojans head to Cancun to play UCF and Iowa. Then it's back to Galen Center for four games — UC Irvine (Dec. 2), San Francisco (Dec. 5) and CSUN (Dec. 15). Another Trojan reunion presents itself on Dec. 18, when Trojan legend Cynthia Cooper's Texas Southern squad comes to town.

WE GOT GOTT        
The 2021-22 USC roster, helmed by new head coach and basketball scientist extraordinaire Lindsay Gottlieb, is teeming with talent and balance — ingredients that Gottlieb is eager to formulate into a competitive and successful program. The USC women have fallen short of the NCAA Tournament field for the past seven seasons while competing in arguably the most competitive women's basketball conference in the land. Fortunately, Gottlieb gleaned plenty of experience navigating the Pac-12 and beyond while at the helm of the California program. Following that, her two years as an assistant coach with the Cleveland Cavaliers in the NBA served to broaden both her gamesmanship and her passion for player development. Now the leader of the Women of Troy, Gottlieb and her staff are set on securing an upward trajectory for the USC program.

When it comes to toughness. Look no further than junior Alissa Pili. The Pac-12 Freshman of the Year in 2020, Pili is one of the strongest and most versatile posts in the nation. She is the linchpin for the Trojans, with a talented array of skilled posts also tagged for time in the paint. Length will not be a problem for USC this season, with 6-foot-5 junior Angel Jackson joined by two highly anticipated freshmen in 6-6 Clarice Akunwafo and 6-4 Rayah Marshall. Meanwhile, athletic sophomore Jordyn Jenkins turned heads as a freshman, adding extra punch to the paint.

Veteran status largely belongs to the backcourt. Senior Desiree Caldwell has been a devoted and reliable runner of the point, while grad student Jordan Sanders and grad transfer Tera Reed offer up extensive experience as well. USC's second leading scorer last year, Sanders returns for a second season at USC, bringing back her incredible 3-point accuracy and versatility. A transfer from VCU, Reed is poised, savvy and skilled. And when it comes to bringing up the ball, Caldwell can also confidently give way to junior Kyra White, redshirt sophomore Alyson Miura and true freshman Bella Perkins.

HOT HANDS        
Which brings us to USC's perimeter firepower. Sanders clearly stands out as the foremost 3-point threat for the Trojans, but there are plenty of others who wield hot hands. Caldwell, Miura and Madison Campbell combined for 44 threes landed last season. Perkins and Reed, meanwhile, are poised to add to that arsenal in their first seasons at USC. But don't count out the Trojan posts. Pili has shown her range in the past, and there's plenty of others with the ability to extend their attack.

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