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USC Women’s Basketball Will Celebrate Thanksgiving At Cancun Challenge

Nov 22, 2021

USC (3-1) vs. Seton Hall (2-1)
Hotel Hard Rock Riviera Maya | Cancun, Mexico
Thursday, Nov. 25 | 4 p.m. ET
Series Record: USC leads 2-0 (W2)
Last Meeting: W 70-59 [11/28/03 • Freeport, Bahamas]

USC vs. UCF (3-1)
Hotel Hard Rock Riviera Maya | Cancun, Mexico
Saturday, Nov. 27 | 4 p.m. ET
Series Record: FIRST MEETING

THIS WEEK         
USC is off to spend Thanksgiving in Cancun, Mexico, this week as the Trojans are lined up for action at the Cancun Challenge, held at the Hard Rock Hotel Riviera Maya Nov. 25-27. On Thursday (Nov. 25), USC (3-1) will take on Seton Hall (2-1) at 4 p.m. ET. After a day off of competition, the Trojans get back to it with a Saturday (Nov. 27) matchup against UCF at 4 p.m. ET. 

USC was receiving votes in the latest AP poll (released Nov. 15). 

The Pirates are 2-1 overall after an 77-77 win over Lehigh in their latest action. Seton Hall's top scorer is Andra Espinoza-Hunter with 21.0 points per game, and three players — Espinoza-Hunter, Lauren Park-Lane and Katie Armstrong lead on the boards with 7.0 rebounds per game each. USC and Seton Hall have met twice before, with the Trojans holding a 2-0 advantage. The last meeting was at the 2003 Bahamas Tournament, where USC beat the Pirates 70-59 in Freeport.

The Knights enter the week at 3-1 overall after a 57-45 win over Belmont in their latest action. UCF's top scorer is Diamond Battles with 14.3 points per game, and Destiny Thomas leads on the boards with 8.8 rebounds per game. This will be the first-ever meeting between USC and UCF in women's basketball.

FIRST LOSS        
USC came up against a tough Missouri State squad Saturday at Galen Center and struggled to find its scoring touch in a 67-41 loss to the Lady Bears. MSU was hot-handed in the first half to create space on the Trojans, who finished with just one player in double digits in Jordan Sanders. Missouri State manufactured a 10-0 run in the first quarter and an 11-0 surge in the second to put USC in a 44-20 halftime hole. The Trojan offense was shooting a meager 22 percent from the floor to drag behind the Lady Bears' 51.5 percent effort in the first half. MSU also was ahead on the boards 24-14 and had two players — Jasmine Franklin and Brice Calip — in double digits with 15 apiece by halftime. The Lady Bears cooled off in the second half, but USC was unable to carve down the deficit. The Trojans wrapped up the game with a 23-percent overall shooting effort, while MSU wound up at 38.2 percent and hit five 3-pointers to USC's pair. The Lady Bears won the battle of the boards 46-39 and forced 22 turnovers by the Trojans while committing 11 of their own. The Trojans had Jordan Sanders hit double digits with 11 points, and Jordyn Jenkins and Rayah Marshall had nine rebounds apiece. Missouri State received 23 points from Jasmine Franklin and 22 from Brice Calip. Franklin also had a game-high 11 rebounds for a double-double.

USC utilized powerful defensive lockdowns to turn a once-10-point deficit into a 30-point victory, stymying visiting Western Michigan in the second and fourth frames en route to a final 80-50 Trojan victory Thursday night at Galen Center. USC outscored the Broncos 18-2 in the last 7:15 of action and had four players finish in double digits, led by sophomore Jordyn Jenkins' career-high 17 points. After a foul-plagued first quarter, USC's defense locked things down in the second and turned a 21-13 deficit into a 32-25 halftime lead as Western Michigan landed just one basket from the floor in the second quarter. USC wrapped the first half shooting 40.7 percent from the floor to outpace the Broncos' slump to 28.6 percent after going 1-of-13 in the second. USC was also up on the boards 25-12 by the break. The Trojans would miss just one shot form the door in the third in building out a double-digit lead, and USC wrapped the game shooting 54 percent from the floor to Western Michigan's 30.5 percent. The rebounding margin wound up as a dominant 48-17 advantage in USC's favor. USC had four Trojans finish in double digits, led by Jordyn Jenkins' career-high 17 points. Alyson Miura was next with 14 points thanks in part to a career-high four 3-pointers made, while Rayah Marshall at 12 points and Jordan Sanders had 11. Western Michigan hit eight 3-pointers in the game, with Lauren Ross scoring 13 points and Reilly Jacobson holding 11 as the two combined for five of those eight threes.

USC brought a road win home from a cross-country visit to Virginia, where the Trojans topped the Cavaliers 65-48. Freshman Clarice Akunwafo tallied a double-double for the Trojans as USC turned a one-point margin into a 17-point lead during the second half thanks to some stingy defense and effective offense. USC is now 2-0 overall with today's road win. Jordan Sanders was in double digits by halftime for the Trojans, who shot 37.0 percent from the floor in this first 20 minutes to just outpace Virginia's 33.3 percent effort. The Cavaliers were ahead on the boards 35-30 at that point, but USC had help on the offensive end from four 3-pointers landed by halftime to help USC lead it 34-39 at halftime. By the final buzzer, USC had left Virginia well behind, finishing up shooting 35.9 recent from the floor while UVA wrapped at 28.1 percent. USC ended up winning the battle onto boards 52, 45, thanks in part to a career-high 10 rebounds apiece from senior guard Desiree Caldwell and freshman center Clarice Akunwafo. Akunwafo was one of four Trojans to score in double figures, putting in 10 points while fellow freshman Rayah Marshall led all scorers with 16 points. Tera Reed and Jordan Sanders each had 13 apiece. Virginia's top scorer was Taylor Valladay with nine points.

USC manufactured 25-0 run in the fourth quarter to put visiting Hawai'i well out of reach in the Trojans' season opener at Galen Center, claiming victory with a final 90-50 scoreline. By the final buzzer, USC had tallied 11 scorers, including five Trojans in double digits to help secure a 1-0 start in Lindsay Gottlieb's first game as USC's head coach. USC went big in the second half, turning up the volume on a 38.9 percent first-half output to finish shooting at a 51.5 percent clip in the game. Hawai'i kept pace with USC in the second quarter, only to see the Trojans find a groove in the final 20 minutes. The Rainbow Wahine finished up shooting 30.3 percent from the floor, while USC led on the boards 49-33. Of USC five double-digit scorers, Jordan Sanders led the pack with a game-high 17 points with help from a 3-for-3 effort from beyond the arc. In her USC debut, freshman Rayah Marshall was one board off a double-double with 15 points and nine rebounds. Another newcomer, graduate Student Tera Reed contributed 11 points and five assists in her first outing as a Trojan, with junior Angel Jackson also adding 11 points. Sophomore Jordyn Jenkins, meanwhile, scored 10 points for the Trojan cause. Hawai'i was led in scoring by Kallin Spiller's 14 points, along with 11 from McKenna Haire.

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.

WELL VETTED            
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.