USC Women’s Basketball Settles In At Galen Center For Stretch Of Home Action
USC is back on home turf for a stretch of four consecutive games at Galen Center in the next two weeks. First up, the Trojans (4-2) will host UC Irvine (4-2) in a 7 p.m. clash on Thursday (Dec. 2). And on Sunday (Dec. 5), USC takes on USF at 2 p.m.
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IN THE NATION
USC was receiving votes in the Nov. 15 AP poll, but is now unranked in the national polls.
The Anteaters are 4-2 overall after an 67-55 win over Illinois State and a 58-51 win over Sacramento State last week. UCI's top scorer is Kayla Williams with 12.0 points per game, and Chloe Webb leads on the boards with 6.3 rebounds per game. USC is 2-0 all-time against the Anteaters with a 75-56 win at Galen Center in 2015-16 and an 85-45 win in Irvine in the most recent meeting in 2016-17.
The Dons enter the week at 4-3 overall after a 77-70 win over Idaho, an 84-60 loss to Drake and a 73-67 loss to Nevada last week. USF will face Washington State on Thursday before coming to USC. Ioanna Krimilli leads the Dons with 18.9 points and 5.1 rebounds per game. In a series that began in 1978, USC is 6-2 all-time against USF. In the most recent meeting, the Trojans beat the Dons 72-53 in 2002 in San Francisco.
USC wound up with a split at the Cancun Challenge, beating Seton Hall XXX and then falling to UCF 56-47 last week. The Trojans made it a winning Thanksgiving thanks to a big third-quarter surge that put Seton Hall out of reach. The lead changed hands six times in the first half before USC made its move in the third to diffuse the 3-point threats that the Pirates brought to the table. Seton Hall's 43-percent shooting from the floor in the first half was bolstered by a 7-of-14 effort from 3-point range. USC, meanwhile, landed just one three in the first half and shot 42 percent from the floor, but benefited from a 21-15 rebounding advantage and 18 points in the paint to lead it 37-36 by halftime. The lead had traded hands six times in those first 20 minutes. In the second half, USC upped its shooting percentage with help from a 17-2 rally that opened the half and put the Trojans in control. USC finished up shooting 45.9 percent from the floor and was 5-of-17 from 3-point range while dominating the boards 46-30. Seton Hall shot 35.1 percent overall and wound up 9-of-25 from 3-point land. USC had five players finish in double digits, led by Jordyn Jenkins' first career double-double with career-highs of 18 points and 12 rebounds. Alissa Pili added 15 points, with three 3-pointers landed, and Angel Jackson hit 14 points. Jordan Sanders continued her double-digit run with 13 points, and Alyson Miura added 10 for USC. Two days later, USC was upended by a fourth-quarter surge by UCF, which scored the final 13 points of the day to turn the tide on the Trojans and hand them a 56-47 loss. USC had led by nine early in the fourth before the Knights stole control. USC had Alyson Miura to thank for a much-needed offensive spark in a largely defensive first half as the Trojans held the Knights to 26 percent shooting from the floor while USC shot 28 percent itself. Miura was the only player to hit a three in the first 20 minutes, knocking down four in the second quarter to lift USC into the lead, up 23-17 at the break. UCF was ahead on the boards at that point 21-19. The rebounding advantage stayed in the Knights' favor down the stretch, finishing up at 41-35, while USC also committed 19 turnovers to give UCF 13 points off those giveaways. By the final buzzer, USC had shot a cool 27.7 percent from the floor, while UCF had heated up to 32.8 percent. USC was led in scoring by Alyson Miura's 12 points on her four 3-pointers made in the second quarter. Alissa Pili added 11 points for the Trojans, and Rayah Marshall had a career-high six blocks.
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.
VICTORY IN SEASON OPENER
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.
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.
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.
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.
CLEAR BAGS, PLEASE!
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