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USC Women’s Basketball Continues Home Stand With Tilts Against CSUN & Texas Southern

Dec 14, 2021

USC (5-3) vs. CSUN (3-5)
Galen Center | Los Angeles, Calif.
Wednesday, Dec. 15 | 12 p.m.
Series Record: USC leads 18-10 (W3)
Last Meeting: W 69-53 [11/5/19 • Northridge]

USC vs. Texas Southern (0-6)
Galen Center | Los Angeles, Calif.
Saturday, Dec. 18 | 2 p.m.
Series Record: FIRST MEETING

THIS WEEK         
USC extends its home stretch to the final two of a four-game home stand, bringing a pair opponents to Galen Center this week for more nonconference action. On Wednesday (Dec. 15) it's a USC double-header with the women (5-3) taking on CSUN (3-5) at 12 p.m. before the USC men take the court later that day. On Saturday (Dec. 18), the Women of Troy have Trojan great Cynthia Cooper-Dyke in the house, as her Texas Southern squad (0-6) goes up against her alma mater USC at 2 p.m. The TSU program also has former Trojan Alexis Lloyd on the coaching staff, as well as 2021 USC grad Shalexxus Aaron on the roster.

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CLEAR BAGS, PLEASE!            
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USC was receiving votes in the Nov. 15 AP poll, but is now unranked in the national polls.

The Matadors are 3-5 overall after an 80-62 loss to Portland in their most recent action.  CSUN's top scorer is Tess Amundson with 12.5 points per game, and Kayanna Spriggs leads on the boards with 4.3 rebounds per game. In a series dating back to 1970, USC is 18-10 all-time against the Matadors with wins in the last three meetings. The most recent clash was a season-opening 69-53 Trojan victory over CSUN in Northridge on Nov. 5, 2019.

The Tigers are 0-6 overall after an 88-42 loss at Texas A&M and a 96-55 loss at LSU. TSU will face UCLA before coming to USC. Shalexxus Aaron leads the Tigers in scoring with 10.5 points in her two appearances last week. Niya Mitchell leads on the boards with 7.3 rebounds per game. This will be the first-ever meeting between USC and Texas Southern.

USC wound up with a home split last week, beating UC Irvine 78-69 and falling 78-63 to San Francisco. There were 12 lead changes and seven ties in the game against the Anteaters before the Trojans broke things open with a push into the lead midway through the fourth. The Anteaters had the hotter hands out of the gates, shooting 41.2 percent from the floor and knocking down four 3-pointers in the first half to outpace USC's 31.4 percent effort and two threes made. The Trojans were up on the boards 24-19 at the break, but trailed UC Irvine 40-36 on the scoreboard at halftime. The lead would change hands five times and tie up four times in the second half before USC made a 9-0 rally to take the lead for good. By the final buzzer, USC had upped its shooting performance to finish at 39.4 percent, still trailing UC Irvine's final 42.9 percent effort. The Trojans would maintain the advantage on the boards 42-33 and went 22-of-26 from the free-throw line while the Anteaters were 10-of-13 from the stripe. USC received a game-high and career-high 24 points from Sophomore Jordyn Jenkins, with Rayah Marshall adding 15 points and Jordan Sanders providing 13 for the Trojans. The Anteaters also had three players finish in double digits — Olivia Williams (17 points), Naomi Hunt (13) and Chloe Webb (13). Against USF, the Trojans started hot, but the Dons caught fire from 3-point range and the Trojans couldn't keep pace. USF hit 13 threes in the game and got 29 points from Ioanna Krimili to pick up the win. USC had four players score in double figures, led by 15 points apiece from Jordan Sanders and Tera Reed.

USC currently ranks No. 2 in the nation among Division I teams in  its block rate — boasting blocks against 18 percent of opponent 2-point attempts. With 7.5 blocks per game, USC ranks No. 3 in the nation. That's thanks in part to Rayah Marshall's 2.25 bpg (No. 27 in  the nation) and Jordyn Jenkins' 1.62 bpg (No. 68). Marshall served up six blocks against UCF to tally the fifth most single-game blocks by a Trojan.

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. 

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.

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.