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USC Women’s Basketball Heads To Boulder For First Pac-12 Test of 2022

Jan 4, 2022

USC (7-3, 0-0) at Colorado (11-0, 0-0)
CU Events Center | Boulder, Colo.
Friday, Jan. 7 | 7 p.m. MT
Series Record: USC leads 15-9 (L1)
Last Meeting: L 66-56 [2/12/21 • Boulder]
TVP12 Los Angeles (Talent: Jenny Cavnar & Kami Carmann Snyder)

THIS WEEK         
USC will open the new year with its first Pac-12 contest of this 2021-22 campaign as the Trojans line up for a trip to Boulder to take on Colorado this week. The Trojans (7-3, 0-0 Pac-12) will face the undefeated Buffs (11-0, 0-0) at 7 p.m. MT on Friday (Jan. 7) at CU Events Center. USC's planned visit to Utah on Sunday (Jan.  9) has been postponed due to COVID-19 protocols within the Utes program.

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

The Buffs are a perfect 11-0 overall after a 78-55 win over SMU in their last action on Dec. 17 before COVID-19 protocols paused competition for the Colorado program. Mya Hollingshed leads the Buffs with 13.9 points and 6.3 rebounds  per game. In a series dating back to 2002-03, USC is 15-9 all-time against Colorado after a split last season. The Trojans beat the Buffs 56-52 at Galen Center and then lost 66-56 in Boulder.

USC rode an early scoring surge to take control and maneuver toward a final 77-45 win over visiting Texas Southern in its last competition on Dec. 18. Along the way, freshman Rayah Marshall recorded her first double-double, dominating the boards for 17 rebounds and providing 14 points. Jordan Sanders and Jordyn Jenkins both had double digits by halftime as the Trojans shot 42.1 percent from the floor to work their way ahead of Texas Southern 42-19 in the first half. The Tigers shot 26.1 percent in the first half of action, although the teams were matched up on the boards 19-19 by the break. The Trojans bumped up their rebounding effort in the second half, winding up winning the boards 45-30 thanks in large part to a career-high 17 final rebounds from Marshall. USC upped its offense as well, finishing up shooting 44.0 percent overall from the floor, while Texas Southern finished up at 32.1 percent. Marshall and Jordan Sanders led USC with 14 points apiece, while two other Trojans hit double digits in the win. Jordyn Jenkins scored 12 and Clarice Akunwafo added 10. Texas Southern received a game-high 16 points from Andriana Avent. 

USC's first three scheduled Pac-12 games were postponed due to COVID-19 protocols. The Trojans' game at UCLA was affected by COVID-19  protocols within  the Bruins' program and has been moved to January 20. The Arizona and ASU games — postponed by  COVID-19  protocols with the USC program — are hoped to be rescheduled in collaboration with the conference on mutually agreed-upon dates. 

USC entered the week ranked No. 3 in the nation among Division I teams with the Trojans' 7.3 blocks per game average. That's thanks in part to freshman Rayah Marshall's 2.4 blocks per game, which ranks her No. 18 in the nation. Earlier this season, 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 are plenty of others with the ability to extend their attack.