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USC Women’s Basketball Hits Vegas For 2022 Pac-12 Tournament Action

Feb 28, 2022

THIS WEEK         
USC takes the No. 10 seed into this week's 2022 Pac-12 Tournament at Michelob ULTRA Arena at Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas. That puts the Trojans (12-15) up against rival UCLA (13-11) in the opening round, set for 6 p.m. on Wednesday (March 2). A win there would put USC in the quarterfinals against No. 2 seed Oregon (19-10) at 6 p.m. on Thursday (March 3) to vie for a place in an 8:30 p.m. semifinal on Friday (March 5). All those games will be televised on Pac-12 Networks. The Pac-12 Championship game is set for 3 p.m. on Sunday (March 6) on ESPN2.

PAC-12 TOURNAMENT CENTRAL: https://pac-12.com/womens-basketball/womens-basketball-tournament-2022

IN THE NATION        
USC was receiving votes in the Nov. 15 AP poll, but is now unranked in the national polls. As of Feb. 28, USC is No. 73 in the NET Rankings.

THIS TIME LAST YEAR        
USC was the No. 9 seed in last year's Pac-12 Tournament, having rounded out the regular season at 10-11 overall and 8-9 in Pac-12 play. The Trojans took on No. 8 seed Arizona State in the first round in Las Vegas, claiming a 71-65 win over the Sun Devils to advance. In the quarterfinals, USC was up against top-seeded Stanford — the eventual NCAA Champion. The No. 4-ranked Cardinal was a force to reckon with, beating the Trojans 92-53 to wrap up USC's season.

LAST ACTION        
USC came up with a road split in its final weekend of regular-season action last week, beating  Arizona State 60-58 and falling to No. 12 Arizona 68-59. In Tempe, USC shrugged off a seven-point deficit to host Arizona State in the fourth quarter and pressed on to create a crazy final minute that saw Alyson Miura hit a buzzer-beating 3-pointer to win it for the Trojans 60-58. The dramatic finish lifts USC to 12-14 overall and to 5-11 in Pac-12 play, while the Sun Devils go to 12-12, 4-7. It was largely a neck-and-neck battle throughout, with the lead changing hands 13 times and with eight ties along the way. The Trojans trailed 49-42 with 6:45 to go, but USC would chisel that down to two on a 3-pointer from Tera Reed. ASU answered with a score to go up 56-52 with 2;35 remaining, but Reed kept coming and had USC on top 57-56 with 34 seconds on the clock. ASU's 20th offensive board of the game refueled the Sun Devils, who connected to go up 58-57  with 15 seconds left. A wild final possession saw Miura get the last look, as she buried the winner for the Trojans. USC finished out the game shooting 40.8 percent from the floor, spurred by a 60-percent 3-point effort that saw the Trojans hit nine threes — three from Miura, three from Jordan Sanders and two from Tera Reed. ASU hit three 3-pointers, but was 0-for-7 from beyond the arc in the second half. The Sun Devils finished up shooting 29.9 percent overall but did own the boards 46-36, including those 20 offensive rebounds. USC's offense was charged up by 17 points apiece from Reed and Sanders, along with  13 from Rayah Marshall, who added her third straight double-double with 11 rebounds. ASU received a game-high 22 points from Jade Loville along with 11 points and 11 boards from Mael Gilles. Katelyn Levings also added 12 rebounds for the Sun Devils. Two days later in Tucson, USC was powerful out of the gates but was stymied by turnovers in taking a 68-59 loss at No. 12 Arizona. It was a see-saw battle in the first half, as a 14-0 USC surge in the first frame crafted a double-digit lead for the Trojans. Arizona would chip that down in the next 10 minutes with an offensive outburst that saw the Wildcats edge ahead 34-33 at halftime with a 10-0 run to end that frame. USC was shooting 50 percent from the floor to that point, while Arizona was at 34.4 percent. In the end it was a turnover-plagued second half that spelled doom for the Trojans, who committed 13 turnovers in the final 20 minutes while the Wildcats extended their lead. Arizona scored 19 total points off USC's turnovers in the game while shooting 34.8 overall from the floor. USC wrapped the game shooting 47.6 percent and was outrebounded 35-32. USC was led by a career-high 19 points from Alyson Miura along with 18 points from Rayah Marshall. Arizona was paced by four players in double digits — Taylor Chavez (18 points), Shaina Pellington (14 points), Lauren Ware (12) and Sam Thomas (10). Ware also had a double-double with her 11 rebounds.

ON A ROLL        
After her sixth double-double at WSU on Feb. 13 and 12 points vs Utah and Coloradyo sophomore Jordyn Jenkins rides a streak of 16 straight double-digit games. What's more, she ranks No. 3 in the Pac-12 (No. 39 in the nation) with her field-goal shooting percentage of 53.0. 

BLOCK PARTY        
Thanks in part to a season-high 13 blocks vs. Cal on Feb. 4, USC enters the week ranked No. 2 in the nation among Division I teams with the Trojans' 6.5 blocks per game average. Leading the block party for USC is freshman Rayah Marshall's 2.59 blocks per game, which ranked her No. 12 in the nation and No. 1 out of all freshmen to start the week. Last week, Marshall set a new career high with seven blocks vs. Arizona, marking the fourth most by a Trojan in a single game. She has served up at least one block in the past 2 games after  that effort at Arizona.

POWERING UP IN PAC-12 PLAY        
Sophomore Jordyn Jenkins was a force to reckon in USC's road trip through Jenkins' home state, as she averaged 22.7 points and 10.7 rebounds across three Pac-12 road games. USC's top scorer for six straight games, Jenkins deservedly earned her first career selection as the Pac-12 Player of the Week on Feb. 14. She is the first Trojan to do so this season, marking the 50th such honor all-time for USC. In a road stretch that featured three games in five days, Jenkins opened up with 21 points for USC in a loss at Utah. Two days later, she posted a career night with 29 points and 15 rebounds, while hitting 12 of 13 free throws to help anchor a key win at Washington. She'd follow that double-double outing with another one at Washington State, scoring 18 points with 12 rebounds to notch her sixth double-double of the season. Jenkins is USC's top scorer to date with 15.2 point per game, ranking her sixth in the Pac-12. She's also second on the boards for USC with 6.7 rebounds per game. In Pac-12 play, Jenkins has averaged 17.9 points and 7.3 rebounds per game.

FRESHMAN PHENOM        
Following a takedown of the No. 4 team in the nation, USC snagged its first weekly award from the Pac-12 on Jan. 10, with Rayah Marshall named Pac-12 Freshman of the Week. In USC's first Pac-12 competition of the season, Marshall averaged 9.0 points, 8,0 rebounds and 2.5 blocks per game across a road loss to undefeated Colorado and USC's upset win over No. 4 Arizona. Marshall had her second straight double-digit rebounding effort against the Buffs with 10 boards along with four blocks. Two days later against an undefeated Wildcat squad, Marshall had nine points, six rebounds and another big block to help her Trojans along to their first win over a top-5 opponent since 2014. Marshall is the first USC freshman to win the award since Alissa Pili won her fourth such selection on March 2, 2020. It was the ninth all-time Pac-12 Freshman of the Week honor for the USC program.

RAYAH DOUBLES UP        
After recording back-to-back double-doubles for the first time in her Trojan career, Rayah Marshall earned her second selection as the Pac-12 Freshman of the Week on Feb. 21. Along the way, Marshall also extended her streak of at least one block in a game to 20 consecutive outings. Marshall scored a career-high 18 points — making a career best nine field goals — and hauled in 10 rebounds to help USC to a big 83-62 win over Utah. She'd make her first career start in USC's next test and served up a team-high 13 points along with 11 rebounds in a loss to Colorado. 

TOP-5 TAKEDOWN        
On Jan. 9, USC went toe-to-toe with the No. 4 team in the nation and stepped up when it counted, with Alyson Miura burying four huge 3-pointers in the fourth quarter to pull the Trojans toward a 76-67 win over previously undefeated Arizona. The top-10 takedown was USC's first since 2020, and the first win over a top-five  opponent since 2014.  The lead changed hands six times in the first half en route to a 34-34 lockup at halftime. An Arizona buzzer-beater had knotted up the score at the break, with the bomb being the Wildcats' fifth 3-pointer of that half. USC was shooting 36.7 percent from the floor to that point, leading Arizona's 35.5 percent while the Wildcats were up on the boards 21-18. In the second half, USC found the gas pedal when it counted, with Miura going 4-for-4 from 3-point range in the last 5:01 of action to fuel the Trojans' push to victory. By  the final buzzer, USC had heated up to finish the game shooting at a 45.5 percent clip from the floor, while Arizona finished at 36.1 percent. Arizona edged out USC on the boards 36-34. All eight Trojans who hit the floor scored at least one basket. Miura's 5-of-6 effort from beyond the arc marked a career best for the junior, who led USC's scoring charge with 15 points. Jordyn Jenkins finished with 14 points — all  in the second half — and Desiree Caldwell added 12 for her first double-digit game of the season. Arizona, meanwhile, received a game-high 29 points from Cate Reese and 12 from Bendu Yeaney.

PILI POWER        
Junior Alissa Pili's talents have received national acclaim as the 2021-22 women's basketball season was getting 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.

TROJAN TOUGH        
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 a linchpin for the Trojans, with a talented array of skilled posts also tagged for time in the paint. Length is not be a problem for USC this season, with the addition of 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.