The Women of Troy have come out the gates swinging this season, starting out 3-0 for the first time since the 1998-1999 season. But USC will be faced with its toughest challenge yet as the squad takes on No. 20 ranked Oklahoma State Friday night.
The Cowgirls (6-0) are also undefeated after opening with a relatively easy nonconference schedule this far, meaning both teams will lay it all on the line to maintain their pristine records.
A win for USC would also break Oklahoma State’s 28-game winning streak in non-conference matchups at home.
Home court advantage does not just apply to the Cowgirls. USC senior forward Desiree Bradley is a native of Oklahoma City, just an hour’s drive away from Oklahoma State’s campus in Stillwater, and hopes to come up big in her homecoming game.
Bradley and her teammates will have to rally to pull out yet another win on the road, were they’ve already triumphed twice this season. The Women of Troy will have to utilize all of their weapons and be dominant on both ends of the court to upset the Cowgirls.
The Women of Troy will rely heavily on the momentum they have gained from the nail-biting win over SDSU last week — especially afer making several errors that nearly caused them to blow a 20-point lead.
“Moving forward we have to play for 40 minutes,” head coach Cynthia Cooper-Dyke said.
Junior guard Ariya Crook will have to show up to Gallagher-Iba Arena locked and loaded, ready to pace the offense and unleash clutch 3-point shots at any time. After a big game (18 points) for the young guard against SDSU, Cooper-Dyke said she’s expecting a breakout year from Crook.
“I am constantly challenging Ariya to never be satisfied,” Cooper-Dyke said.
Her challenge has been accepted. Crook said she is putting in all the hours to make sure her and her team make it back to the NCAA Tournament after a four-year absence under former coach Michael Cooper.
“I am following her footsteps because she knows the road I need to take to get to the next level,” Crook said.
In preparation for this week’s matchup, Cooper-Dyke said earlier in the week that she is challenging her entire team to maintain a high level of intensity.
“Strength and conditioning has been a focal point,” Cooper-Dyke said.
The team has also been focused on reducing the amount of turnovers and fouls. The Women of Troy committed 17 turnovers and 24 team fouls against the San Diego State Aztecs.
Though the Women of Troy’s frontcourt looked solid in their last contest, they will have quite the task trying to contain OSU’s junior Lashawn Jones. The 6-foot-3 center has scored in double digits for three consecutive games, and is averaging 11.5 points this season.
Jones and the Cowgirls are continuing to build off the success they had last season. In 2012, the team made it to the second round of the NCAA Tournament as a No. 7 seed before falling to No. 2-seeded Duke 68-59.
The last time USC played OSU was way back in 1986, before either teams’ players were even born. This will be a great test for the Women of Troy and will prove if the team can hang with one of the top programs in women’s college basketball.
After the matchup against OSU, the Women of Troy will only have two days to recover and prepare for Monday’s tipoff against South Carolina at the Galen Center.
Follow Lauren on Twitter @LJJonesSports