The Women of Troy overcame a late rally on the road against Arizona on Sunday to prevail 54-45 over the Wildcats in another crucial Pac-12 conference game.
Led by the strong play and the game-high 16 points of junior forward Alexyz Vaioletama, USC (11-6, 4-1 Pac-12) was able to bounce back with a win after Friday’s tough 94-86 overtime loss to No. 23 Arizona State.
“[Vaioletama] is so incredibly talented and her intensity, focus and effort on defense have allowed her to relax offensively and really step up her game on offense,” USC head coach Cynthia Cooper-Dyke said.
The Women of Troy controlled the majority of the game, taking a 28-17 lead heading into halftime, before going on a 12-0 run in the second half to take a 19-point lead with a little more than 10 minutes remaining in the game.
That lead would begin to shrink after senior forward and captain Cassie Harberts picked up her fourth foul and was forced to sit out part of the second half due to foul trouble.
“We had a little letdown when Cassie got in foul trouble because she is such a great leader for us on the floor,” Cooper-Dyke said.
The Wildcats (4-11, 0-4) proceeded to go on a 7-0 run to trim the USC lead, while the Women of Troy’s foul count reached the double bonus. This allowed Arizona to get back into the game even after Harberts’ return, as they scored 11 straight points paired with a USC shooting slump to cut the lead to single digits.
With the Women of Troy clinging to a 50-45 lead and the momentum riding on the home team’s side with two minutes remaining, USC would finish strong.
They would execute defensively, holding the Wildcats to zero points in the final stages of the game, while freshman guard Courtney Jaco showed some maturity by hitting four late free throws to seal the game for the Women of Troy.
“I’m really proud of our team because we locked in and focused at the end of the game when we needed to,” Cooper-Dyke said. “We executed down the stretch and finished when we needed to.”
Jaco would also be responsible for the steal that put USC in the driver’s seat with just over 30 seconds to go.
The team shot the ball relatively well throughout, going 34 percent for the game, while they were a perfect 11 for 11 from the charity stripe. Arizona shot only 30 percent from the floor.
“We kept our composure when they began to come back and we stepped up our intensity and aggressiveness,” Vaioletama said.
The Women of Troy also used the deep ball to their advantage, going 5-for-16 from the three-point line, while Arizona was a dismal 1-for-9.
Rebounding was a large factor in USC’s success, as they used their size to out-board the Wildcats an outstanding 44-33.
Their hot shooting and strong defense is what gave USC an early lead in the first half, holding the Wildcats scoreless for nearly eight minutes and going on a 10-2 run to go up 20-11.
Vaioletama was the only USC player to enter double figures, while Jaco had nine and Harberts flirted with a double-double, scoring eight points and bringing down eight boards. Guard Candice Warthen was the only Arizona player to enter double digits with 12 points.
USC will return to the Galen Center this weekend to take on the Oregon schools. The Women of Troy will face Oregon State on Friday night before facing off against Oregon in a Sunday matinee.