On Saturday afternoon, the Women of Troy ended a three-game losing skid in dominant fashion, downing crosstown rival UCLA 68-54 in a blowout at the Galen Center.
USC (15-9, 8-4 Pac-12) never trailed in what was a crucial game as the team heads into the final stretch of its Pac-12 schedule.
With the win, the Women of Troy sweep the season series against the Bruins (11-13, 5-7), who continue to struggle in conference play. It also keeps USC in third place in the Pac-12 standings.
“We played a complete basketball game,” said USC head coach Cynthia Cooper-Dyke. “And the results speak for themselves.”
Saturday’s matchup was not as close as the last time the two teams met in December when USC narrowly edged out the Bruins, 56-54, at Pauley Pavilion just before the new year.
Senior forward Cassie Harberts led the way for the Women of Troy with 17 points and nine rebounds.
She was once again the catalyst for USC’s success on the block as they outscored the Bruins 38-22 in the paint. Saturday might have very well been the last time Harberts would face the rival Bruins.
The team’s constant activity on defense, something that Cooper-Dyke has continued to preach, allowed the team to create turnovers and get in the open court. The Women of Troy converted 15 turnovers into 14 fast-break points.
“Our defense allowed us to get out on some fast breaks,” Cooper-Dyke said. “Coming into the game, we knew that we wanted to run.”
The UCLA bench, which was weakened by injuries, also had a tough time keeping up with the Women of Troy — USC’s reserves outscored UCLA’s 21-0.
Junior guard Ariya Crook started the game off on the right note for the Women of Troy with a step-back three-point jumper that set the tone for the rest of the game. Crook finished the game with 10 points.
The Bruins tried to catch USC off guard by coming out in a couple different zones and presses to begin the game, but the Women of Troy would not be rattled.
An 8-0 run to start the game sparked by senior forward Desireé Bradley’s four-point spark off the bench allowed the Women of Troy to jump out to a 13-4 lead. Bradley netted seven points in her last home game against the Bruins.
“I’ve always tried to be a spark off the bench for my teammates,” Bradley said. “I think I was able to get back to doing that and I hope it gave my team a boost.”
There was really no looking back from there, as the Women of Troy took a 33-20 lead into halftime.
The second half would begin a lot like the first, with USC coming out of the gates on a 13-5 run in the opening minutes to jump out to a commanding 46-25 lead. The team was able to rally behind behind a fairly loud Galen Center crowd, most of who stuck around for the men’s contest that would follow.
“[It was] one of our best starts to a game and starts to a second half,” Cooper-Dyke said. “We started the game with the correct level of intensity, we played great defense and we executed on the offensive end.”
USC would go on to shoot a little more than 40 percent for the game and nearly matched that from long range, going five-for-13 from the three-point line.
Two of those three-point field goals came from freshman guard Courtney Jaco, who was a perfect two-for-two from long range and finished with eight points.
“Coach Cooper just told me to stay ready, be ready to shoot, and my teammates found me the ball and I knocked it down,” Jaco said.
If there was an area where the Women of Troy showed weakness, it was at the free-throw line. USC shot a dismal 7-for-15 at the charity stripe, which was good for just more than 46 percent — well below the team’s season average of 66 percent.
The Bruins would not concede the game easily, scoring nine straight points to cut the lead to 52-42 with a little more than six minutes remaining.
Another Crook three-pointer would halt that UCLA momentum, though, making it a 13-point game. USC would never allow the Bruins to get back into the game, adding on to their double-digit lead to pick up another important conference win.
The USC women’s basketball team will go back on the road this weekend to take on the Oregon schools, whom USC swept at the Galen Center in their previous matchups. The Women of Troy will take on Oregon in Eugene, Ore. at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, before meeting up with Oregon State for a 12 p.m. Sunday matinee in Corvallis, Ore.