On Friday night, the women’s basketball team opened up the 2016-2017 season with an impressive 76-44 win over Hawaii.
The Trojans played efficiently in all aspects of the game recording, 12 steals and shooting 50 percent from the field.
“I thought it was a good chance for us to get a lot of people playing,” head coach Cynthia Cooper-Dyke said. “We’ve had a few players out with injury (Sadie Edwards and Valerie Higgins) and we wanted to get them some minutes on the court.”
In total, Cooper-Dyke played a whopping 13 players (the bench scored nearly half of the team’s points), including four freshmen in the season debut. The first-year players in particular were given an opportunity to shine and they did not disappoint. Guard Minyon Moore scored 8 points and forward Ja-Tavia Tapley recorded 10 points and five rebounds.
“Our freshmen are very talented and it was great to see them gain some confidence,” said Cooper-Dyke. “With every minute that they were on the court they gained a little bit of confidence.”
In particular, Cooper-Dyke was complimentary of Tapley’s game.
“Ja-Tavia is fantastic because she plays both the 3 and the 4 (positions), and by the time she’s out of here she’ll be playing the 2 and 3 (positions),” Cooper-Dyke said. “That’s just how talented she is.”
The Trojans got off to a fast start thanks to Kristen Simon’s pounding play on the inside. She scored eight first quarter points and finished with 16 points and 10 rebounds. After gaining a commanding 38-18 lead in the second quarter, the Rainbow Wahine went on a mini run clawing to within 13 points of the Trojans.
However, Hawaii would never get that close again. Even when USC was struggling on offense, as it sometimes did in the second half, the defense picked up the slack forcing frequent turnovers late in the shot clock.
“I was very pleased with our defensive pressure,” Cooper-Dyke said. “We want to continue to build in that area so that we can do the fun things like run in the fast break.”
In addition to excellent play from Tapley and Simon, senior guard Jordan Adams played efficiently going 5-of-6 from the field with 11 points. Fellow senior and 3-point specialist Courtney Jaco nailed a 3-pointer from downtown for 9 points while also adding 5 assists, showing that her transition from shooting guard to primary ball handler has been a smooth one. Jaco had the highlight play of the game when she nailed a contested three at the buzzer to end the first quarter.
“I think we are striving to be more consistent every day,” Junior Kristen Simon said. “I think this game we came in a little more focused, with a little more drive and a little more intensity. Hawaii was physical — we saw it on film and they were physical tonight. That kind of kept everyone motivated.”
Next up, the Women of Troy continue non-conference play against UC Riverside on Wednesday at the Galen Center. After that matchup, the team will have to deal with an intense travel schedule as they head to Las Vegas and then Alaska for a tournament in Anchorage.