After a tough stretch of seven consecutive losses, the women’s basketball team may be turning its season around with back-to-back victories against Arizona and Arizona State over the weekend. While the Trojans struggled to find a rhythm on Friday night against Arizona, they fought throughout the game, ultimately earning USC its first wins since 2016.
“You know what, we won,” head coach Cynthia Cooper-Dyke said after her team’s first game against Arizona. “I didn’t think we played a great game. One of the things we talked about in pregame was grinding. We needed to grind out a win — do whatever it took to come away with a victory — and I thought we did that.”
With the career-high performances from freshman forward Ja’Tavia Tapley and senior center Ivana Jakubcova, the team was able to clinch the much-needed victory over the Wildcats. Standing at
6-foot-3 and 6-foot-6 respectively, the two were able to use their length and solid form under the basket to combine for 26 points and 18 rebounds.
“It was very important,” Tapley said. “With boxing out and the height advantage, we just put two and two together and just made it happen on the boards.”
Having players like Tapley and Jakubcova come through for the Trojans was even more important given the loss of yet another player due to injury this season. Sophomore guard Aliyah Mazyck had previously missed five games with a stress fracture in her foot but was able to come back for both games against UCLA last week. Those games exacerbated her injury, and there is now no timetable for her return to the court.
“We were trying to work through it,” Cooper-Dyke said. “But it was clear after the UCLA game that she couldn’t play anymore. Not only did she reaggravate it, but it is also more swollen, more painful. So we had to almost restart her rehab.”
The Trojans did not let Mazyck’s injury keep them from competing against Arizona State on Sunday. USC and ASU had the number one and two 3-point range defenses in the conference respectively going into the afternoon, meaning the game was played mostly from the inside. The Trojans shut the Sun Devils down from that range, holding Arizona State to 0-5 from beyond the arc in the first three quarters — much to the delight of Cooper-Dyke.
“What a great defensive game by my Women of Troy,” she said. “This team came out from the beginning and established ourselves defensively, and we did not let up off that pedal. It allowed us to get out on the fast break and get some buckets that we needed to keep our engine going.”
In the first half, neither team was able to pull ahead, and it was 26-25 at the break, with ASU barely holding on to its one-point lead. After the half, the Trojans were plagued with unforced turnovers, and the Sun Devils finally managed to surge ahead. By the end of the third quarter, however, the Trojans had come alive, igniting the fans in Galen Center with their play. A four-point play by freshman guard Minyon Moore started a USC scoring run, and ASU would never recover.
“When we turned over the ball it was demoralizing,” junior guard Sadie Edwards said, “[but] we didn’t put our heads down. Our coach called a timeout, and we said, ‘Let’s get this right, and let’s fix this.’ We did, and we made plays and played together.”
The Trojans will now look to build a winning streak as they head onto the road for the next four games. Their newfound spirit could be just what the team needs to turn its season around.