In their first and only homestand this month, women’s basketball produced two close contests, defeating Washington State 80-64 before losing to No. 9 Washington in a game that was tighter than the final score indicated.
“I feel like we had a little rough start,” freshman guard Minyon Moore said. “But the fact that we’ve bounced back shows a lot about our team and about our heart. If we take it one game at a time and go out and have the same mentality we’ve had the last couple of games, then we can finish the season on a strong note.”
When USC played Washington State in Pullman, Wash. back in January, the team had yet to figure out its shooting struggles. The team finished 36.2 percent from the field and went 3-of-13 from three in a 74-57 loss. But on Friday, the Trojans flipped the script thanks to the play of Moore and a barrage of 3-pointers. Moore finished with a career-high 32 points and the team shot 50 percent from long range.
“I think 3-pointers were the difference in the game,” head coach Cynthia Cooper-Dyke said. “I just thought we attacked more on offense, which then created the space and time for us to make the extra pass and come away with wide open 3-point shots.”
USC carried its 3-point momentum into an intense Senior Day shootout with 24-4 Washington on Sunday. The Trojans looked undaunted having defeated a top 10 giant in Oregon State just last week. At one point they drained four shots in a row from deep, in a first quarter that resembled a Western movie shootout. Sophomore guard Aliyah Mazyck and senior guard Courtney Jaco combined for 14 points in the explosive first frame.
Down 26-22, Washington guard Kelsey Plum decided it was time to showcase why she is one of the best players in women’s college basketball history. In the second quarter, she alone outscored the Trojans 20-9 making buckets from outside, inside and everywhere in between. Before the Song Girls could perform at halftime, she already had 27 points, a 9-point lead for her team, and the second-most points in NCAA history, passing Britney Griner.
“I thought we made it tough for Kelsey all game long,” Cooper-Dyke said. “We doubled her when we could, and when it made sense, and we had a player constantly shadowing her. We had a couple of defensive letdowns and of course Kelsey being Kelsey, she took full advantage of them. She’s just a fantastic player.”
Having somewhat weathered the Plum storm, USC went back to work in the second half, relying on Moore just as they had on Friday. In the third quarter, she recorded 14 points with deep shooting, aggressive
and-ones and plenty of free throws. Moore capped it all off with a buzzer-beating three that cut Washington’s lead to seven points. Suddenly, the Trojans were right back in the game.
Unfortunately for USC, the team was unable to produce enough stops in the fourth quarter. The Trojans fought back to within 10 points on several occasions but big shots by Plum and center Chantel Osahor helped the Huskies keep their opposition at arm’s length. In the end, valiant performances by junior forward Kristen Simon (17 points and 13 rebounds), Moore (20 points) and Mazyck (15 points despite being on minutes restriction), were not enough to slay the giant. Washington won
87-74 in an intense game, made even more emotional by it being the seniors’ last contest in the Galen Center.
“I try not to think about it too much,” said Jaco, who has the second most 3-pointers in USC history. “It is a little bittersweet, it being my last time in the locker room getting ready for a game, putting on my jersey and seeing my family and friends out there supporting me. I thought I gave it all I had today, and I thought my team did as well. I think that was the most important part, that we grew today.”
In honor of redshirt senior guard Jordan Adams, who suffered a season-ending ACL tear in November, Simon wore the jersey No. 1 instead of her usual 35.
“It was a late decision,” Simon said. “I was just thinking about it, just being able to give something to Jordan. She’s a great person, she’s a great player, and I love her to death. I was just trying to give her something to smile about, just to see her number out there on the court and being able to play in her jersey made me feel good, made me feel like a leader, made me feel like Jordan.”
The Trojans now stand at 14-13. They have two games remaining against Arizona and Arizona State before the Pac-12 Tournament begins.