Over the weekend, the women’s basketball team swept Arizona and Arizona State for two critical wins to push their record to 17-8 and their conference record to 7-7. The two wins will be crucial to the Trojans’ bid for the NCAA tournament in March.
On Friday night, the Trojans faced off against No. 25 Arizona State and emerged victorious with a 77-62 triumph over the Sun Devils. Despite giving up an 8-0 run to start the game, the Trojans ground out a 11-4 run of their own to cut the Devils’ lead to just 1 at the end of the first quarter.
“I told them [during a timeout] that if we scored more points, we’d probably win the game,” head coach Mark Trakh said. “We just talked about how they were getting second and third shots, so we had to box out, which we did a good job of, and I thought we played good defense, so I felt if we continued to play good defense, we’ll be fine.”
The Trojans continued their momentum with a 13-4 run to take the lead and held a modest 5-point advantage by halftime. In the third quarter, the Trojans maintained the lead, but the Sun Devils’ junior guard Courtney Ekmark scored 12 points on four 3-pointers to keep Arizona State within range. However, the Trojans ultimately pushed their lead up as the fourth quarter wound down, and buried the Sun Devils behind a hot shooting night.
“We just remained focus, we weren’t startled or any of that, we just came together as a team and made plays,” junior guard Aliyah Mazyck said. “Someone made a play and once we continued to each make a play, next thing you know, we’re up 10.”
Graduate student guard Jordan Adams added her thoughts on the Trojans’ key
“Defense,” Adams said. “We just gotta trust our defense, trust that we can get stops and then convert.”
Four Trojans scored in double digits led by Mazyck’s 24 and senior forward Kristen Simon’s 22 points. Senior guard Sadie Edwards and Adams combined for 19 and sophomore guard Minyon Moore recorded a double-double of 11 points and 10 assists.
As a team, the Trojans shot a terrific 50.9 percent from the field including 9 for 18 from 3-point land; the team shot a scorching 61.5 percent (16/26) from the field in the second half.
“It was a great team win. I have the utmost respect for the coach over there,” Trakh said. “I think she’s one of the best coaches in the country and I have a tremendous amount of respect learning from watching her games. She’s awesome, her team’s really good and very well-coached. This is a big win of course, so we’re 6-7 and we got Arizona coming and it’s not going to be an easy game, but we might have got back on the bubble this weekend.”
On Sunday afternoon, the Trojans hosted the Arizona Wildcats and rout them in a 78-52 victory. The Trojans struck early and capped off their first quarter with a buzzer-beating 3-pointer from Adams to extend their lead to 7.
The Trojans exploded for a 13-4 run to start the second quarter with Edwards draining three 3-pointers to start the run, which was capped off by an emphatic block, leading to a score and a timeout. The Trojans exerted their dominance in the quarter by building a 24-point lead by halftime and outscored the Wildcats 28-11 in the second quarter alone.
In the second half, the Trojans continued to build their lead, going as far as a 64-30 advantage before eventually settling with a 31-point lead entering the final quarter. The Wildcats started the fourth quarter with an 11-0 run, but the Trojans would outscore them 14-5 the rest of the way en route to the win.
“I thought we had a good weekend,” Trakh said. “We played very well against a nationally ranked team on Friday and today. We’re taking good shots, we’re playing good defense, and the kids are together, I’m excited because the kids are excited right now. We’re pretty darn close to winning 18, 19 games. So 17 wins, we got a tough, very tough road swing coming up and we finish up at home, but I’m really proud of the way these kids have stayed together and played their best basketball.”
The team as a whole shot an efficient 49.1 percent overall and a scorching 40.7 percent from 3-point land; they also outrebounded the Wildcats 41-26. Freshman forward Sam Thomas spearheaded Arizona’s efforts with 22 points of her own; however, the Wildcats shot poorly with a 33.9 percent overall percentage, turned the ball over (13) more than their assist numbers (10) and were outmuscled on the glass.
“They understand the game well, they play hard, and they’re all very coachable: [Edwards], [Mazyck] and [Moore], have all been very very coachable, that’s the key,” Trakh said. “So that’s the part of the culture that I’m proud of, the kids have evolved to understand and play together and that it’s not all about points. [Tapley] gave us six offensive rebounds and we scored off a lot of the time. She didn’t score off of those offensive rebounds, but she gave us possession and that’s going to be the difference between a win or a loss.”
The team hopes to continue its current momentum as they travel to Oregon to take on the Oregon schools next weekend in the final stretch of the season.