Women’s basketball looks to beat UCLA

Junior guard Minyon Moore dribbles past an Oregon State defender at the Galen Center on Jan. 13. (Tal Volk/Daily Trojan)

While the USC women’s basketball team got off to a hot start by winning its first nine games of the season, they have now lost their last five games, a situation that head coach Mark Trakh did not expect coming into this season.

“The kids are hustling, I mean they are working hard,” Trakh said. “The only thing is that you’re not going to win too many games when you’re shooting 25 percent from the field. We’ve got to find a way to shoot the ball better.”

Yet to see a win in the Pac-12, the Trojans are hoping to change their record when they take on crosstown rival UCLA. USC is currently last place in the Pac-12 South, while the Bruins rest in the middle of the pack at No. 7.

The Trojans first faced off against the Bruins on Dec. 30 to kick off Pac-12 play. After securing an 11-point lead through the first two quarters, the Trojans’ defense collapsed in the third and fell through, trailing behind with a whopping 31 points. In what turned out to be a back and forth affair, USC lost the game 65-72.

Despite the team’s recent skid, two players have been consistently performing at a high level: junior guard Minyon Moore and senior guard Mariya Moore.

The Moore sisters lead the team in almost every category. Mariya Moore leads in 3-pointers with 39, while Minyon Moore leads the team in assists and rebounds with 86 and 71, respectively. In terms of points scored, Mariya Moore has 208 to Minyon Moore’s 207. The closest player to that mark is senior guard Aliyah Mazyck, who has scored 122 points.

“I feel like we always come out with good energy,” Minyon Moore said. “We just have to learn how to keep that energy for the whole 40 minutes. Our defense effort is always good. As for our offense, we just have to learn to capitalize on our shots.”

In addition, junior forward Ja’Tavia Tapley has been a silent force for the Trojans recently. In her last three games, Tapley has been averaging 31.7 minutes, seven rebounds and 8 points. Tapley was also the leader in points and minutes played in the Trojans’ loss to Oregon.

“I feel like we can take anybody,” Tapley said. “We just have to put the pieces together. When we come together, we’re going to be scary.”

The Bruins currently hold a 2-3 conference record, with wins against USC and Cal in overtime. For a team that averages 70.8 points a game, the Bruins have not been successful at finishing games. Having lost their last three, the Bruins hope to even their conference record when they take on the Women of Troy.

One Bruin player to keep an eye on is sophomore forward Michaela Onyenwere, who has played in every game this season. Onyenwere has scored 282 points, forced 19 steals and grabbed 140 rebounds. Onyenwere was a key player against the Trojans last year, playing 34 minutes and scoring a team-high 27 points.

The Trojans are hoping to get their first conference win against UCLA this weekend. It could be the team’s 11th overall win and fifth road win of the year.

“We’re going into a stretch where we are going to play UCLA and the Arizonas,” Trakh said. “But I’m really happy that we got Minyon [Moore] on our team, cause she makes our team so much better. People think we’re going to fold out tents, but we’re not, we’re still in this.”

USC will tip-off against UCLA 4 p.m. Sunday at Pauley Pavilion.