The young USC women’s basketball squad rolled past the CSU Northridge Matadors Tuesday night at the Matadome in Northridge, Calif., with a solid 69-53 win. The Trojans maintained a double-digit lead for the majority of the game, proving the capability of the six freshmen who took the court.
Freshman forward Alissa Pili dominated the stat sheet with 18 points and 13 rebounds in her debut. Freshman guard Endyia Rogers matched Pili’s 18 points, going 3-for-8 from behind the 3-point line and notching seven defensive rebounds.
Returning sophomore Desiree Caldwell said she was not surprised by the newcomers’ impressive outing.
“I see it every day during practice,” Caldwell said. “I know how talented they are, and for the rest of the season, I only expect them to get better. As they gain more experience, they’re going to learn new ways to score and contribute to the team.”
The Trojans kept CSUN in the single digits through the first quarter, but the Matadors quickly adjusted in the second quarter and forced turnovers that narrowed USC’s lead to 7 points. Graduate transfer Stephanie Watts stalled CSUN’s advances with two 3-pointers and a defensive rebound that forced a CSUN timeout. The Trojans closed out the first half with a 33-23 lead.
The third quarter sealed the deal for the Trojans. The team shot 69.2% from the field and mounted its defensive pressure to hold the Matadors to just four baskets in the quarter. Another notable contributor to the Trojans’ runaway lead was their near-perfect free throw performance, hitting 17 of 18 attempts for a 94.4% mark.
USC shot 44.2% for the game compared to CSUN’s 24.4% field goal percentage. The Trojans also won the rebound battle with 46 defensive boards, a testament to their aggressiveness down low. The one battle the Trojans lost was turnovers, as the Matadors forced 20 while USC came up with 13.
Head coach Mark Trakh was not too concerned about the high number of turnovers committed by his young squad. For a team led by players just entering the college basketball scene, it’s expected that some ball-handling adjustments must be made according to the game’s faster pace.
“We had five freshmen out there a lot of times,” Trakh said. “It was their first college game, so it’s understandable. We’ll get better, but the turnovers don’t bother me that much.”
The Trojans handling of the CSUN full-court press acts as a precursor to their matchup against Virginia this Saturday at Galen Center. While they have a lot of youth as well, the Cavaliers have some experience under the backboard with 6-foot-3-inch senior forward Lisa Jablonowski and in the backcourt with senior guard Jocelyn Willoughby.
“We were able to see in this game [that] when we dribbled too much and overpenetrated, we [turned] the ball over,” Caldwell said. “But when we passed to our teammates and got each other the ball, we were really hitting wide open shots. So [we’ll] just [focus on] ball movement and be ready for the athleticism that Virginia is going to come at us with.”
Saturday’s lineup for USC is still up in the air. Both senior forward Kayla Overbeck and graduate guard Aliyah Jeune sat out Tuesday’s game due to injury. The coaching staff has a deep roster of guards to fall back on, with freshmen Alyson Miura, India Otto and Kyra White all seeing playing time against CSUN.
The Trojans have three days to review the game tape and decide which freshmen can make the adjustments necessary to avoid turnovers and keep the ball moving in their first home game. USC tips off against Virginia 2 p.m. Saturday at the Galen Center.