The USC women’s basketball team went 1-1 during its Washington road trip, losing to Washington 75-66 Friday and defeating Washington State 66-60 Sunday. This evened the season series with the Huskies — whom the Trojans handled at Galen Center in January — while marking an undefeated season over the Cougars.
The Huskies outpaced the Trojans’ offense right from the start. UW shot 54.5% from the field in the first half to establish a 40-30 lead. Freshman forward Alissa Pili proved key in chipping away at the deficit with 6 points in the third quarter to bring USC within 3 at 50-47.
However, UW’s sharp shooting prevented a full comeback by USC late in the fourth quarter. Washington senior guard Amber Melgoza, who led the Huskies with 25 points, drained two threes alongside two free throws to solidify an 11-point lead the Trojans could not recover from in the final minutes of the game.
Pili and sophomore guard Desiree Caldwell’s 32 combined points were not enough to make up for UW’s defensive effort that forced 18 points off of turnovers. With 39 rebounds in comparison to USC’s 21, the Huskies saw more offensive opportunities and second-chance points that allowed them to sustain their lead.
“Right now we’re short handed and we don’t have a lot of height,” head coach Mark Trakh said. “All our big guards are all hurt — four of them. So we’re just going to have to show more grit and determination and compete.”
After the tough loss in Seattle, the Trojans had to turn around to head to Pullman to face the Cougars. USC shot better than its opponent this time, shooting 50% from the field in the first half to establish a solid 37-19 lead.
The Cougars caught up in the second half, shooting 45.9% compared to the Trojans’ 36.4% as USC’s ball movement fell apart. WSU cut down a 20-point lead to within 5 with just 40 seconds remaining in the game, but two clutch free throws from freshman guard Endyia Rogers helped USC fend off the comeback to finish the road trip with a win.
Pili again was the anchor for the Trojans, scoring nearly half of the team’s 66 points with a career-high 32 and securing 12 rebounds as well. No other Trojan scored more than 8 points in the game. After this weekend, her double-digit points streak continues to 12 games and her average rises to 15.6 points per game. Pili is now eighth in scoring in the Pac-12.
As a winner of three of the past five Pac-12 Freshman of the Week awards, Pili is on track to be a force in the last games of the regular season and the upcoming Pac-12 Tournament and has a solid shot to earn the 2020 Pac-12 Freshman of the Year title.
This final road stretch also tested the capability of a curtailed roster with only eight of Trakh’s players available due to an injury-plagued bench. Freshmen guards Kyra White and Alyson Miura saw some added playing time, with White going for a career-high 8 points and Miura contributing 3.
“It was a good opportunity for me today,” White said. “I knew I had a big job guarding their best player on their team and just coming in and being confident with myself and my game, knowing what I can do and just filling some big shoes.”
The Trojans return to Galen Center next week for their final two conference games against Utah and Colorado.