Women of Troy take on Cougars

After breaking the three-game losing streak with a win against UC Santa Barbara on Tuesday, the USC Women of Troy are looking to set a winning trend for February.

Making their case · The Women of Troy currently sit in fourth place in the Pac-12. A victory against the Cougars could propel them into second. - Corey Marquetti | Daily Trojan

USC (11-9, 5-4) will have a chance to win its second game in a row against Washington State (10-11, 4-5) USC’s victory over Santa Barbara ended a skid that began with an overtime loss against Oregon State on Jan. 21.

Washington State averages 62.5 points per game behind guard Jazmine Perkins’ nine points and 7.6 rebounds per contest. They are 3-5 in road contests, while the Women of Troy are 5-2 playing at the Galen Center.

The Cougars will enter the matchup against USC after defeating Arizona 78-68 Saturday. Before the home victory, the Cougars had lost five games in a row.

The Women of Troy hope to carry their momentum from their 11-point win against the Gauchos. In the game, USC sophomore forward Cassie Harberts scored a game-high 17 points, including 10 of USC’s first 17 points.

USC freshman forward Alexyz Vaioletama also stepped up by grabbing a career-high 15 rebounds amid the absence of senior guard Briana Gilbreath. The team’s leader in blocks and steals sat out for the second game in a row to nurse an injured knee, and she hopes to rejoin the team Thursday.

Even without Gilbreath, USC was able to hold UCSB to a dismal 25.4 percent shooting effort for the game.

Late game defense has been a concern for the Women of Troy, whose three consecutive losses in January came by eight points or less.

“We still have a lot of stuff to work on, but we definitely turned a huge corner from those three losses,” Harberts said.

Before its three-game skid, USC stood at second in the conference behind No. 4 Stanford because of a five-game winning streak that began with a 20-point victory over third-place California.

“I think we found our identity, and we know who we are. But we have some ups and downs,” USC coach Michael Cooper said. “We have to stop the roller coaster ride and become a little more consistent.”

Now at fourth in the conference, USC looks to finish strong before the Pac-12 Tournament in March.

“Sometimes it’s not how you start — it’s how you finish,” Cooper said. “Hopefully we’ll finish with a bang.”

Tip-off is 7 p.m. Thursday at the Galen Center.