Women’s basketball looks to bounce back at home

After a disappointing pair of losses in Washington, the Women of Troy will look ahead to a defining weekend at home. A set of wins against formidable California teams has the potential to give USC a boost into the top half of the Pac-12 rankings.  

The weekend starts off on Friday night with USC playing host to No. 12 Stanford, the Pac-12 team ranked second highest in the AP polls behind No. 8 Arizona State. The powerhouse team put out dominating performances against Utah and Arizona, cemented by junior guard Lili Thompson. Averaging 16.8 points a game — over a third of which came behind the 3-point line — Thompson creates a high-paced attack that the rest of her team works off of.

Despite a high ranking in the AP poll, Stanford is ranked just fourth in the conference due to an early loss to Arizona State. After narrowly besting Oregon 62-60, Stanford is also fresh off of a loss to Oregon State, where late-game shooting similarly allowed a comeback victory.

The weekend’s second game against Cal provides an easier opportunity for the Women of Troy to notch another conference win. At 1-5 in conference play, Cal is ranked eleventh in the Pac-12 and has struggled all season against their stacked conference. The team’s lone win comes against 0-6 Colorado, a team that has not come within 11 points of a win since their conference home openers against both Washington teams.

In order to pull out wins this weekend, USC will have to adapt from last weekend’s losses. Missing starters Jordan Adams and Brianna Barrett due to eligibility issues, USC struggled with shooting percentage, which fell to 32 percent in the second half of their 73-61 loss to Washington State. In both games, the team hit a cold patch of shooting in the third quarter, allowing leads to slip away and forcing the team into a more frenzied style of play in the fourth quarter.

A player to watch this weekend will be transfer graduate student Temi Fagbenle. Throughout this season, Fagbenle has become increasingly formidable in the post, leading the USC squad with 17.2 points and 12 rebounds per game against the Pac-12. It was Fagbenle who provided the necessary offensive spark to upset UCLA two weeks ago, when she led the team with 20 points and 15 rebounds.

Despite the weekend’s struggles in Washington, Fagbenle was still able to put up a combined total of 35 points and 29 rebounds between the two games. Her performance in the post was supported by another USC strength — creating turnovers.

The Women of Troy led in the first half of the Washington game after forcing 13 turnovers in a single half. The team averages 10.3 steals per game, a number that puts them in the top 30 of stealing teams in the NCAA. This statistic reflects the focus of head coach Cynthia Cooper-Dyke’s methodology of play — attacking from the defense. It is a style of play that the Women of Troy will need to feed off of in order to win this weekend and secure a top spot in the Pac-12.