Women’s basketball falls short in Washington road trip

This past weekend proved to be a difficult one for the Women of Troy, as the women’s basketball team traveled to the state of Washington only to drop two straight to Washington and Washington State. USC now stands at 10-5 with a subpar 1-3 record in conference play.

“You never want to start conference this way,” senior guard Courtney Jaco said. “We wish we could have gotten a couple more wins, but we’re growing everyday and learning a little bit about ourselves.”

USC’s road trip began on Friday in Seattle against No. 11 Washington. Despite an excellent performance from freshman guard Minyon Moore (18 points) and a major fourth quarter comeback spurred by Jaco (16 second-half points), the Huskies ultimately prevailed 77-67. Washington rode on the back of senior guard Kelsey Plum, a San Diego native, whose 34 points, five assists and five rebounds were instrumental in the team’s success. The 15-2 Huskies led for the entirety of the game.

The Women of Troy searched for a more successful outing on Sunday, as they faced off against 8-8 Washington State in Pullman. Instead, they experienced a starkly uneven performance. Ending the first half with a 35-34 lead, USC scored just 22 second half points and went as long as four and a half minutes without scoring in the third quarter. The Cougars capitalized on USC’s offensive ineptitude on their way to a 74-57 win.

“I just think we weren’t moving the ball well and sharing the ball like we were in the first half,” Jaco said, explaining her team’s second half struggles. “We found Kristen [Simon] a lot down low, and I think we got away from that coming out for the second half.”

For standout junior forward Simon, it was a bittersweet game. On one hand, her team ended up with a dispiriting 17-point loss to a mid-tier conference foe. On the other, she set a new career high in points (25) to go along with nine rebounds, all while being hobbled with a recent ankle injury.

“[Simon] was our motor the whole game,” Jaco said. “If it wasn’t for her, I don’t really know what we would have done. Honestly it was surprising because she sprained her ankle really badly on Friday so we didn’t know whether she was going to play or not. She came out and gave that performance and gave that fight and kind of inspired us.”

USC was unable to find any consistent offense outside of Simon. No other starter scored more than 3 points, and overall, the junior accounted for more than 40 percent of her team’s total scoring output. One positive, however, was Ivana Jakubcova, the 6-foot-6 transfer from Kentucky who showed off her range with two late 3-pointers. She finished with a second-best nine points.

The Women of Troy will have a few days to try to correct some of the offensive issues that plagued them over the weekend. This week, they host a dangerous Oregon team (11-5) on Friday and then No. 16 Oregon State on Sunday. The Beavers are undefeated so far in conference play and sit at 15-1 overall.

“Hopeful,” Jaco said, describing the team’s mood after losing three straight conference games. “We’re still in the beginning of Pac-12 [play], so thankfully we have a lot more games to a go — a lot more basketball to be played. We’re just looking forward to the next opportunity.”