USC women’s basketball returned to Galen Center Saturday with a solid 75-54 victory over UNLV. The Trojans shot 50% from the field in their sharpest performance of the season.
USC captured the early lead behind 6 points from senior forward Kayla Overbeck within the first four minutes of the game. An aggressive man-to-man defense kept the Rebels scoreless until halfway through the first quarter, leading to a comfortable 9-point edge that grew to 21 points by halftime.
Overbeck’s power in the paint wasn’t the only factor in the team’s numerous scoring streaks. Sharp shooting by freshmen guards Endyia Rogers and Alyson Miura contributed to a 37% average from behind the arc. Rogers finished with 13 points — her sixth double-digit performance of the season — and Miura logged a team-high 15.
“It’s just been a constant fight with injuries, and I still don’t even feel fully healthy,” Miura said. “So it’s just really exciting for me to start to feel like my old self again and see the ball go in the hoop and just gain confidence.”
Once the Trojans hit the 50-point mark, their momentum slowed down and their defense lost its composure. The Rebels scored 8 unanswered points in the third, cutting USC’s lead to under 20 points. Personal fouls added up when the team transitioned to a zone defense, with freshman forwards Alissa Pili and Angel Jackson falling into foul trouble early in the fourth quarter.
Head coach Mark Trakh said the young team’s miscommunication and fatigue were the sources of its second-half slippage.
“We gotta improve on concentrating for 40 minutes and being focused,” Trakh said. “[In the] first half, we were on top of the plays, they were reacting. Second half, we were on defense a couple times [and] we were supposed to be in a zone [when] we were in a man.”
Trakh had five freshmen on the court for much of the game, a continuation of the team’s lineup in its win over Alabama at the South Point Shootout Nov. 30. Freshmen forwards Pili and Jackson combined for 13 rebounds, while freshman guard India Otto saw playing time for the first time since the season opener.
The seven-freshman team has powered through despite the absence of graduate transfer guard Stephanie Watts due to injury. In her one full game as a Trojan, Watts had a double-double against Virginia with 14 points and 12 rebounds. Once she gets back on the court, her scoring ability should complement the young players’ energy.
The young team improved to a 5-3 record with the win. The Trojans will gear up for the end-of-the-month conference opener against UCLA with a game Wednesday against University of Texas Rio Grande Valley and the weekend’s Women of Troy Classic against Nevada and Long Beach State.
Miura said the team will continue to improve its game by working on communication and adapting to competition at the college level.
“Having seven new freshmen, it’s not having just [youth] and inexperience, it’s also a whole new team,” Miura said. “So we have to get that chemistry with each other and learn to play together, [which] we’re still working on, but we’re getting better and better every day.”