Trojans defeat Cougars on the road in Pullman

Sophomore forward Alissa Pili put up a season-high 18 points against Washington State Sunday. (Daily Trojan File Photo)

The Trojans now find themselves enjoying a three-game win streak after defeating Washington State 81-71 on Sunday afternoon. USC struggled early in the first quarter until they started to find their rhythm after Washington State went on a scoring run. It was the Trojans’ defensive effort and production in the paint that allowed them to fight back from an early deficit. 

Redshirt sophomore guard Shalexxus Aaron gave USC its first points of the second quarter with a deep three-point shot on an assist from sophomore guard Endyia Rogers. The Trojans were still trailing from behind with six minutes left in the half when sophomore forward Alissa Pili drained a 3-pointer to tie the game at 25-25.

USC started finding their rhythm offensively from the perimeter to fight their way back into the game. Rogers closed the first half of the game with a mid-range jumper to secure a 41-34 lead. 

The Cougars started to climb their way back early in the third quarter after reducing their deficit to 41-42 with a three-pointer from freshman guard Charlisse Leger-Walker. USC responded with four quick points from Rogers in less than a minute to keep momentum on the Trojans’ side as they continued their lead into the fourth quarter 632-56. 

For Washington State, Leger-Walker and junior forward Ula Motuga were the main factors that USC struggled to slow down. At the start of the fourth quarter Leger-Walker made a 3-pointer to cut the lead and Motuga went to the basket a few possessions later to make it a six point game. 

Motuga could not be denied as she went into the paint for a layup deep in the fourth quarter to give her team a fighting chance at the lead as she got the score to 69-68. After an exchange of baskets from junior guard Desiree Caldwell and Leger-Walker, the game was tied at 71-71 with 2:35 left in the game left. 

Shortly thereafter Aaron drained a free throw to give USC a one point lead with approximately two minutes remaining. Rogers extended the lead with two quick shots and a couple of free throw shots from Caldwell pushed the Trojans to victory.

Rogers led the team with 22 points and eight rebounds. Pili had 18 and Aaron contributed with 15 points. Motuga led the Cougars with 25 points and Leger-Walker chipped in with 24. 

Head Coach Mark Trakh called the win a complete team effort and was proud of how his team responded to Washington State during the back and forth game.

“I’m really proud of the ways the kids executed,” Trakh said. “It was a complete team win against a great team on the road. [Washington State is] a really good basketball team. And I was really happy about the way our kids played and executed offensively.”

Trakh praised the fact that everybody on the roster suited up and played. He also highlighted the fact that his team made the Cougars turn the ball over 15 times versus the Trojan’s six.

“I don’t want to single anybody out. The whole team did great … Loved the way the team played,” Trakh said. “No adjustments defensively, we just played harder. Our three-point game came back and everybody was huge, loved it.”

USC will stay on the road as they look to continue their streak against Colorado next Friday. Tip-off is at 5 p.m.