On a day when all-time USC women’s basketball alumni Tina Thompson’s number 14 jersey was memorialized on the rafters of the Galen Center, the USC women's basketball team took on the Virginia Cavaliers in its 2019-20 home opener. Led by graduate guard Stephanie Watts’ scoring and USC’s team defense, the Trojans defeated Virginia 59-49.
Tina Thompson — USC women's basketball’s 5th leading all-time scorer and rebounder — had an All-American career with the Trojans from 1993-1997. She is now in her second year as Virginia's head coach.
Both teams got off to a slow start offensively. The Cavaliers had seven turnovers and six shots blocked in the first quarter alone. This allowed USC to take the lead midway through the first quarter and hold on to it for the rest of the game.
Virgina still managed to keep the game close, going into halftime down only two points. This was mostly due to USC’s cold first half performance, shooting an inefficient 25% from the field.
Coming out of halftime, USC’s offense got hot. The Trojans fed off of senior forward Kayla Overbeck’s tremendous energy and rebounding ability, scoring 20 points in the third quarter while playing solid defense.
“[Overbeck] just plays with so much heart, so much energy and gives it her all every single time she is on the floor and that rubs off on every single person on the floor,” Watts said.“She just impacts the game in more ways [than] the stat sheet shows.”
Freshman center Angel Jackson helped USC pull away in the fourth quarter, increasing the team’s lead to 12 points with just 3:39 left to play. She put up nine points in the final frame to secure a win for the Trojans.
Watts led the Women of Troy in points and rebounds, putting up 14 and 10, respectively. With this solid outing, the grad student continues to take a prominent leadership role on a team full of young players.
“I know we have a lot of freshmen, but they are so willing and eager to learn,” she said.
USC’s freshmen are not only young but also extremely talented. USC’s hauled the fifth best recruiting class in 2019, and head coach Mark Trakh has not hesitated to give them heavy minutes.
“A lot of young kids did a heck of a job playing against an ACC opponent,” Trakh said. “You just go out and do your job. I don't care how young you are.”
Virginia’s offense struggled to get things done throughout the entire game. The Cavaliers shot 26% from the field, 6.7% from 3-point range and 58.8% from the free throw line. Senior forward Jocelyn Willoughby was held to just 10 points, shooting 4-of-15.
“Our timing was off. We could not get settled in," said Thompson. "We were taking shots we would normally not take. We didn’t do a good job of capitalizing on our stops. Our effort was there, but we just had a tough time putting the ball in the basket.”
Even though USC also struggled offensively — shooting 30% from the field — Trakh wasn’t too concerned with his team's struggles shooting the ball.
“We are getting wide open shots and those shots are eventually [going to fall]” Trakh said.
He expressed that these mistakes are common in the early part of the season, and usually iron themselves out with more experience and team chemistry.
USC continues its non-conference schedule this Thursday, taking on UC Riverside, at 7:00 p.m.