With one game left in the regular season, the Women of Troy went head-to-head with the Oregon Ducks on Sunday and lost 72-48, giving the Ducks a season sweep of the Trojans.
Coming into the game, USC was sitting 8-8 in Pac-12 play and were looking to bounce back from the Oregon State loss Friday. USC wanted to give Oregon its fourth straight loss and possibly gain its first win over the Ducks since the 2015-16 season.
With three losses in the past four games, the hopes for the Trojans gaining a bid to the NCAA tournament became slimmer and slimmer,putting pressure on the Trojans to outperform their competition at the Pac-12 Tournament beginning March 3 in Las Vegas.
USC hoped to leave its offensive struggles and turnover issues in its last game against the Beavers, but the Trojans continued to have trouble making shots and holding onto the ball. The Trojans shot 32.7% from the field, especially struggling in the third quarter, where they only made four out of their 15 shots. On top of shooting struggles, they had 10 turnovers that turned into 14 Oregon points.
Standout player and former Pac-12 Freshman of the Year sophomore forward Alissa Pili came out strong for the Trojans, scoring their first seven points with a 3-point jumper off a fast break, a second-chance layup off her own rebound and a nice hookshot jumper. Pili led the Trojans with 14 points and six rebounds.
Oregon started off hot with the first points of the game coming from junior guard Taylor Chavez who hit one from beyond the arc. Oregon outscored the Trojans 21-16 in the first quarter, shooting 47% from the field and 4-of-7 from 3-point range.
Through the first half of play, USC missed scoring opportunities by not capitalizing on easy layups, missing rebounds and not following through on shots.
“I felt we played better than we did the other night. I thought we ran our offense as well, I thought our defense was decent, not great, but it improved.” USC head coach Mark Trakh said. “I felt that the game just came down to us not making shots.”
The Trojans only had three offensive rebounds in the first half. USC was unable to box out Oregon players such as senior forward Erin Boley and freshman guard Te-Hina Paopao who had eight boards each.
Usual hot-hand Endyia Rodgers struggled immensely on both sides of the ball. Through the first half, the sophomore guard only had three points which came early in the first quarter, and shot 1-for-6 from the field. While she had four rebounds and four assists, the Trojans needed her to start making pull-up jumpers and stop committing turnovers.
One way the Trojans succeeded in the second half was their ability to post up defensively and cause the Ducks to scramble on a couple plays, giving the Trojans the ball back off of shot clock turnovers. USC’s defense stepped up in the second half, holding Oregon to 30% shooting from the 3-point line compared to its previous success early on in the game.
Pili and sophomore center Angel Jackson also did a great job of containing Oregon standouts redshirt sophomore forward Nyara Sabally and Chavez from getting too hot behind the 3-point line. While Sabally only had three attempts from deep, she went 5-for-6 in her previous game against UCLA. Chavez only went 1-for-6 for three on the day with three personal fouls.
Trakh said he’s been particularly impressed with Jackson’s upward trajectory this season.
“[Oregon] had two pretty good post players and Angel did a really great job, took a great step up,” he said. “I just see her working harder every day in practice. I see her with a gleam in her eye and a spring in her step and just think she’s going to be really, really good moving forward.”
While the Women of Troy fought hard through four quarters of basketball, they were unable to capitalize on their shots. This was their fifth game of the season with less than 60 points. The game was plagued by turnovers and missed rebounds but had some sunlight through some good defensive stops and efficiency in dribble penetration.
Despite this loss, the young squad of Trojans has not given up hope of making the NCAA Tournament and won’t let age or lack of experience be an excuse for missing out on postseason play. Through strength and resilience, Trakh and his team have the ability to finish the season with a win.
WIth one game left in the regular season against crosstown foe UCLA, the Women of Troy are looking to finish out their season strong heading into the Pac-12 tournament. The “Crosstown Showdown” is Sunday at 1 p.m at Pauley Pavilion.
“We’re very excited to go to [the] postseason,” Jackson said. “Even before the season started back in quarantine, that was one of our main goals … We’re getting it together, but we always know there’s more to improve. We’ll just try to buckle down in the last game that we have, and we’re just going to come out and fight.”