USC was outmatched Friday night as the Washington Huskies took care of business, defeating the Trojans 75-66. Despite the loss, USC remains the top unranked team in the Pac-12 standings at 5-10, while the Huskies improve to 4-11 in conference play.
USC continues to endure a season hampered by injury as graduate guard Aliyah Jeune missed her second straight game, leaving USC with only seven healthy scholarship players.
In Jeune’s absence, freshman forward Alissa Pili and sophomore guard Desiree Caldwell led the way for USC, finishing with 19 and 13 points, respectively. Pili and Caldwell were the only Trojans who scored in double digits.
Despite facing so many injuries, USC still managed to come out strong in the first quarter, maintaining a four-point lead in the first four minutes of the game. Then two quick fouls by Caldwell forced her to the bench and sparked a 13-0 Huskies run. Washington led by as many as 12 points before the first quarter came to a close.
The Huskies were hot the entire first half, shooting 55% from the floor and dominating the boards 20-9. Washington also got a boost from its bench, giving the team 20 first-half points compared to USC’s six. The Huskies answered every USC run in the second quarter with a spurt of their own and entered halftime up 40-30.
USC found a groove in the third, as Pili sparked an 11-2 rally that pulled the Trojans to within three points with 6:04 left on the clock. The Huskies again answered back with four points of their own, all from offensive rebounds. Pili’s back-to-back buckets late in the third kept the game close, but the Trojans still found themselves down 54-47 entering the fourth.
Again, the Trojans fought their way back to within three points with 4:07 left in the game. However, this time the Huskies answered by scoring three consecutive 3-pointers, the last of which essentially ended the game by putting the Huskies up 70-60 with 1:55 left to play.
USC’s lack of depth due to injuries caused the Trojans’ bench to finish with only eight points compared to the Huskies’ 33 bench points. Washington head coach Jody Wynn was able to constantly throw fresh bodies on the court, and USC simply had no answer for the Huskies’ energy.
The Huskies dominated the battle on the boards. USC grabbed 21 rebounds compared to the Huskies’ 39. It seemed as if every time USC pulled in close, the Huskies would notch another timely offensive rebound and extend their lead.
USC head coach Mark Trakh acknowledged that the injuries are starting to limit the team's success late in the season.
“Right now we’re short handed and we don’t have a lot of height, all our big guards are hurt, so we are just going to have to show more grit and determination and compete,” Trakh said. “Everyone is going to have size on us moving forward, so we are just going to have to coach [the team] up and find a way and get them to believe our small ball can win.”
Currently, USC sits at 13-13 overall and 5-10 in the Pac-12. Trakh has gone on record saying his team must win at least 15 games in order to be considered for an at-large bid to the WNIT tournament.
“We just need two more wins somehow in these last three games,” Trakh said.
Up next, USC plays its final road game at Washington State Sunday at 11:30 a.m. The game will be aired on Pac-12 Network.