Junior guard Desiree Caldwell knocked down two free throws with 1.3 seconds remaining to extend USC’s lead to four points and seal a thrilling win over Colorado Monday. The Women of Troy, who led since the third minute of the game, endured a strong run from the Buffaloes down the stretch but persevered for the 56-52 victory.
Colorado trailed by as many as 12 points in the second half before going on a 9-2 scoring run in the game’s final five minutes to cut the deficit to two. The Women of Troy responded in a big way however, getting two key stops on defense when the Buffaloes could have tied the game with a basket.
With 30 seconds remaining, sophomore guard Endyia Rogers got a hand on the ball to throw off the timing of Colorado’s possession and force a miss on senior forward Mya Hollingshed’s 3-pointer. Then, after USC turned it over off a strong backcourt press, sophomore guard Kyra White came up with the rebound off of Buffaloes junior guard Aubrey Knight’s missed layup. This sealed possession for her team and set up Caldwell to put the game away at the free throw line.
“We overstressed avoiding fouling in practice,” USC head coach Mark Trakh on his team’s discipline in its own end. “I told them to trust their training down at the end, and we came up with a big stop.”
Trakh said he knew his team would have to win tight contests to survive conference play.
“Last year we were in a lot of close games and won a few overtime games because our kids knew how to grind and execute. It is really good experience for them because we are not going to beat teams by 10 or 20 points in the Pac-12.”
USC put together many strong defensive possessions throughout the game, pestering its opponent’s forwards in the low post to disrupt shots, force turnovers, and avoid excessive fouls in the first half. Their defense forced 14 turnovers in the game, including eight in the first half, and held Colorado to 35% shooting for the game with constant pressure. They also outscored the Buffaloes 9-4 off turnovers in the first half, a major key to their fast start.
Colorado got an offensive boost from junior forward Peanut Tuitele, who scored 15 points on 6-of-9 shooting from the field, eight points above her season average. Hollingshed, with her 14 points of offense, was the only other player to hit double-figures for Colorado. She recorded the only double-double for her team, securing 10 rebounds, and was one of her team’s best free throw shooters, going 4-of-5.
Offensively, the Trojans were led by graduate transfer forward Jordan Sanders, who scored 16 points on 6-of-14 shooting, and Caldwell, who added 13 points and knocked down three of her five shots from beyond the arc.
Sophomore center Angel Jackson was a force down low for USC, as she recorded 13 rebounds, shot 5-of-7 from the field and blocked four shots on defense.
USC put up a solid performance shooting the three ball in the first half, knocking down five shots on 12 attempts, outpacing their season average for 3-point percentage. However, Colorado adjusted in the second half and pressured the Women of Troy further from the basket to limit their production from long range. Trakh adjusted as well, and his team began to attack the rim more forcefully and keep producing enough offense to hold any comeback attempt at bay.
This adjustment could be seen most effectively midway through the fourth quarter, when Rogers and Jackson both responded to Colorado scores by making big layups to prevent their lead from being cut to one possession. After the Buffaloes had given up those two close-range shots, they collapsed their defense inwards and gave Sanders the space to sink a critical 3-pointer.
The Trojans will look to extend their winning streak on Friday when they host Washington State at 4:30 p.m. PT.