Basketball

USC women’s basketball crushes Hawaii in season opener

Lindsay Gottlieb recorded her first win as head coach of the Trojans.

A photo of USC freshman guard Bella Perkins high-fiving graduate forward Jordan Sanders in white uniforms during USC's win Thursday.

The Lindsay Gottlieb era started with a bang as the USC women’s basketball team dominated Hawaii 90-50 Thursday at Galen Center. A smothering defensive effort led the Trojans to victory in their first game of the season.

Gottlieb made her USC debut against the Rainbow Wahine, and the Trojans looked the part of a gritty and physical team that the new head coach made a point to implement.

USC’s defense came to play early with five Trojans recording a block — in the first quarter. The team’s shot-blocking held Hawaii to 3-of-18 shooting in the first frame and 11-of-35 shooting in the first half.

As expected in the first game of a coach’s career, USC’s offense looked rusty early with only three points in the first five minutes of the game. Eventually, the team found a rhythm to lead at halftime 35-26, and the Trojans never looked back.

“We had to get ourselves going, but I thought our defense and our toughness was there from the jump,” Gottlieb said. “And I really appreciate how we figured it out.”

USC rode a 25-0 run in the fourth quarter to prevail in blowout fashion over the Rainbow Wahine. The Trojans finished the game with a 51.5% field goal percentage and an astounding 52.9% three-point percentage.

Graduate forward Jordan Sanders ended the game as the Trojans’ leading scorer with 17 points, 12 of which came in the second half. Sanders was a perfect 3-for-3 from the three-point line and an efficient 5-of-10 overall on the night.

“My husband calls Jordan Sanders a video game because it feels like every time she shoots it, it goes in,” Gottlieb said. “Which isn’t that far off.”

Sanders did not have to shoulder the burden of the team’s offense, though. Her teammates stepped up with four other players scoring in double figures to help run up the score on Hawaii.

One of the other players scoring in double digits was graduate guard Tera Reed, making her USC debut. Reed was able to find her place in the Trojans’ offense as she accumulated five assists, tying freshman guard Bella Perkins for the team high.

The game marked the first time since early 2020 that fans were allowed at a USC women’s basketball game. An electric crowd showed up at Galen Center to see the Trojans defeat the Rainbow Wahine, and the players enjoyed the new environment that they had gone so long without.

“It was my first time playing at Galen and I loved the energy of the fans,” Reed said. “It was an amazing feeling for everyone.”

Despite it being Gottlieb’s first USC game and the players’ first game breaking into the new system, the Trojans posted their largest margin of victory since 2018. The win is a good sign for things to come, and the team is excited for what this season has in store for them.

“Everybody seems really comfortable, so I think it’s really only up from here,” Sanders said.

The Trojans will try to replicate the commanding performance when they go on the road to take on the Virginia Cavaliers Sunday at 10 a.m.