Turnovers and three-point shooting sink USC women’s basketball against San Francisco

The Trojans turned the ball over 18 times in their home defeat.

A photo of graduate forward Jordan Sanders in a white uniform, holding the ball and looking to pass while being guarded by a San Francisco defender in a gray uniform.

After a stellar first quarter, USC had no answer for Ioanna Krimili and the San Francisco Dons, losing 78-63 on Sunday afternoon at Galen Center.

Missing starter junior forward Alissa Pili and key reserve junior guard Alyson Miura, USC head coach Lindsay Gottleib acknowledged the team was missing key players going into Sunday’s game but said it wasn’t an excuse.

“They’re two really good players who are important to what we do, but we knew for a couple days they weren’t going to be available and [we] gotta roll with who we have and we’ve won games without them before,” Gottlieb said. “It was about our effort and our ability to get the job done, not who wasn’t available.”

Early on, it seemed that graduate forward Jordan Sanders would step up to replace the production of Pili and Miura. Sanders started off the game on fire, hitting two 3-pointers during her personal 8-0 run to start the game. Sanders also was active on the defensive end, notching a steal that led to a fast-break bucket.

The entire USC defense was stout in the first quarter, keeping the Dons scoreless for more than four minutes to begin the game. After one quarter, USC led 21-11 and looked to be in complete control of the game, throwing the Dons into disarray.

However, the next three quarters would belong to the Dons and redshirt sophomore guard Ioanna Krimili, who led her team in points, assists and steals.

Krimili had 29 points, five assists and two steals while shooting 6-of-14 from 3-point range. Krimili’s 3-point prowess was infectious as the Dons shot 34 threes in the game, more than double USC’s 14.

That 3-point shooting discrepancy was a key deciding factor in the matchup. The Trojans and Dons both shot above 40% from the field, and the Trojans even shot a better percentage from three, hitting 43% as opposed to the Dons’ 38%. However, the Dons made seven more threes in the game, and that gap — in conjunction with USC’s high number of turnovers — would prove insurmountable.

Gottleib acknowledged her team’s struggles fending off the Dons’ 3-point barrage.

“We were trying to fluster their guards a little bit,” she said, “but obviously it wasn’t good enough.”

The other key area that cost the Trojans the game was the turnover battle. The Trojans had averaged a porous 16.3 turnovers per game and exceeded that average on Sunday, turning the ball over 18 times to the Dons’ 10. The Trojans also allowed 21 points off turnovers while only scoring 11 themselves.

Gottleib conceded that her team struggled to get into an offensive groove consistently due to turnovers.

“Their game plan I think flustered us, right, they weren’t letting us get to the looks that we want to get to,” Gottlieb said. “It was not a clean game for us. We never got comfortable.”

After scoring 21 points in the first quarter, USC would only score 42 for the rest of the game on 33% shooting, with 13 of their 18 turnovers after the opening quarter.

The Trojans next play on Wednesday, Dec. 15 vs. the Cal State Northridge Matadors at Galen Center.