Following two crucial home wins last weekend against Washington and Washington State, the USC women’s basketball team aims to build off its success when it travels to No. 17 Utah and Colorado this weekend.
Friday’s showdown against Utah may pose a challenge for the Trojans who, despite recent momentum, have struggled this season against ranked opponents. Senior forward Megan Huff, who is averaging 20.4 points per game and shooting 41.7 percent from three, leads Utah’s offense. Huff is also a defensive linchpin for the Utes, boasting 6.85 defensive rebounds per game.
The Utes and Trojans met twice last year; USC emerged victorious on both occasions. While their 8-10 conference record last season was less than stellar, the Utes have improved to a 7-3 record in the Pac-12 so far this season.
“Utah’s a great team,” associate head coach Jason Glover said. “They’re 18-3, they’re nationally ranked, they have one of the best scorers in Huff and the altitude is tough in Salt Lake City. But we feel pretty good going in. We’ve been playing well, we’re defending well, and it should be a good game.”
To counter the offensive capabilities of Huff and the rest of the Utes, the Trojans will need to continue to shoot the ball as well as they did against Washington and Washington State. The Trojans scored 80 or more points in both of last weekend’s victories, a mark they did not reach in any previous Pac-12 games.
Redshirt freshman guard Shalexxus Aaron, junior guard Minyon Moore and senior guard Aliyah Mazyck have spearheaded the recent offensive prowess. Aaron is shooting 49 percent from the field and 47 percent from three this season and had an impressive 28-point performance against Washington. Mazyck put up 27 points against Washington State and claimed the No. 5 all-time spot for 3-pointers made. Moore’s two double-digit scoring games, including a double-double against Washington, has also helped spur the Trojans’ offensive momentum.
“Our team’s starting to come together, they’re starting to play together and enjoy one another,” Glover said. “We worked on shooting last week a lot. Earlier in the season, we were working a lot of defense, but the last two weeks we’ve shot the ball more. [The players are] in sync, in tune with each other and executing much better.”
In contrast to Utah’s success, Colorado has struggled as of late. Since the Buffaloes started Pac-12 play, they have amassed a 10-game losing streak, despite beginning the season with a strong 10-1 record. The Buffaloes are also allowing their opponents to shoot an average of 41.6 percent from the field, so the Trojans were able to capitalize on open shots Sunday.
Despite Colorado’s unimpressive Pac-12 record, the Trojans cannot afford to be complacent even if they find their offensive rhythm early on. Several of the Trojans’ losses this season have resulted from an inability to close out games and a pattern of allowing opponents to make a come-back and win in the second half.
“Our team is looking to play a full 40 minutes together,” freshman guard Desiree Caldwell said. “I think that there are times when we look really special, but there are other times when we kind of lose focus, so focusing for the whole 40 minutes would be great for us.”
The Trojans’ challenge against Utah will take place on Friday at 6 p.m. before they travel to Colorado to face the Buffaloes at noon Sunday.