LOS ANGELES-Run, run and run some more. That’s what USC women’s basketball coach Cynthia Cooper is expecting from her team. The Trojans did a lot of running at the Galen Center against Hope International in their season opener on their way to a 92-43 win. Rebounding, pushing the ball up the court and playing defense are going to be keys to the Trojans’ success this season.
It’s one game, but judging by the ferocity in which USC displayed these three cornerstones, the Trojans could very well be on the path to improving on the 15-15 record they accumulated last season. For starters, USC dominated in the rebounding department, grabbing 52 boards to the Royals’ output of 19.
The Trojans also forced the Royals into just making 35 percent of their shots in the game (25 percent in the first half). And as a result of their relentless, full-court defense, USC agitated Hope International players enough to turn the ball over 29 times. The Trojans had too much firepower and overwhelmed the Royals in those categories to dominate the contest.
A complete game? Almost. Cooper liked what she saw on the court. But there is always room for improvement.
“I thought that we did some great things tonight. I thought, defensively, we played extremely well…had a little breakdown late in the game, which, sometimes can be expected. But we did some good things,” Cooper said. “We executed…We ran everything, from some of our man offenses to some of our zone offenses. But the things I thought we did best was play great defense and run the floor.”
Fueling the blowout win was the way USC players were able to jump into the Royals’s passing lanes to come up with steals that resulted in numerous fastbreak opportunities for the Trojans. The ball-hawking Trojans, led by Aliyah Mazyck’s four picks, came up with 19 steals.
In evaluating her team’s performance, that kind of defensive activity is something Cooper like seeing.
“The number one goal for me was to come out here and to see progress,” Cooper said. “We’ve seen progress defensively, progress offensively. We did some really good things on our fastbreak. We got deflections galore and really disrupted Hope International’s offense. I thought that allowed us to get on the fastbreak. That’s when we’re at our best; when we’re able to run up and down that floor because of our defense, that’s when we’re at our best.”
The Trojans played at their best when Jordan Adams and Kristen Simon took over the game. Adams, a redshirt junior, was all over the place. When she wasn’t grabbing a game-high 14 rebounds, she was doing it well on the other side of the court, scoring 18 points.
“We just wanted to come out with energy and we wanted to make a statement, to not just to everyone in the Pac-12 (Conference), but to everyone in the nation that we’re back,” Adams said. “We’re ready to play. We didn’t lose anybody; we just re-loaded and we’re ready to go for the season.”
As for Simon, the Royals simply didn’t have an answer for the Trojans’ low-post hammer. In just 19 minutes of play, Simon scored 20 points, picked up five rebounds and came away with three steals. With Simon dominating on the block and Adams doing her thing on the perimeter, USC rolled to a 27-10 first quarter lead before taking a 48-18 advantage into halftime.
By that time, the game’s conclusion had already been established.