Seconds after one of the most dramatic games of the season for the Women of Troy, second-year head coach Cynthia Cooper-Dyke said it best: "This one sure made me earn every dollar of my paycheck."
Forced to overcome an 11-point second half deficit, after building a double-digit lead of their own mid-way through the first, the Women of Troy played their most inspired game of the season beating the Sacramento State Hornets, 101-99. That score really says it all, defense was highly optional on Sunday afternoon at the Galen Center. Players were saying this game truly epitomized the "Fight On" spirit and that certainly seemed the case from the second both teams arrived.
To provide some context, USC was without three of its best players before tipoff. Senior leading scorer Alexyz Vaioletama (back), sophomore Jordan Adams (knee), who led the team in assists entering the game, and freshmen standout McKenzie Calvert (concussion) were all scratched from the lineup for numerous injury concerns. That's over 40 points per game and three starters out, leaving USC with eight healthy players against Sacramento State.
It is also worth mentioning that the Hornets run "The System" which incorporates 40 minutes of full-court pressure and nearly 100 shots per game in a blitzing-fast basketball game. Combine that with an undermanned roster and the Women of Troy (7-2) had their work cut out for them, especially following Tuesday night's gutty overtime win over a good Cal State Northridge squad.
Led by a career-high 26 points from Kiki Alofaituli, the Women of Troy scored at will pretty much the entire game. The only problem was defense, slowing down an equally explosive Hornets offense that launched 29 three pointers and recorded 14 offensive rebounds. The Women of Troy jumped out to a 7-0 lead, confident in their ability to handle the high-pressure attack, but then an array of turnovers opened the flood gates.
USC committed a season-high 27 turnovers, many of which came on tight passes trying to break the press, and the Hornets took full advantage of the mistakes.
Senior guard Fantasia Hilliard, the Hornets all-time leader in assists and steals, took center stage for her scoring efforts, dropping 28 points on 12-18 shooting. In fact, four players scored in double figures for Sacramento State.
But that was only half the story as six players scored in double figures for the Women of Troy, who both scored and allowed a season high in points. Backed against the wall with only eight healthy options, senior Kaneisha Horn (one of the two usual starters) put forth her best game as a Trojan notching 20 points and 15 rebounds. These ladies were gassed, and the tempo was only making it that much more difficult to exert hustle on both ends of the floor.
The Women of Troy actually dominated the glass (50-31), outshot the Hornets and even had more assists (26-16) but they could never fully swat their pesky foes until the final minute. Even then, Sacramento State made a three with 0.4 seconds left and USC was forced to inbound the basketball and dribble it out.
Trust me here, this final box score is worth a minute of your time.
The Women of Troy have now won two-straight games and will welcome Loyola Marymount University to the Galen Center on Thursday night. Coach Cooper-Dyke hopes all three key players will be back in the lineup before then, but the added experience for players like freshmen Amy Okonkwo and Kristen Simon might play huge dividends in conference play. Pac-12 play officially begins at the Galen Center on Dec. 30 against rival UCLA.