basketball, Big West Conference, Crosstown Rivalry, Galen Center, Lady Bruins, Long Beach State 49ers, NCAA Tournament, Pac-12 Conference, Pauley Pavilion, UC Riverside Highlanders, UCLA Bruins, USC Trojans, Walter Pyramid, Women of Troy, Women's Basketball
USC guard Aliyah Mazyck driving to the basket with UCLA’s Kelli Hayes in pursuit during the team’s Crosstown Rivalry matchup at Pauley Pavilion on December 30th. Photo courtesy of dailytrojan.com
CHECKING OUT THE BEST THAT L.A. HAS TO OFFER IN WOMEN’S HOOPS…
You didn’t think I was going to leave the women out of this site’s basketball coverage, did you?
Record: 14-5 overall, 6-2 and tied for third place in the Pac-12 Conference
Rank: #15 AP, #19 Coaches
Coach: Cori Close, 5th year
Current Streak: Won last three
Most Recent Game: Beat #12 Stanford, 56-36, on January 24th
Jordin Canada, So. G – 17.1 ppg, 6.3 apg
Nirra Fields, Sr, G – 16.2 ppg, 6.2 rpg
Monique Billings, So. F – 13.0 ppg, 8.1 rpg
Bruins celebrating during a game. Photo courtesy of dailybruin.com
The only team in the SoCal area that’s nationally ranked, these Lady Bruins are on the verge of possibly doing something that has not been achieved in a LONG time: Winning the Pac-12 Conference.
Having beaten teams ranked above them like Stanford and Oregon State and taking undefeated and current #2 South Carolina to the wire on November 22nd before losing, there’s no reason – provided that they stay consistent and not falter – why UCLA can’t do great things this year.
Close should certainly get her proper kudos for the job she has done.
And Canada likewise deserves props for being among the Pac-12’s top five scorers.
The next ten games will personally determine my assessment of my alma mater’s team; that goes without saying.
USC’s Women of Troy, led by Mazyck (#21) and forward Marguerite Effa (#13) going onto the floor against UCLA. Photo courtesy of usctrojans.com
Record: 15-5 overall, 3-4 and tied for 7th place in the Pac-12 Conference
Coach: Cynthia Cooper-Dyke, 3rd year
Current Streak: Lost three of their last four after winning first 12 games of the season
Most Recent Game: Beat California, 61-47, on January 24th
Temi Fagbenle, Gr. F – 14.1 ppg, 8.8 rpg
Jordan Adams, Jr, G – 12.8 ppg, 7.7 rpg
Kristen Simon, So. F – 12 ppg, 8.4 rpg
Going for a lay-up against Stanford at Galen Center on the USC campus. Photo courtesy of latimesblogs.latimes.com
Like their male counterparts, these Women of Troy left the starting gate on fire as they began the season 12-0.
Also like their male counterparts, I was not convinced of their potential as those wins were against teams such as Hope International, Grand Canyon, Southern Utah and Florida A & M, teams that – with all due respect – were not tests of ‘SC’s true ability.
Unlike their male counterparts, however, I remain unconvinced as the Pac-12, at least so far, have exposed these Trojans.
With ten games left before the Pac-12 and NCAA tournaments, the best way to describe former USC hoops star Cooper-Dyke’s young ladies’ chances are “Up In The Air”.
Four of their last ten games will come against ranked teams, two of them, Arizona State (who they play twice!) and Oregon State, being in the top ten.
Beating those teams will convince me, and everyone else, of their legitimacy.
As for the Crosstown Rivalry...
The Bruins and Trojans split their two games, UCLA winning 78-73 on December 30th in Pauley Pavilion while USC returned the favor at Galen Center a week and a half later, beating the Bruins 71-68 on January 10th.
So to date it’s been a wash, with a possible matchup in the Pac-12 Tournament – depending on the seed – looming.
Check out the highlights of those two crosstown clashes:
All right, here are the best of the rest; two teams in the region standing out this year:
UC Riverside’s Brittany Crain, the Big West Conference’s leading scorer, going against a Cal Poly player. Photo courtesy of pe.com
UC RIVERSIDE HIGHLANDERS
Record: 12-7, 5-0 and first place in the Big West Conference
Coach: John Margaritis, 12th year
Current Streak: Won last six and seven out of their last eight
Most Recent Game: Beat UC Santa Barbara, 92-81, on January 23rd
Brittany Crain, Sr. G – 19.4 ppg, 5.7 rpg
Rejane Verin, Jr. F – 18.2 ppg, 8.4 rpg
Annelise Ito, Sr. G – 13.8 ppg, 7.7 rpg, 4.9 apg
Looking at the schedule log of this Highlander squad from the Inland Empire, it’s clear that this is a hot team right now after taking their lumps in non-conference play, losing to ranked teams like Oregon State and UCLA.
Margaritis apparently did the right thing in scheduling, as he likely believed that a rigorous out-of conference slate would prepare his ladies.
Which so far it has.
And having three of the four leading scorers in the conference, with Crain’s 19.4 points per contest leading everybody, doesn’t hurt at all.
Long Beach State’s Martina McCowan trying to score against UC Irvine at the Walter Pyramid on campus. Photo courtesy of gazettes.com
LONG BEACH STATE 49ers
Record: 14-5, 3-2 and 4th place in the Big West Conference
Coach: Jody Wynn, 7th year
Current Streak: Won last two and seven of their last nine.
Most Recent Game: Beat Cal State Fullerton, 62-57, on January 20th
Raven Benton, Jr. G – 12.8 ppg, 5.3 rpg
Jewelyn Sawyer, Jr. G – 10.4 ppg, 6.8 rpg
Among the SoCal schools in this Big West Conference, it looks like these group of ladies who play their home games in an arena shaped like a pyramid may be the biggest challenger to UC Riverside for the regular season crown.
Even though they have already lost to those Highlanders by 18 points back on January 13th.
When I looked at Long Beach State’s roster, the thing that popped out at me was their lack of size as these 49ers sport only three forwards, none of them being over 6′ 1″.
That will pose a problem for them when facing teams with players as rebounding and boxing out will be a particular challenge.
Can they overcome this deficiency and win enough games to get the best seed possible for the Big West Tournament, which being in a mid-major conference they – along with UC Riverside and the Big West’s seven other schools – need to win in order to make the Big Dance?
Sure, but it will be tough without the proper height and size needed for a strong basketball team of any gender.
UCLA’s leading scorer, Jordin Canada, driving to the hoop during a game versus second-ranked South Carolina at Pauley Pavilion on November 22nd. Photo courtesy of dailybruin.com
NOTE: ppg = points per game, rpg = rebounds per game, apg = assists per game