The USC Trojans fought an uphill battle against a heavily favored Texas A&M team, and managed to prove the doubters wrong in a 66-62 upset win Wednesday night.
Now, they are going to need much more than that if they plan to keep their four-game winning streak intact.
USC (6-1), fresh off beating the #19 team in the nation, will come into the Nest in Sacramento on Saturday facing a Sacramento State team that has shot more three-pointers than the Trojans and their opponents combined.
Sacramento State (3-4), who led the NCAA Div. I in three-pointers made three seasons in a row, looks to take down the Trojan horse for the first time in program history. And if history is an indicator, it is very possible that they could do so. While USC is 4-0 all-time in the series, Sac State only lost by two the last time these teams met in 2014 (101-99, Dec. 14 at the Galen Center).
Sac State is currently tied for first in the NCAA in three-pointers made per game with DePaul (12.6), first in three-pointers attempted (281), tied for second in three-pointers made (88), and fourth in scoring offense (91.1 ppg). Compare that to the Trojans, who have only attempted 99 three-pointers all season (making 35 of them), and are averaging 73.3 points a game.
However, USC does have size to their advantage, with five players on their team 6’3” or taller (Sac State only has three players taller than 6’0”). They also have held their opponents to 61 points a game, which bodes well with their size advantage against the Hornets. It also helps that Sac State allows an average of 92 points a game, which USC will have take advantage if they plan to leave the “City of Trees” with a victory.
Kristen Simon has been the unquestioned leader for this USC squad this season, averaging a double-double so far (15.3 ppg, 10.1 rebounds per game) while also scoring a team-high 20 points in the win over Texas A&M.
She’s going to be depending a lot on freshman Minyon Moore and junior Sadie Edwards to help with the scoring output against Sac State, who has firepower of their own in junior Maranne Johnson and senior Emily Easom, who combined have made more three-pointers (56) than the entire USC team.
If there is anything that might neutralize the Sac State shooting output, it is going to be USC’s size. Currently ranked 45th in the nation in blocks (5.1), their post presence (led by 6’3” freshman Asiah Jones and 6’6” senior Ivana Jakubcova) will make a big difference in keeping Sac State off the boards, which is a major key to the Hornet offense (42 rebounds a game). Sac State is aware that USC’s size will be a problem, as head coach Bunky Harkleroad attested to.
“We’re not just going to get taller,” Harkleroad said. “We have to take extra care of the ball because of their added size and length; we have to do a good job boxing out. We can’t foul too many times.”
The previous statement couldn’t be any more true, as USC is fairly efficient at getting to the free throw line. The Women of Troy are currently tied for 16th in the nation in free throw attempts (165), while making 108 of them.
USC and Sac State will tip off at 7:35 PST at the Nest in Sacramento, CA, with live streaming available via Hornet Sports.