Los Angeles – Missouri State rebounded from their lone loss of the season to hand USC their first loss, 67-41, in a dominating defensive performance Saturday.
The Bears held the Trojans to 23 percent shooting overall, including 13.3 percent in the first quarter, as they ran out to a fast lead and never looked back. Seniors Jasmine Franklin and Brice Calip lead the way with 23 and 22 points, respectively. Jordan Sanders was alone for USC in double figures, with 11 points.
MSU, which has spent most of the last three years under coach Amaka Agugua-Hamilton ranked in the top 25, were coming off of an improbable loss to Oklahoma State last week, and a tough team meeting that followed. Their coach is pleased by how they responded.
“We’re close, and that’s why we didn’t fold,” Agugua-Hamilton said. “Our first three games, offensively, was not us. We missed 29 layups left 58 points on the board (against the Cowgirls) and lost by four. We knew we were better than that.”
She said the win over the Trojans was a statement for her team.
“USC, they’re good, they’re big and they’re athletic, and that can be kind of intimidating,” Agugua-Hamilton said. “We kind of had that at OK State – we were out of rhythm and didn’t perform offensively, so we wanted to do better on that end of the floor.”
“I’m confident in our kids’ ability to play defense and to scout teams, so I didn’t have a concern on that end. But attacking their length is what we focused on.”
The Trojans, under first-year coach Lindsay Gottlieb, won their first three games by 17 points and up before being dominated by the Bears. Gottlieb said she knew their opponents would be motivated going into the matchup.
“They’re a team with a terrific coach, an excellent history, and they’re a veteran team coming off a tough loss to Oklahoma State. You knew they were going to come in here, all business,” she said. “Their two best players came in and dominated us. Their defense is tough. They forced us into a lot bad shots. We couldn’t get our best looks, and you learn from that.”
Gottlieb said she liked the way her team stepped up play in the second half, making it a more even exchange, possession by possession. But there will be plenty of takeaways for the young squad.
“It’s a great chance for us to take an ass whipping and see what we can do with it. Who are we, and do we want to get better?” she said. “There are so many teaching points from this. It’s harder to make those teaching points when you’re 3-0. I have no question we’ll learn from this.”
Both teams now head to holiday tournaments.