USC women’s basketball is the talk of the town in Los Angeles after the huge season-changing, program-catapulting upset of No. 2 Stanford on Sunday. That equation-shifting result against the Pac-12 favorite and a national college basketball colossus has marked the true arrival of USC women’s hoops under head coach Lindsay Gottlieb.
USC now has a great chance to make the 2023 Women’s NCAA Tournament, though a lot of work remains to be done. The bigger point is that with No. 1 national recruit Juju Watkins coming aboard next season, the Trojans are well on their way toward becoming a big-time program once again. Given the depth of quality in the Pac-12 in women’s basketball, USC was not expected to become a factor in Year 1 under Gottlieb. Getting the program to this point in the middle of Year 2 is ahead of schedule for Gottlieb. It’s a very exciting development which certainly warrants attention.
As we develop and deepen our coverage of women’s basketball here at Trojans Wire, let’s bring you up to speed on this team if you haven’t been following it very closely.
The one detail about this team which might amuse or frustrate you — depending on your frame of mind — is that unlike the football team, USC women’s basketball plays amazing defense.
Yes, defense. USC knows how to play defense in roundball. It just hasn’t been able to do the same on the gridiron.
How good has USC been at the defensive end of the floor? Get this: The Trojans — 13-4 on the season — have allowed more than 62 points just once in 17 games this season. Even in two games against UCLA — a top-15 team — the Trojans didn’t allow more than 61 points. In 10 of USC’s 17 games — a majority — USC has not allowed more than 50 points.
Women’s college basketball games are divided into quarters. Giving up 20 points in a quarter is a bad defensive quarter for any team. USC has allowed just six of those quarters through 17 games, or 68 quarters. USC basically plays a bad defensive quarter once out of every 11 or 12 quarters it plays, and for every 20-point quarter USC has allowed, it has produced a far larger number of sub-10-point quarters, which represents an excellent defensive performance.
USC has produced 14 quarters out of 68 in which it has allowed fewer than 10 points. That’s more than double the amount of 20-point quarters USC has conceded. USC simply has few defensive lapses and wins games at that end of the floor.
If an opponent scores 15 points in a quarter — which translates to 30 in a half and 60 in a full game — it has done better than most USC opponents have fared so far this season. Whoa. That gives you a sense of how good USC is at the defensive end of the floor.
Maybe Lincoln Riley should take notes.
USC women’s basketball and USC football are similar in that they have programs which are imbalanced, and rely so much on one side of the ball for their production and success. If USC — which scores an average of 66.6 points per game, shoots under 40 percent from the field, under 34 percent on 3-pointers, and only 72 percent from the free throw line — can even modestly improve those ordinary shooting numbers, the Trojans would raise their ceiling significantly. A two-percent increase in field goals, 3-pointers, and free throws would have meant victory in two razor-close losses to UCLA. Imagine if USC was 15-2 and not 13-4. The Trojans would be an NCAA Tournament lock, and they would be the higher-seeded team in a potential first-round game. As is, if they can make that two-percent increase in the coming weeks, they will be in very good shape.
USC women’s basketball moves into projected NCAA Tournament field after huge win over Stanford