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USC to battle Colorado in Pac-12 tournament opener

first_imgSenior forward Kayla Overbeck will start her final postseason run Thursday against Colorado. (Ling Luo | Daily Trojan) After a 16-13 regular season and an 8-10 Pac-12 record, the USC women’s basketball team is getting set for its first matchup of the Pac-12 Tournament. Entering as a No. 7 seed, USC will play against No. 10 Colorado in Las Vegas  Thursday. This marks the beginning of postseason play for the Trojans, who are coming off a three-game winning streak, including a win over the Buffaloes in Sunday’s regular season finale. USC will depend on its star freshmen, who have become forces in the Pac-12 already. Freshman guard Endyia Rogers has dropped double-digit points in 18 games this season, averaging 12.8 per game. USC in recent years has struggled to break into the second round of the Pac-12 Tournament. In the last four seasons, the Trojans have only moved past the first round twice. Rogers’ 2.7 assists per game have aided the new Pac-12 Freshman of the Year, forward Alissa Pili, who has been the scoring anchor for the Trojans and figures to play that role in Vegas. Pili had an unprecedented regular season for USC, earning Pac-12 Freshman of the Week honors four times. The true freshman has proven unstoppable even against the NCAA’s best defenses — logging double digits in scoring against several ranked opponents — and is a top-five rebounder in the conference.  Four teams have first-round byes in the tournament, meaning if USC moves past Colorado it will have a showdown with crosstown rival No. 8 UCLA. In the midst of a 1-1 season series after a double-overtime win at Galen Center in January — UCLA’s first loss of the season — this game could be a testament to how far the young team has developed over the season — should the Trojans advance. “There’s no excuse to not try that hard because this is what we’ve been waiting for,” senior forward Kayla Overbeck said. “This is the chance to win as many games as we can so we can go to the NCAA Tournament.” “We just gotta study Colorado play and anticipate any adjustments, and then we gotta make a few,” Trakh said. “But Colorado is very good. It’s going to be tough playing somebody back-to-back like that.”center_img The Trojans tip off against Colorado Thursday at 6 p.m. The game will be televised on the Pac-12 Networks. USC is 4-8 away from its home crowd. A lack of adjustment to the demands of conference play and travel could be the reason behind this paltry road record, with the majority of the eight losses coming early while the seven freshmen on the team were transitioning from high school to collegiate level basketball.  The Pac-12 is one of the toughest conferences in the NCAA and the tournament’s stacked field reflects that. But head coach Mark Trakh has shown a glimpse of the ability to lead his team far, going into the then-Pac-10 finals with his 2008-09 squad before falling to Stanford. Trakh hasn’t broken past the second round since his return to USC in 2017, but that could change with a team that has seen a late-season uptick. This year’s first round will be the deciding game for who wins the season series between USC and Colorado. The Trojans lost their first match to the Buffaloes 66-53 in the midst of their early five-game conference losing streak. While they made it up at Galen Center last weekend with a 66-55 win, the recent history does not guarantee a win for a team that has faltered on the road this season. The Buffaloes are coming in with a comparable 6-7 away record but are looking for a team ready to avenge its average regular season, which ended with a two-game losing streak. Freshman guard Endyia Rogers will look to repeat her 20-point game from Sunday against Colorado Thursday. (Ling Luo | Daily Trojan)last_img

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