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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Arizona WBB remains in California to face No. 10 USC

Kailyn+Gilbert%2C+a+guard+on+the+Arizona+womens+basketball+team%2C+dribbles+down+the+court+on+Jan.+29+in+McKale+Center.+The+Wildcats+would+lose+the+divisional+game+against+Washington+State+University+59-70.
Nathanial Stenchever

Kailyn Gilbert, a guard on the Arizona women’s basketball team, dribbles down the court on Jan. 29 in McKale Center. The Wildcats would lose the divisional game against Washington State University 59-70.

The Arizona women’s basketball team remains on the road as they prepare to face No. 10 USC on Monday, Feb. 12 at 7 p.m. in Galen Center. Arizona (12-11, 4-7 in Pac-12) is coming off a 66-58 loss to No. 9 UCLA on Friday, Feb. 9, and has now lost six straight road games.

The Wildcats head into this game on a quick turnaround and facing off against another formidable opponent in the Trojans. USC (17-4, 7-4 in Pac-12) has won three straight games heading into this matchup and will look to improve its current 12-1 home record to 13-1 after Monday’s game.

History vs. USC

In the upcoming matchup, Arizona and USC will be meeting one another for the 86th time. The Trojans currently hold the all-time series lead at 56-29. However, in the last 10 meetings, the Wildcats have the advantage, with an 8-2 record and securing victories in the last two encounters. The most recent meeting between these schools occurred on Feb. 5, 2023, in California, where Arizona emerged victorious with a final score of 81-75.

Despite recent success, Arizona has historically struggled on the road against USC, holding an 11-27 away record. This season, the Wildcats are 2-6 on the road. To compound matters, the Wildcats haven’t secured a road victory since Dec. 17, 2023, against ASU.

USC’s season

Lindsay Gottlieb was announced as USC’s women’s head coach on May 10, 2021, and is now in her third season with the Trojans. During her tenure, she led the Trojans to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2014. The 2022-23 USC team achieved a 21-10 overall record but faced a first-round exit to South Dakota State University. Gottlieb currently holds a 50-30 record during her time as USC’s head coach.

USC’s season thus far has been marked by remarkable achievements. Commencing with a season-opening upset victory against former No. 7 Ohio State University, subsequent victories followed over Florida Gulf Coast University, Le Moyne College and Seton Hall University, solidifying their strong start. The Trojans maintained their winning streak, securing wins against Penn State University, the University of California, Riverside and California State University, Fullerton, among others.

However, the team faced its first loss of the season against former No. 2 UCLA, snapping their perfect 10-0 record. USC was able to make a swift recovery in the following weeks with victories over Oregon State University, the University of Oregon and a significant win over former No. 2 UCLA, marking UCLA’s  first loss of the season. Notably, USC also secured a historic win against former No. 4 Stanford University, marking its first victory against the team since 2001.

Despite facing challenges with losses against the University of Utah, the University of Colorado, Boulder and the University of Washington, the Trojans demonstrated impressive resiliency and bounced back with victories against Washington State University, the University of California, Berkeley and ASU.

Freshman guard JuJu Watkins is arguably one of the best players in the country; she currently leads USC in points, assists and steals. Averaging 27.5 points, 3.5 assists and 2.7 steals per game, Watkins has consistently delivered impactful performances throughout this season, scoring in double figures in every game this season. With her impressive offensive prowess, combined with playmaking ability and gritty defensive play, she is a dynamic force that Arizona will certainly need to come up with an answer for.

Another key player from the Trojans to watch out for is junior forward Rayah Marshall, who nearly averages a double-double with 10 points and 9.6 rebounds per game. Marshall leads the team in rebounds and blocks, contributing significantly on both ends of the floor. With six double-doubles this season, each resulting in a USC win, Marshall’s scoring ability and defensive presence will be crucial as the Trojans aim for their fourth consecutive victory and climb the Pac-12 standings.

Wildcats to watch 

In the upcoming game, the first player to watch out for is fifth-year forward Esmery Martinez, a player who consistently proves her indispensability to the team with each game. 

Despite the recent loss against UCLA, Martinez continues to lead the Wildcats in both scoring and rebounding for the second consecutive week. In the latest matchup against the Bruins, she was the leading scorer, finishing the game with 16 points and eight rebounds, coming close to adding another double-double to her season tally. 

Now, as Arizona prepares to face another top-ranked team, Martinez remains the focal point of this offense, given the team’s limited rotation and uncertainties with certain players. However, one certainty is Martinez’s ability to contribute offensively, play tough defense and secure any rebounds that come in her vicinity, providing ample opportunities for the Wildcats to get out and run and avoid being stagnant. This is going to be a key element for this game against this USC team.

Another player to keep watch out for in this game is fifth-year guard Helena Pueyo, who consistently delivers well-rounded performances for the Wildcats. In their most recent game, Pueyo contributed 10 points, four rebounds, two assists, one block and two steals. As arguably Arizona’s best all-around player, she will need to continue playing this way but will also be asked to raise her level of play given the competition they are facing once again. Fortunately for the Wildcats, Pueyo has shown this is something she can do, and it will certainly need to happen in their upcoming game if Arizona hopes to end its road-game skid.


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