USC Women’s Basketball upset by Utah behind big day from former Trojan Alissa Pili

Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
Led by former USC star Alissa Pili, Utah came into Galen Center and spoiled senior day for the Women of Troy with a 74-68 upset.

LOS ANGELES — “You either die a hero, or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain.” -Harvey Dent, The Dark Knight (2008)

Four years ago, Alissa Pili looked like the future of USC Women’s Basketball. After averaging over 16 points per game as a freshman and the highly-anticipated arrival of new head coach Lindsay Gottlieb from the Cleveland Cavaliers following her sophomore year, it appeared as though Pili would be one of the faces of the program as the Women of Troy began on their journey back to national prominence.

Four years later, Pili stole the show on USC’s senior day. In front of a large Galen Center crowd there to cheer on a top-ten USC team, Pili recorded 23 points and nine rebounds to lead her team to a 74-68 win.

It just wasn’t for the Trojans.

After a frustrating 2021-2022 campaign at USC, Pili transferred to Utah for her final two years of eligibility. On Sunday, she made her long-awaited return to Galen Center and stole the show on a day that was supposed to be about USC’s seniors.

“Nothing but respect and appreciation for Alissa and her family,” USC head coach Lindsay Gottlieb said following the game. “I am extremely impressed with what she did when she left here. She had a rough last year here . . . and she elected to go somewhere else to get herself back to where she wanted to be. She put the work in. You know, she recommitted to what makes her happy and good. And I respect that.”

“She gave her blood, sweat, and tears here. USC fans should obviously appreciate that. We wish her well in everything that she’s gonna do.”

While it was an impressive day for Pili, the current Trojans, who are ranked No. 7 in the country struggled mightily to shoot the ball. After shooting an incredible 68.4% from behind the three-point line in Friday night’s victory over No. 11 Colorado, USC was just 20% from three-point range and 40.4% from the field as a whole.

Star freshman guard Juju Watkins was at the front and center of the Trojans’ struggles. Although she scored 30 points on the afternoon, Watkins made just 10 of her 30 field goal attempts. She also added seven rebounds, five assists, three steals, and three blocks.

“The difference is the three-point line,” Gottlieb said. “We competed. But we made too many game-planning mistakes. And a good offensive team will get you on that.”

“We’re disappointed in that. And we’ll use it, I think, to get better and be ready for our next weekend.”

Senior forward Kaitlyn Davis, playing her final regular season game at Galen Center finished second on the team with 13 points, making all six of her field goal attempts. She also added eight rebounds, three assists, and a steal. Senior forward McKenzie Forbes had ten points, four assists, three rebounds and two steals, while junior center Rayah Marshall had eight points, eight rebounds, three assists, two steals, and a block.

For Utah, who came in ranked No. 18, junior guard McQueen had 14 points, five rebounds, four assists, two steals, and a block. Sophomore guard Madison Wilke added 11 points, while junior forwards Jenna Johnson had six points, nine assists, and three rebounds.

While Sunday was the Trojans’ final home game of the regular season, there is a good chance that it will not be the final time they play in Galen Center this season. With the top 16 teams in the country getting home games for the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament, there is a good chance that USC will be back playing on Figueroa Street the weekend of March 22-25.

First, however, the Women of Troy will head to Arizona and Arizona State for their final two games of the regular season next weekend. After that, they will have a week off before heading to the Pac-12 Tournament in Las Vegas.

Tipoff between USC and Arizona in Tucson is set for Thursday evening at 5:00 p.m. PST/6:00 p.m. MST. The Women of Troy will then wrap up the regular season Sunday in Tempe at 11:00 AM PST/noon PST against Arizona State.