Women's college basketball winners and losers: USC's big upset, building generational fandom

USC's Kayla Williams, left, and Okako Adika celebrates after USC upset Stanford 55-46 in a Pac-12 women's college basketball game on Jan. 15, 2023, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
USC's Kayla Williams, left, and Okako Adika celebrate after USC upset Stanford 55-46 on Jan. 15, 2023, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

The biggest upset of the season to date belongs to USC. The Trojans shocked Final Four favorite and No. 2-ranked Stanford, 55-46, on Sunday at the Galen Center in Los Angeles. It was one of four games in which an unranked team took down a team ranked in the Associated Press Top 25.

The 46 points scored by Stanford are its fewest since February 2017 when the No. 8-ranked Cardinal lost to then-No. 10 Oregon State, 50-47, per ESPN Stats and Information. The output is 55% of their average 82.5 points per game. Their previous low this season was 60 points against Cal a week ago in what was also their lowest margin of victory, 60-56.

Stanford (17-2, 5-1 Pac-12) and No. 1 South Carolina (18-0, 6-0 SEC), the other team to have taken down the Cardinal, started off the season as clear-cut favorites to return to the Final Four. The other two spots were the ones largely debated. Now Stanford looks more vulnerable to making it back.

Few things went well for the Cardinal. Cameron Brink was the only player in double digits at 11 points on a poor 3-of-14 day that included all five missed 3-pointers, though she added 14 rebounds and four blocks. Talana Lepolo (9) and Haley Jones (8) were the only other players above 5 points.

They were behind from the start, heading into the second quarter trailing 11-4, and were 29.2% (7-of-24) from the field, including making 1 of 9 3-point attempts. By game’s end, they made 17 baskets on 55 attempts, both season lows, and four 3-pointers, tied with the Cal game for fewest.

In six Pac-12 contests, Stanford is shooting 42.9%. But in their last three, which include the 60-56 win over Cal and a 72-59 win over UCLA, the Cardinal are hitting at a 35% clip and averaging 12 assists per game when they’re at 17.5 for the season.

Stanford will be on upset alert again on Friday when they host Utah (15-1, 5-1), which defeated No. 14 Arizona, 80-79 on Sunday. Stanford has yet to face Oregon (Jan. 29).

USC (13-4, 3-3) is nearing its 2021-22 Pac-12 win total of five with victories against Oregon State and Cal preceding Sunday’s win. Second-year head coach Lindsay Gottlieb used seven players, led by Destiny Littleton’s 18 points (5-of-15) and six assists. USC also struggled offensively, shooting 27% but made up for it, hitting 8 of 19 3-point attempts and doubling Stanford up at the free-throw line.

Loser: Iowa State and Stephanie Soares

Iowa State, ranked No. 15, was one of those Top 25 teams that took an upset loss, 68-53, against a Texas team that had already fallen out of the rankings.

The loss was bad, but not as detrimental as the news earlier in the week that center/forward Stephanie Soares sustained a torn ACL and is out for the remainder of the season. It is the same ACL she had previously torn.

Soares is a 6-foot-6 graduate transfer from The Master’s University, an NAIA school in California, who had played her way onto WNBA teams’ radars. She’s a two-time NAIA Player of the Year and averaged 14.4 points, 9.9 rebounds and three blocks in 22.6 minutes per game. Her 25.5 points per 40 minutes ranks 33rd in the nation and her block averages are third best.

The Cyclones (11-3, 3-1 Big 12) came into the conference schedule as favorites and had semi-rebuilt themselves around Soares to take the next step from a Sweet 16 berth. The loss of Soares showed against Texas (12-5, 3-1 Big 12), a defensive-minded team, which had one less threat to worry about after Ashley Joens. Joens scored 21 and was the only Cyclone in double digits.

Winner: Generation building

Women’s and girls sports are so, so young. It was not that long ago women were actively discouraged from participating in casual sport, let alone doing it at a professional level with salaries and marketing dollars on the table.

The sport is at a point now where 22-year-old players being drafted into the WNBA grew up watching their new teammates on TV. Pro coaches’ children are being drafted into leagues. So it was another nice moment to see these pictures hit the Twitter timeline over the stretch of the week.

This content is not available due to your privacy preferences.
Update your settings here to see it.

Seimone Augustus was in town for the unveiling of her statue at LSU. The photos of the ceremony and game were goosebump worthy for the amount of people who came out to see Augustus. Also in town was Sylvia Fowles, another LSU great who retired from the WNBA in September. And another WNBA player is on deck in Angel Reese, the sophomore forward who upped her double-double total to 18 in as many games. She’s averaging 23.9 points and 15.4 rebounds per game.

This content is not available due to your privacy preferences.
Update your settings here to see it.

One day it could be Reese in Augustus’ shoes taking a picture with a young girl hoping to make it to the pros one day. Although in this new world, it will probably be a TikTok.

Loser: Azzi Fudd and UConn’s luck

UConn’s season took another rush back down the roller-coaster camelback when National Player of the Year contender Azzi Fudd sat the second half of a 65-50 win against Georgetown.

Fudd appeared to tweak the right knee that kept her out of eight beginning in December. It was her second game back from that injury, but she went to the locker room alongside a trainer with a little more than 3 minutes left in the first half.

Head coach Geno Auriemma, who returned to the team last week after taking time away, said afterward a doctor was looking at the knee. He told SNY “it didn’t sound serious at all,” though that has been the case for injuries previously that turned into being serious.

Losing Fudd again is a blow to the Huskies (15-2, 8-0 Big East) for more than her scoring and playmaking abilities. Without her, UConn is back down to seven healthy players, the minimum needed by the Big East to play a game. UConn had to postpone a game against DePaul last week because of the rule.

“If Azzi’s out any period of time, like if she doesn’t play Tuesday, then we’re right back to square one, right?” Auriemma said.

Paige Bueckers and Ice Brady are out for the season. Caroline Ducharme and Ayanna Patterson remain out with concussions. UConn is set to travel to Seton Hall for a Tuesday game.

Winner: Tennessee’s threads

This Lady Vols’ look is nice.

This content is not available due to your privacy preferences.
Update your settings here to see it.

More teams should have a vintage look to break out, though arguably few programs are as iconic as Tennessee. Lady Vols legend Candace Parker was in the house (alumnae coming home was a trend this weekend) and the Summitt Blue looked so clean in court action. It was particularly sharp against the Georgia black.

This content is not available due to your privacy preferences.
Update your settings here to see it.

Win, win.

Loser: Not supporting the hometown team

There were plenty of solid crowd showings this weekend. North Carolina played in front of its first sellout since 2015 and defeated the higher-ranked NC State, 56-47, in Chapel Hill. Indiana welcomed 10,422 fans, the largest regular-season crowd in program history and second-most overall, for its 93-56 crushing of Wisconsin. Hawkeye nation continues to show up in droves.

It’s not the case for other programs, such as at Syracuse where 3,736 showed up to watch the high-achieving Orange (13-5, 4-3 ACC) take on top-10 Notre Dame (14-2, 5-1). Many of those fans were there for the Fighting Irish, packing the section behind the visiting bench in navy blue.

Syracuse’s first-year head coach Felisha Legette-Jack was asked about it after the 72-56 loss that was closer than the final score made it seem.

“It’s really great and easy to join a team when it’s already developed,” said Legette-Jack, a 1989 graduate and Syracuse native. “But getting in there on the grassroots and helping them rise, that’s a special feeling. That’s a feeling I had when I was a student-athlete here and they grew from a place where [the men’s team] had to get out of the Manley Field House because it was just too many fans wanting to [watch], so the Dome was built. And next thing you know, 34-35,000 people were coming to watch a 2-3 zone, right? And spectacular players. Well, we got one of the most spectacular players on our team right now and she’s going to need some support.”

Legette-Jack was referring to Dyaisha Fair, whose 19.6 points per game is third in the ACC behind Florida State freshman Ta’Niya Latson (24.3) and Louisville’s Hailey Van Lith (20.8). That star also has local roots as she grew up 90 minutes down the thruway. Two more players are from Rochester and Albany.

The men’s team is averaging about 17,000 fans a game these days and 20,666 had come out the night prior to watch Syracuse sneak by a Notre Dame men's team winless in the ACC. That’s largely because watching men’s games was created as an event to be at through years of growth that yes, included winning, but also included other forces.

School support, fan groups, local businesses bringing in celebrities, posters in business lobbies for consumers to see, small businesses promoting them while ignoring the women even when the women were doing better. It’s not only a Syracuse problem; it’s been a problem nearly everywhere until the ceiling is broken, usually by a woman punching it until it finally smashes.

Legette-Jack, who grew the program in Buffalo, can be that woman in Syracuse. Her callout pitting upstate cities against each other is a great shot. And challenge.

This content is not available due to your privacy preferences.
Update your settings here to see it.

“I just think that if you join us now, you’re going to be really proud of yourself,” Legette-Jack said. “We’ll take you in when we get great, if you want to come that late. But we’re going to see that you weren’t in that seat when we were growing this team. I’m an elephant. I don’t forget. And so the challenge is what we learned in Buffalo. We asked the community to come out, we commanded that they try to join us as we build it, and they did. And we grew and we grew and we got better. … And if you want Buffalo to outshine you, just keep not showing up. We’ll keep winning, though.”

Games to watch

Wednesday

Indiana (16-1, 6-1 Big Ten) at Illinois (15-3, 5-2), 8 p.m. ET, B1G

Thursday

Miami (12-6, 5-2 ACC) at N.C. State (13-5, 3-4), 6 p.m. ET, ACCN

Duke (16-1, 6-0 ACC) at North Carolina (12-5, 3-3), 8 p.m. ET, ACCN

Arkansas (16-3, 3-1 SEC) at LSU (18-0, 6-0), 9 p.m. ET, SECN

Friday

Utah (15-1, 5-1 Pac-12) at Stanford (17-2, 5-1), 9 p.m. ET, Pac-12

Villanova (16-3, 7-1 Big East) at Creighton (12-5, 6-3), 9 p.m. ET, FS1

Saturday

Kansas (12-4, 2-3 Big 12) at Iowa State (11-4, 3-2), 6 p.m. ET, Big12/ESPN+

Oklahoma State (13-4, 3-2 Big 12) at Oklahoma (14-2, 4-1), 7 p.m. ET, ESPN+

Sunday

NC State (13-5, 3-4 ACC) at Louisville (14-6, 5-2), 1 p.m. ET, ABC

Arkansas (16-3, 3-1 SEC) at South Carolina (18-0, 6-0), 3 p.m. ET, ESPN2

Colorado (14-3, 5-1 Pac-12) at Stanford (17-2, 5-1), 5 p.m. ET

Texas (13-5, 4-1 Big 12) at Baylor (12-5, 3-2), 5 p.m. ET, ESPN2

AP Top 25 Poll (as of Jan. 16)

1. South Carolina (18-0)

2. Ohio State (18-0)

3. LSU (18-0)

4. Stanford (17-2)

5. UConn (15-2)

6. Indiana (16-1)

7. Notre Dame (14-2)

8. Utah (15-1)

9. UCLA (15-3)

10. Iowa (14-4)

11. Maryland (14-4)

12. Virginia Tech (14-3)

13. Duke (16-1)

14. Michigan (15-3)

15. Oklahoma (14-2)

16. Gonzaga (17-2)

17. North Carolina (12-5)

18. Iowa State (11-4)

19. Arizona (14-4)

20. NC State (13-5)

21. Illinois (15-3)

22. Villanova (16-3)

23. Oregon (13-5)

24. Colorado (14-3)

25. Texas (13-5)