Earlier in the day they had tossed red meat to a pack of wolves and lived to tell about it, so surviving the first round of the GCI Great Alaska Shootout was perhaps the second biggest accomplishment for the USC Trojans on Tuesday.
USC dominated early and finished with flair Tuesday to grab an 89-67 victory over the Missouri State women's basketball team in the Shootout's opening game at the Alaska Airlines Center.
The Trojans (3-1) put four players in double figures and got a double-double from Kristen Simon, a 6-foot-1 junior who felt far more comfortable on the basketball court than she did earlier in the day while visiting the Alaska Zoo, where Simon discovered she was unprepared for temperatures in the teens.
"I underpacked," said Simon, who is from Gardena, California. "We've been to Utah and Colorado, and I thought it couldn't be colder than that.
"My toes froze. As soon as the tour was over, I ran to the bus."
While at the zoo, the Trojans got to feed the wolves by tossing meat high over a fence. A couple of hours later, freshman guard Minyon Moore fed 11 assists to her teammates to spark the Trojans.
Five of Moore's assists came in the first quarter, when the Trojans charged to a 23-10 lead behind Simon's eight points and five rebounds.
Midway through the second quarter they pushed their lead to 43-15 with an 11-0 run. Jordan Adams pumped in seven of her 14 points in that stretch with a 3-pointer, a high-flying putback and a steal that led to a pair of free throws.
Down 49-27 at the half, Missouri State (1-3) came to life in the third quarter. The Bears started with a 12-2 run to come within 12 points, but that was as close as they got.
"We started out very focused offensively and defensively, especially defensively, and thought it set the tone for us," USC coach Cynthia Cooper-Dyke said. "We had a mental lapse in the third quarter but we recovered."
Cooper said she was glad to see her team bounce back from a 77-66 loss to UNLV Saturday in Nevada. The Trojans shot 45 percent from the field in that game and improved to 55 percent against Missouri State.
Moore furnished 15 points and five rebounds while more than doubling her assist total — she entered the game with 10 and now has 21 — and Sadie Edwards added 11 points.
Missouri State got a game-high 21 points from Liza Fruendt and 12 apiece from Aubrey Buckley and Danielle Gitzen. Buckley grabbed a team-high seven rebounds for a team that initially struggled on the boards but got better as the game went on.
"We had a pep talk with each other (at halftime) and said we needed to push the pace," Buckley said. "We could've played the whole 40 minutes with them, but we started slow."
Missouri State got points from all 10 of its players.
USC, which dressed four freshmen, played all 12 of its players, got points from nine and assists from nine.
Near the end of the game, a pair of Trojans turned in highlight-reel plays.
Asiah Jones, a 6-3 freshman forward, caught a long offensive rebound as she was moving backward and instantly buried a 15-foot jumper while her momentum was still taking her away from the hoop. A couple of possessions later, Edwards spun and dribbled her way past a couple of defenders before firing a long pass to an open Moore, who drilled a 3-pointer.