NCAA Womens Basketball: Stanford at Southern California

USC head coach Lindsay Gottlieb addressed the crowd at Galen Center on Sunday with one simple message: "We are building something special."

The Trojans pulled off a 55-46 upset over then-No. 2 Stanford, which became Gottlieb's second victory against an AP top-five team since taking over the program in 2021. It's not a small achievement, as Stanford has been a dominant force in the Pac-12, winning 39 conference games in a row ahead of the matchup against the Trojans. 

USC improved to 13-4 overall and 3-3 in Pac-12 action while Stanford took its second loss of the season to go 17-2 overall and 5-1 in conference play. The Cardinal dropped to No. 4 in the latest AP Top 25 poll.

The game was far from perfect for the Trojans, as Stanford held USC to just 27.3% shooting from the field. But Gottlieb did not look at the stats after the game, because after a win like that, "who cares, right?"

She was drenched from the locker room celebration on Sunday, though the previous week felt very different when The Trojans had to swallow a tough 61-60 loss to UCLA. After that one, the coach did not hide her emotions and said that "If a loss hurts like this, then you're doing some things right."

Gottlieb said she felt her team was so close to success and she wasn't able to take them all the way to the finish line after the UCLA loss. She was disappointed for not getting her team a win, but seven days later --  and picking up a 63-43 victory over Cal along the way -- the Trojans finally had something to show how far they've come.

"I think if you're doing it right, you learn more from your players than they learn from you. They helped me through that and showed me what can come on the other end of it," Gottlieb said after the victory over Stanford. "I think it's significant for this team right now and also for the legacy of what we are trying to do here."

UCLA had been in the back of everyone's mind -- not just the coach's.

Stanford, who had been down by double digits, got within six points with under four minutes remaining.

"In the fourth quarter, I had a flashback to UCLA, I'm not gonna lie. I didn't want that to be the outcome," grad student guard Destiny Littleton said. "Just throughout the game I knew this was going to be a possession game. I knew just because we jumped out at them in the first quarter that the game wasn't over. When they made their run, I brought (my team) together and I'm like, 'look, we are fine. Just keep doing what we are doing.'"

USC showed off its impressive defense from the start by holding Stanford to only four points in the first quarter. That was the fewest Stanford has scored in a frame all season, but this was nothing new for the Trojans, as that was the 14th time this season they have allowed fewer than 10 points in a quarter.

It was also the ninth time USC held an opponent under 50 points this season.

The Trojans' roster has seven transfers this year, but clearly the group has merged well. Littleton used to average nine minutes a game when at South Carolina, but has stepped up big time at USC. On Sunday, she registered a game-high 18 points.

She said people always ask her why she transferred from the No. 1 team in the nation to an unranked program, but Littleton feels no regrets about her decision.

"I knew and I trusted in Lindsay that I was going to come here and try to change the trajectory of USC, put USC back on the map because it needs to be..." she said. "I think we all believed in what we could be, now we are finally seeing the benefits of it."