USC Women Defeat Bears, 69-53

BERKELEY, Calif. - With a 69-53 victory over California on Friday (Dec. 28) at Haas Pavilion, the USC women's basketball team is off to its best start in Pac-10 play since 1997. The victory is the Trojans fourth consecutive as the team improves to 7-5 overall and 3-0 against conference opponents. Cal drops its sixth straight and falls to 4-6 overall, 0-3 in the Pac-10.

'USC stepped up when they needed to,' said Cal coach Caren Horstmeyer. 'Forwhatever reason, we have struggled about the last six games, being able to getit close and then not being able to get over the hump. Our goal is to be ableto get over that hump.'

The Women of Troy were led by sophomores Aisha Hollans, Ebony Hoffman and Jessica Cheeks. Hollans, a Berkeley native, and Hoffman posted double-doubles with 14 rebounds apiece and 19 and 13 points, respectively. Hollans' 14 boards are a career high. Cheeks contributed 16 points in addition to a career-high eight assists and six steals. Freshman Rachel Woodward added 11 points.

USC led by seven at the end of the first half, 35-28, and built its lead to 13 at 45-32 with 16:36 remaining in the game. The Bears didn't let the Trojans out of their sight, putting on a 15-4 run over the next 5:35 to pull within two (49-47).

Cal outshot USC 45.1 percent to 39.5 percent from the floor, but the Women of Troyhelped their cause by dominating the offensive glass. USC outrebounded Cal, 50-29.

'USC really stepped up in rebounding and forced turnovers,' said Horstmeyer,'We had 28 turnovers and only forced 19. Their defense led to their offense because they really struggled against the zone, and we weren't rebounding out of it.'

USC head coach Chris Gobrecht was not surprised Cal kept the game close.

'It's a credit to Cal's work ethic,' said Gobrecht. 'They're a team that doesn't let things faze them. A team that understands their strengths and weaknesses and keeps on playing is always going to have a performance they can be proud of. That's what they do. The boards were the difference in the game. We were unbelievable on the boards.'

It was this tenacious rebounding that helped USC go on a 10-2 run to rebuild its lead back to double figures (59-49) with 6:22 on the clock. The Bears still had time to recover but were hurt by five of their 28 turnovers in the final minutes of the game.

USC travels to Palo Alto on Sunday, Dec. 30, to face sixth-ranked Stanford at 2 p.m. at Maples Pavilion. The game will be a battle of the unbeaten as both teams enter unscathed against conference foes.

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