USC To Face No. 4 Kansas State In Preseason WNIT Semifinal

Nov. 18, 2002

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The Facts
The USC women's basketball team (2-0) kicked off the 2002-03 season with wins over Northern Arizona, 63-55, and No. 19 Colorado State, 59-58, in the first two rounds of the Preseason Women's NIT last week. With the victories, the Women of Troy advance to the semifinals and face No. 4 Kansas State (2-0) on Wednesday, Nov. 20, at 7:30 p.m. CST in Manhattan, Kan. The winner of the match-up will face either Penn State or Mississippi State in the finals on Sunday, Nov. 24, at a to-be-determined home site. USC will also host New Mexico this Saturday, Nov. 23, at noon at the Sports Arena in between the tournament games.

All USC home games can be heard live via the internet at www.usctrojans.com. To find the USC audio broadcast go to the 'Multimedia' link at the top of the homepage. You can also follow the game with Live Stats by going to the women's basketball schedule page.

USC, which advanced to the second round of the Postseason Women's NIT in 2002, looks to carry its late-season momentum into 2003. Under sixth-year head coach Chris Gobrecht, the Women of Troy return four starters and seven total letterwinners from last year's squad which posted a 16-14 overall record and 11-7 mark in the Pac-10 to finish tied for fourth place. This season, USC will look to All-American candidates and returning All-Pac-10 first team selections Ebony Hoffman and Aisha Hollans, in addition to 2002 Pac-10 All-Freshman team selection Rachel Woodward to make the difference.

USC In The Polls
With its win over 19th-ranked Colorado State, which dropped to 24th in the AP poll, USC came within seven points of entering AP's Top 25 this week.

USC In The Preseason WNIT
The Trojans are making their first-ever appearance in the Preseason Women's NIT, but has twice appeared in the postseason tournament (2000, 2002). USC is the fourth Pac-10 team to compete in the preseason event since its inception in 1994. Pac-10 teams are 3-3 all-time in the preseason tourney.

WNIT Second Round Recap: USC def. #19 Colorado State, 59-58
Rachel Woodward hit a three-pointer with seven seconds remaining to lift the USC women's basketball team to a 59-58 victory over 19th-ranked Colorado State on Nov. 17 in Fort Collins, Colo. Six of the first nine possessions in the game resulted in a turnover for each team, but the Rams hit a two and three-pointer in between to take the first lead, 5-2, with 18:12 on the clock. CSU continued to pull away in the first half and held the Trojans scoreless for two to three minutes at a time. But the Trojans managed to put together a 10-2 run as time ran down and entered the break down by 10, 30-21. The Women of Troy held CSU to only two field goals in the first nine minutes of the second half and used a 15-5 run to knot the score at 36-36 (13:08). USC again tied the score at 53-53 and 56-56 on free throws by Erin Young and a layup by Aisha Hollans. With 23 seconds remaining on the clock, CSU center Shannon Strecker hit a layup to put the Rams ahead 58-56. Jessica Cheeks then pushed the ball down court on the final USC possession and dished to Woodward who hit the game-winning three-pointer. After shooting only 24.3 percent from the field in the first half, the Women of Troy bounced back with a 57.7 effort in the second half. Woodward finished the game with a team-leading 20 points and eight rebounds, while Cheeks followed with 11 points and seven assists.

WNIT First Round Recap: USC def. Northern Arizona, 63-55
Behind a career-high 18 rebounds from Ebony Hoffman, USC defeated Northern Arizona, 63-55, in its season opener on Nov. 15. The start of the game was close, but behind the efforts of Rachel Woodward, who sparked the team with consecutive layups, the Women of Troy rallied to enter halftime with a 32-20 lead. USC took its biggest lead of the game in the second half as it went up by as much as 17 (42-25) at 15:43 on a jumper by Hoffman. Despite the Lumberjacks last-minute efforts and six second-half three-pointers, the Trojans maintained the advantage to earn the win. In the first game of the season, USC and Northern Arizona both suffered from turnovers and poor shooting at the line. The two teams posted 24 and 29 turnovers in the game, respectively, while shooting only 42.9 and 58.3 percent from the line. Hoffman collected a double-double with 18 rebounds and 14 points. Woodward led the team in scoring with 15 points.

The Last Time...
The last time the Women of Troy began the season with two wins was in 1999-2000 when USC defeated Portland and Creighton to start the year... The last time USC started with three straight wins was in 1998-99... Before beating No. 19 Colorado State last week, the last time the Women of Troy beat a ranked opponent was on Jan. 19, 2002 when they defeated No. 23 Arizona State.

Kansas State Connections
Wildcat junior forward/center Nicole Ohlde and sophomore guard Laurie Koehn both played with USC junior Ebony Hoffman on the 2002 USA Basketball World Championship For Young Women Qualifying Team this summer.

2003 Player News N' Notes
Ebony Hoffman collected a career-high 18 rebounds in a double-double effort against Northern Arizona (Nov. 15).

Hoffman Named Candidate For Naismith Award
Ebony Hoffman was named to the list of women's preseason candidates for the 2003 Naismith College Basketball Player of the Year Award. The Naismith Awards program, now in its 35th year, honors the outstanding college basketball players in the United States. The candidates were selected by a vote of the Board of Selectors comprised of leading basketball coaches, journalists and basketball analysts.

USC Boasts Nation's Second-Toughest Schedule
The Women of Troy have a definite challenge ahead of them this season - actually the No. 2 toughest challenge, according to the WBCA and its preseason nonconference strength of schedule rating. The Trojans are ranked No. 17 in overall strength of schedule. The 2003 schedule features Notre Dame (Nov. 29) at the Sports Arena and Tennessee (Dec. 14), who boasts the No. 1-rated toughest schedule, at the Forum, road games against New Mexico (Nov. 23), Pepperdine (Dec. 4), SMU (Dec. 18), Colorado (Dec. 21) and UC Santa Barbara (Jan. 9), and a Dec. 8 match-up at defending national champion Connecticut in Hartford, Conn.

Women Of Troy Earn Preseason Ranking
Athlon Sports magazine ranked the 2003 USC women's basketball team No. 24 nationally in a Preseason Top 25 Poll featured in its College Basketball edition on Sept. 16. USC is one of three Pac-10 teams represented in the poll. Stanford comes in at No. 7, while Oregon is No. 22. Duke received the No. 1 ranking. The Trojans will face seven ranked opponents this season, including Stanford, Oregon, No. 2 Tennessee (Dec. 14), No. 5 Notre Dame (Nov. 29), No. 8 Connecticut (Dec. 8) and No. 21 New Mexico (Nov. 23), with the possibility of playing No. 16 Colorado State (Nov. 17) in the second round of the Preseason Women's National Invitation Tournament. USC received votes in the AP and USA Today/ESPN polls.

A College Basketball Classic
The USC-Tennessee game on Saturday, Dec. 14, will be an event to remember. In addition to featuring two legendary programs at a legendary arena (Great Western Forum), the afternoon will include a reunion of USC's 1983 and 1984 NCAA Championship teams. The start time for the game has been set for 1:30 p.m. and it will be televised nationally by Fox Sports Net. Between them, USC and Tennessee have won eight national championships - USC owns two (1983, 1984) and Tennessee claims six (1987, 1989, 1991, 1996, 1997, 1998).

Hoffman Leads USA World Championship Team To Gold Medal
Finishing with a perfect 4-0 record, the 2002 USA Basketball World Championship For Young Women Qualifying Team claimed the gold medal with an 81-50 victory over host Brazil (4-1) on July 21 thanks to an 18-point, 11-rebound effort from junior Ebony Hoffman. Averaging a tournament leading 102.8 points an outing, the United States had five players finish with scoring averages in double digits, three of whom finished among the top 10 in the tournament in scoring. Leading the charge was Hoffman, who averaged a tournament fourth-best 13.3 points.

Trojans Welcome New Assistant Coach
Steve Brooks, a former prep basketball coach with more than 20 years of coaching experience, was named an assistant coach for the USC women's basketball team by head coach Chris Gobrecht in July. Brooks will be in charge of overseeing the individual development of the USC players, as well as on-campus recruiting, conditioning and scouting. He replaces Colleen Matsuhara, who became head women's coach at West Los Angeles Community College.

Returning Honorees
Forward Ebony Hoffman and guard Aisha Hollans were both named to the All-Pac-10 first team in 2002 - a first for the two standout players and the first, first-team selections for the Women of Troy since the 1999 season (also the first time USC has had two named to the first team since the 1994 season). Rachel Woodward also received her share of honors by being named to the conference All-Freshman team. Woodward finished the season third on the team in scoring (11.3 ppg), assists (1.8 apg) and blocked shots (0.6 bpg), and fourth in rebounding (4.9 rpg).

Rometra Craig To Join Team Dec. 19
A key to USC's success this season is the addition of Rometra Craig (Portola Valley, Calif.) - a 2002 junior transfer from Duke who will be eligible on Dec. 19 (one full year after her transfer date). A unanimous prep All-American at Archbishop Mitty High in San Jose, Calif., Craig was a member of Duke's heralded recruiting class of 2002. Before transferring, the junior averaged 17.9 minutes, 6.9 points and 2.1 rebounds per game with the Blue Devils. Craig will have one-and-a-half years of remaining eligibility at USC.

Two New Additions
There are two new additions to this year's Women of Troy roster - junior college transfer Tiffany Hicks and freshman Meghan Gnekow. Hicks is an experienced point guard who helped lead Iowa Western Community College to its first-ever district championship in 2002, while Gnekow will likely play at the 2/3 guard position and is expected to provide the team with necessary three-point shooting at those positions. She prepped at Lincoln (Neb.) High.

Even Newer Addition
Last week, the Women of Troy added a redshirt freshman walk-on to the 2002-03 roster. An academic sophomore, Alessandra Albrizzio is a 5-9 guard who hails from Holy Names High in El Cerrito, Calif.

Head Coach Chris Gobrecht
Chris Gobrecht enters her sixth season at the helm of the USC women's basketball program. Replacing former head coach Fred Williams on May 8, 1997, Gobrecht returned to her alma mater to help guide the Women of Troy back to national prominence. Throughout 24 years of head coaching experience, Gobrecht has amassed a 398-281 (.586) career record with her programs at Cal State Fullerton (six years), Washington (11), Florida State (one) and USC. During her 11-year tenure at Washington, she was twice named Pac-10 Coach of the Year (1987 and 1988). Gobrecht remains the second-winningest coach in conference history with a 171-99 (.633) mark and she ranks among the top 50 active Division I coaches with 398 career victories.

Opponent Notes

Kansas State -- The No. 4-ranked Wildcats defeated Ball State, 71-61, and Georgia Tech, 83-59, to advance to the Preseason WNIT semifinal. KSU returned nine letterwinners this season, including four starters, from its 2002 squad, which advanced to the NCAA Sweet Sixteen. Last season, the Wildcats finished 26-8 overall and 11-5 in the Big XIII to tie for third place. The team was ranked 11th in the final 2002 AP poll. Forward/center Nicole Ohlde and guard Laurie Koehn led the team in scoring last season with 17.9 and 17.6 points per game, respectively. Returning forward Kendra Wecker led on the boards with 7.9 rebounds per outing. So far this season, Wecker leads the team with 19.5 points per game and Ohlde leads on the boards with 11.0 rebounds per game.

USC-Kansas State Series Record -- Wednesday's game will be the first-ever meeting between the Trojans and Wildcats

Team Comparisons
Team Ppg Margin FG% 3-FG% FT% Rpg Apg TOpg Spg Bpg

USC 61.0 +4.5 39.0 17.4 57.9 41.5 14.5 23.5 6.5 2.0
Kansas State 77.0 +17.0 45.7 46.2 66.7 45.5 23.0 12.5 2.5 5.0

Kansas State Probable Starters
No. Name Pos. Ht. ppg rpg apg spg

42 Brie Madden F 6-3 7.0 8.0 2.0 0.0
53 Kendra Wecker F 5-11 19.5 10.0 4.5 1.0
3 Nicole Ohlde C 6-4 19.0 11.0 4.5 0.0
10 Laurie Koehn G 5-8 13.0 6.5 2.0 0.5
34 Megan Mahoney G 6-0 12.0 3.0 8.5 0.5

New Mexico -- New Mexico opens the 2003 season against the Trojans (the second team to do so this year) on Saturday, Nov. 23. The team returns 10 letterwinners and four starters from last year's squad, which posted a 22-9 overall record and 10-4 mark in the Mountain West to tie for second place. New Mexico is also coming off its fifth consecutive postseason appearance after advancing to the NCAA first round last season. In his eighth year at New Mexico, head coach Don Flanagan will look to top returners Jordan Adams (center), Chelsea Grant (forward) and Mandi Moore (guard) to lead the team this season.

USC-New Mexico Series Record -- Saturday's game will be the first-ever meeting between the Trojans and Lobos.

Player Profiles

#3 Rometra Craig (Guard * Junior TR)
Rometra Craig will begin her first season with the Women of Troy on Dec. 19, 2002... Transferred from Duke midway through the 2001-02 season and must sit-out one complete year to become eligible... Becomes eligible to join the team on Dec. 19... A talented guard who brings additional speed and aggressiveness to USC's backcourt... An All-American caliber player.

#5 Meghan Gnekow (Guard * Freshman)
Meghan Gnekow enters her first season at USC after starring at Santa Ynez (Calif.) County Union High... A guard with the potential of playing at the 2 or 3 spots... Expected to help the team because of her perimeter shooting... An athletic player who can handle the ball and make things happen.
This Season:
vs. NAU (11/15): 4 points (1-5), 2 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal... vs. CSU (11/15): 4 points (2-6), 4 rebounds...

#10 Jessica Cheeks (Guard * Junior)
Jessica Cheeks begins her third season with the Women of Troy... Was moved to the point guard position as a freshman, but may return to a more natural 2/3 position as a junior... Is a great asset to the team because of her size and agility in the backcourt... An all-around athlete with great instincts for the game... A returning starter.
This Season:
vs. NAU (11/15): started (at two guard), 13 points (6-13), 5 rebounds, 1 assist, 2 steals... vs. CSU (11/15): started, 11 points (5-11), 7 rebounds, 7 assists...

#20 Alessandra Albrizzio (Guard * RS Freshman)
Alessandra Albrizzio enters her first season with the Women of Troy as a walk-on.
This Season:
vs. NAU (11/15): DNP... vs. CSU (11/15): DNP...

#21 Erin Young (Forward * Senior)
Erin Young enters her senior year with the Women of Troy at forward... After joining the team as a freshman walk-on guard, she earned a scholarship for her final three seasons... Her shooting abilities are crucial to the team... Looks to become much more explosive after quiet sophomore and junior campaigns.
This Season:
vs. NAU (11/15): started (only 2nd career start), 4 points (1-4), tied career high with 5 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 block (first of career)... vs. CSU (11/15): started, 6 points (1-6), 5 rebounds, 2 assists...

#23 Aisha Hollans (Guard * Junior)
Aisha Hollans begins her third season with the Women of Troy... One of the most gifted guards in the conference and a crucial player to have on the court at all times... Named to the 2002 All-Pac-10 First Team... A 2003 ALL-AMERICAN candidate... A returning starter on the perimeter.
This Season:
vs. NAU (11/15): DNP (academic suspension)... vs. CSU (11/15): 8 points (4-16), 4 rebounds, 1 assist...

#24 Tiffany Hicks (Guard * Junior TR)
A transfer from Iowa Western Community College, Tiffany Hicks begins her first season at USC... She has two years of eligibility available with the Women of Troy... A classic point guard who will be relied upon heavily this season... A very responsible player who will defend and get the ball to all the right people.
This Season:
vs. NAU (11/15): started, 9 points (4-10), 2 rebounds3 assists.. vs. CSU (11/15): started, 3 points (1-3), 5 assists, 3 steals...

#32 Ebony Hoffman (Forward * Junior)
Ebony Hoffman enters her third season with the Women of Troy... One of the most dominating post players in the conference who had outstanding freshman and sophomore campaigns... Named to the 2002 All-Pac-10 First Team... Competed with the 2002 USA Basketball World Championship For Young Women Qualifying Team this summer... A 2003 ALL-AMERICAN candidate... A returning starter in the post.
This Season:
vs. NAU (11/15): started, double-double with 14 points (5-11) and career-high 18 rebounds, 2 assists, 3 blocks, 2 steals... vs. CSU (11/15): started, 5 points (1-5), 2 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals...

#33 Rachel Woodward (Forward * Sophomore)
Rachel Woodward enters her second season with the Women of Troy... A talented passer who runs the floor well... She can catch, pass and finish on the move... Works well in transition and possesses strong rebounding skills... Brings great size to the forward position... Named to the 2002 Pac-10 All-Freshman Team... A returning starter.
This Season:
vs. NAU (11/15): started, 15 points (5-15), 4 rebounds, 3 assists2 steals... vs. CSU (11/15): started, 20 points (9-13) including game-winning three-pointer, 8 rebounds, 1 block...

#35 Portia Mitchell (Center * RS Junior)
Portia Mitchell begins her redshirt junior year at USC... Her continued development has made a strong impact on the team... A player with good skills and great size... Continues to mature as a hard-working, responsible player.
This Season:
vs. NAU (11/15): DNP... vs. CSU (11/15): Did not travel...

#44 Kim Gipson (Center * Sophomore)
Kim Gipson begins her second season with the Women of Troy... A terrific, big-time physical player who has continued to excel as her skills and understanding of the game have improved... An exceptional, bright athlete whose natural skills will bring her much success.
This Season:
vs. NAU (11/15): 4 points (2-2), 2 rebounds, 1 assist... vs. CSU (11/15): 2 points (1-3), 3 rebounds...

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