USC-Notre Dame Rivalry Hits The Hardcourt

Nov. 26, 2002

The Facts
The USC women's basketball team (3-1) will play its fifth game of this young season on Friday, Nov. 29, against ninth-ranked Notre Dame at 7 p.m. at the Sports Arena. The game can be heard on KMPC-AM 1540 in the Los Angeles area and live on the web. The Women of Troy kicked off the 2002-03 season just two weeks ago with wins over Northern Arizona, 63-55, and No. 19 Colorado State, 59-58, to advance to the Preseason WNIT semifinals, but were eventually eliminated by fourth-ranked Kansas State, 73-61, on Nov. 20. The Women of Troy defeated New Mexico, 55-48, in a regular season game on Saturday, Nov. 23.

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.

The Big Game On The Eve Of The Big Game
The most famous intersectional rivalry in college football will take place on Saturday, Nov. 30, as USC and Notre Dame meet for the 74th time in school history. It is only appropriate that the pre-game party begin on Friday for the other 'Big Game' as the women's basketball teams meet for only the fifth time in program history.

USC In The Polls
With its upset victory over 19th-ranked Colorado State (which dropped to 24th in the AP poll) to start the season, USC has been receiving votes. This week, the Trojans are 28th on the AP poll with 52 votes and 27th on the USA Today/ESPN poll with 85 votes.

Off To A Running Start
The Trojans spent no time at all warming up this season. In just two short weeks, USC will have already played five games, faced three ranked opponents (No. 29 Colorado State, No. 4 Kansas State, No. 9 Notre Dame), taken two road trips and played three home games all before most teams even play their second game of the year.

USC In the Preseason WNIT
The Trojans advanced to the semifinals of the Preseason Women's NIT to start 2002 after twice appearing in the postseason tournament (2000, 2002). As the fourth Pac-10 team to compete in the preseason event since its inception in 1994, the Trojans are the first to ever advance past the second round. Pac-10 teams are now 5-4 all-time in the preseason tourney.

Gobrecht One Win Away From 400th
Head coach Chris Gobrecht is just one win shy of collecting her 400th career victory. Currently in her 24th season as a head coach, Gobrecht boasts a 399-282 (.586) career record. With a win, she will be the third active Pac-10 coach to reach the 400-victory plateau behind Arizona's Joan Bonvicini and Stanford's Tara VanDerveer.

Catch Women of Troy Over L.A. Airwaves!
Starting with this Friday's (Nov. 29) USC-Notre Dame match-up, USC's flagship station KMPC-AM 1540 will air six Women of Troy basketball games this season. Play-by-play announcer Peter Arbogast and color commentator, and Women of Troy alum, Carmen Krause (USC '01) will call the action at the following games: Nov. 29 vs. Notre Dame, Dec. 14 vs. Tenn., Jan. 12 at UCLA, Jan. 24 vs. Cal, Feb. 8 vs. UCLA and Feb. 14 vs. Arizona State.

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

Game Recap: USC def. New Mexico, 55-48
Ebony Hoffman posted 18 points and a career high seven steals as USC defeated New Mexico, 55-48, in a defensive showdown on Nov. 23. The Trojans took advantage of 31 New Mexico turnovers, including 11 in the final 10 minutes of the game, to take the final lead. Back-to-back three-pointers by junior Jessica Cheeks and Meghan Gnekow put the Women of Troy up, 45-43, with 3:14 left in the game. USC controlled the momentum from that point on, hitting 6-of-6 free throws down the stretch to secure the win. The Lobos led the entire first half and entered the break ahead 20-19. Six minutes into the second half, New Mexico used its own 14-3 run to seemingly take control of the game with a six-point advantage, 34-28, at the 12:15 mark.

WNIT Semifinal Recap: #4 Kansas State def. USC, 73-61
The Wildcats committed 29 turnovers against a physical USC women's basketball team, which pressured them often and aggressively. But the Wildcats' Kendra Wecker had 24 points, 18 in the second half, and 12 rebounds to lead No. 4 Kansas State to a 73-61 victory over the Women of Troy on Nov. 20. Despite the sloppy play, Kansas State never trailed. Rachel Woodward led USC (2-1) with 13 points, Meghan Gnekow added 12 and Aisha Hollans posted 11. Guard Jessica Cheeks also led with six steals in the effort.

WNIT Quarterfinal 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. CSU pulled 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 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) and again at 53-53 and 56-56. On the final USC possession, Jessica Cheeks dished to Woodward who hit the game-winning three-pointer.

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.

2003 Player News N' Notes
* Ebony Hoffman posted a career high seven steals in win over New Mexico (Nov. 23).
* 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 399-282 (.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 399 career victories.

Opponent Notes

Notre Dame -- The ninth-ranked Fighting Irish will open the 2002 season on Tuesday, Nov. 26, against Cleveland State at home before traveling to Los Angeles for Thanksgiving. Notre Dame won its two exhibition games by 87-50 and 70-60 scores. Under 16th-year head coach Muffet McGraw, the Irish return nine letterwinners and three starters from the 2002 squad which advanced to the second round of the NCAAs. Notre Dame completed the 2002 season with a 20-10 overall record, 13-3 mark in the Big East for a second place finish and a No. 27 final national ranking. This season, the team will be led by returning All-American honorable mention pick senior guard Alicia Ratay who led last year's squad with 15.4 points per game. The 2002 USBWA Freshman of the Year, forward Jacqueline Batteast also returns to lead the Irish on the boards after averaging 7.8 rebounds per outing as a newcomer.

USC-Notre Dame Series Record -- Despite the long storied history these two football programs share in football, USC and Notre Dame have only met four times in women's basketball history. The first meeting took place in 1995 and resulted in a 69-53 USC victory. Since then, the Fighting Irish won the last three games - a 74-59 win in South Bend in 1999, a 70-61 victory at the Sports Arena in 2000 and a 62-49 win on the road last season.

Notre Dame Probable Starters
No. Name Pos. Ht. ppg rpg apg spg

33 Katy Flecky F 6-2 4.9 3.3 0.8 0.6
21 Jacqueline Batteast F 6-1 13.8 7.8 2.0 1.3
12 Teresa Borton C 6-3 6.0 4.8 1.0 0.4
4 Le'Tania Severe G 5-9 6.6 3.8 4.9 2.0
22 Alicia Ratay G 5-11 15.4 5.5 1.5 1.1

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... vs. KSU (11/20): 12 points (5-12), 4 rebounds, 2 steals... vs. New Mexico (11/23): 5 points (1-6), 5 rebounds, 3 assists, 7 steals...

#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... vs. KSU (11/20): started, 7 points (1-9), 2 rebounds, 3 assists, 6 steals... vs. New Mexico (11/23): started, 15 points (7-10), 4 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals...

#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... vs. KSU (11/20): DNP... vs. New Mexico (11/23): 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... vs. KSU (11/20): started, 6 points (3-7), 2 rebounds... vs. New Mexico (11/23): 5 points (1-6), 5 rebounds, 3 assists, 7 steals... vs. New Mexico (11/23): started, 1 rebound, 1 assist, 1 steal...

#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... vs. KSU (11/20): 11 points (4-17), 5 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 steal... vs. New Mexico (11/23): 6 points (3-9), 3 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... vs. KSU (11/20): started, 2 points (1-4), 3 rebounds, 4 assists, 4 steals... vs. New Mexico (11/23): started, 4 rebounds, 2 assists...

#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... vs. KSU (11/20): started, 10 points (4-10), 6 rebounds, 1 assist, 2 steals... vs. New Mexico (11/23): started, 18 points (6-11), 3 rebounds, 3 assists, career-high 7 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... vs. KSU (11/20): started, 13 points (4-9), 5 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 block, 2 steals... vs. New Mexico (11/23): started, 11 points (3-11), 6 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal...

#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... vs. KSU (11/20): Did not travel... vs. New Mexico (11/23): DNP...

#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... vs. KSU (11/20): 3 rebounds, 2 assists... vs. New Mexico (11/23): 1 rebound, 1 assist...

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