Bringin' It Back (East): USC Women Head To NCAA Tourney
March 14, 2006
HERE AND NOW
USC is making back-to-back appearances at the NCAA Tournament with this year's No. 8 seed into the Bridgeport Regional. The Women of Troy bring an 18-11 overall record into the 2006 tourney after finishing tied for fourth in the Pac-10 regular season, and then reaching the semifinals of the Pac-10 Tournament. The Trojans will open their 2006 NCAA Tournament run with a first-round matchup against No. 9 seed South Florida on Sunday (March 19) at Old Dominion's Ted Constant Convocation Center in Norfolk, Va. The winner of that first-round matchup will face either top-seeded Duke or No. 16 seed Southern in the second round on Tuesday (March 21). USC's competition can be followed through live online audio at www.usctrojans.com. Games will also be broadcast by ESPN2/ESPNU.
RANK AND FILE
USC (18-11) remains unranked entering the 2006 NCAA Tournament. South Florida (19-11) and Southern (20-10) also are unranked, while Duke is ranked No. 4 in both polls.
BRINGIN' IT BACK (EAST)
Although a good 2,700 miles away, Norfolk, Va., is a historic place for the Women of Troy. In 1983, Norfolk was host to the NCAA Women's Final Four, and the Trojans made history that year with their first-ever NCAA title. The 1983 USC squad felled Mideast champion Georgia 81-57 to earn a place in the title match. There, the Women of Troy faced defending champ Louisiana Tech and posted a 69-67 victory to claim the 1983 NCAA championship.
USC is 28-12 in the NCAA Tournament, with two NCAA title victories (1983 and 1984).
This is the Trojans' 14th trip to the Tournament
The 2005 Tournament was USC's first trip to the NCAA tourney since 1997, and the Trojans won their first-round game 65-49 before falling 61-59 to eventual finalist Michigan State.
Head coach Mark Trakh and assistant coaches Derek Wynn and Kai Felton have made four appearances in the tournament -- once with USC last season and three times with Pepperdine (2000, 2002, 2003). The 2005 first-round win with the Trojans was Trakh's first win in the tourney.
Assistant coach Jody Wynn has made seven appearances in the NCAA Tournament -- three as a player at USC (then Jody Anton), three as an assistant under Trakh at Pepperdine, and last year's trip with USC. As a player, she beat Nebraska 78-60 and lost to Texas Tech 87-67 in 1993; beat Portland 77-62, beat George Washington 76-72, beat Virginia 85-66 and lost to Louisiana Tech 75-66 in 1994; and lost to Memphis 74-72 in 1995.
USC is 6-9 this season against teams that made it into the 64-team field of the 2006 NCAA Tournament (0-3 against No. 3 seed Stanford, 2-0 against No. 5 seed UCLA, 1-1 against No. 4 seed Arizona State, 2-1 against No. 9 seed Washington, 0-1 against No. 1 seed Ohio State, 1-0 against No. 11 seed TCU, 0-2 against No. 10 seed California and 0-1 against No. 9 seed Notre Dame).
USC has four players who will be sidelined for the NCAA Tournament. Junior forward Jamie Funn had hip surgery on Jan. 18. Her final game was against No. 25 Washington on Jan. 14. Sophomore guard Brynn Cameron also had hip surgery on March 8. Her last game for USC was Jan. 21 against UCLA. Sophomore guard Símone Jelks reaggravated a knee injury and played her last game of the season against WSU on Feb. 11. Junior forward Markisha Lea broke her arm in practice on March 14 and also will not play in the tournament.
A WIN TO REMEMBER
USC's back was up against the wall in its Pac-10 Tournament quarterfinal game against Washington. Teetering at the No. 5 seed after a fouth-place tie in the Pac-10 regular season with the Huskies, the Trojans were in desperate need of a win to leapfrog them past Washington and into the 18-win zone. For the 19th time this season, Eshaya Murphy led the Trojans in scoring, hitting 21 points on a career-high five 3-pointers. Camille LeNoir also joined Murphy in double figures with 17 behind a trio of threes, and Nadia Parker tied her career high of 10 points for USC. After Emily Florence scored the first points of the game for the Huskies, it was nothing but Cameo Hicks for Washington in the entire first half. Hicks had 18 points in the first half, while USC had six different scorers in the half -- led by 12 points from LeNoir. The Trojans' balanced attack and hard work on the boards helped boost the Women of Troy to a 32-20 halftime lead, Washington's lowest first-half scoring output of the season. Washington was shooting 19 percent going into the locker room, and USC was at 32 percent, while the Trojans held a 28-27 rebounding edge. Both teams heated up considerably in the second half. The Trojans warmed up first and took a 16-point lead with 15:22 to go in the game, but the Huskies answered back and ate into that lead. Florence and Hicks tag-teamed the Trojans again for a 7-0 Washington run that cut USC's lead to 55-53 at the 6:00 mark, but a 3-pointer from Jamie Hagiya helped boost the Trojans' confidence back up. Murphy hit a three of her own for a 63-57 USC lead with four minutes left to play, and the Women of Troy were able to hold onto an advantage the rest of the way for the win.
A LOSS TO FORGET
Welcome to the Twilight Zone. Where offenses run smoothly and defense plays out as planned, but still the Cards are stacked against you. USC's Pac-10 Tournament semifinal game pitted the Trojans against defending champion Stanford. The Cardinal were hot. The Women of Troy were not. Although the Trojans were getting the offensive looks they aimed for, an alarmingly limited number of those shots fell. USC finished the game with the second lowest point total (44 points) and third lowest shooting percentage (.257) in history. Stanford wound up shooting 40 percent from the field and 39 percent from 3-point range, eventually equalling the point total it hit in last year's Pac-10 semifinal matchup with USC, while the Women of Troy fell a good 25 points short of the production they had posted in 2005, when the Cardinal won 73-69. In the 2006 rematch, USC -- which shoots 32.5 percent from 3-point range and shot 35.7 percent the previous night -- shot just 11 percent from behind the arc. Season lows aside, Eshaya Murphy still managed to notch her 23rd consecutive double-digit game, and Markisha Lea pulled down a career-high eight rebounds and had her first career block.
JASKOWIAK FAMILY REUNION
The Jaskowiak family will be piling up the mileage points this NCAA Tournament, with two daughters in on the Big Dance. USC junior guard/forward Allison Jaskowiak is making her second straight trip to the tournament with the Women of Troy, and this year her sister Emily will be joining in the Hurricane's first-ever trip NCAA appearance a senior forward at Tulsa. Seeing both daughters in action is doable. Emily plays North Carolina State on March 18 in Chicago, and Allison and the Trojans tip off on March 19 in Virginia. As the No. 12 seed in the San Antonio Regional, Tulsa could meet the Trojans in the Final Four.
USC extended its winning streak against crosstown Pac-10 rival UCLA to three straight with a season sweep of the Bruins, who boast three Region 8 All-America finalists and went on to capture the Pac-10 Tournament championship with a upset win over Stanford. For five straight games now, the Trojans and the Bruins have played tight games, with the past five being decided by four or fewer points.
After nailing four 3-pointers against Oregon, Eshaya Murphy pulled even with assistant coach Jody Wynn (then Jody Anton) in the all-time charts. Another pair of threes against OSU, however, rang up Murphy's total to 105 career 3-pointers, bumping Wynn down to No. 4 all-time. And after nailing five threes against Washington on March 4, Murphy jacked up her total to the No. 1 count of 110, holding her in a three-way tie as the all-time career 3-point shooter at USC.
The second half of Pac-10 play was a battle for the Trojans. Even in an eventual nine-point loss to Stanford, the final of minute of play was a nail-biter, and that's been the trend throughout. Entering the final minute of play, no game has had more than a six-point margin. Against Cal, USC trailed by five in the final minute; against Stanford it was four; at Oregon it was a three-point game; against Washington and at UCLA it was two; at Arizona it was a one-point game; and at OSU the teams were tied up with a minute on the clock. USC's second clash with Washington wound up going into double overtime for the fifth overtime game between the two in series history, and their match in the Pac-10 Tournament got as close a two points with five minutes to play.
Senior captain Meghan Gnekow has worked her way into and upwards on the USC career 3-point shooting charts and now sits at No. 5 all-time with 98 threes, having passed up injured sophomore Brynn Cameron's 91. Leading the pack of current Trojans on the list is junior Eshaya Murphy tied at No. 1 with 110 career threes. Newcomer to the Top-10 chart is junior Jamie Hagiya, who has taken over the No. 8 slot with 79.
MURPHY LAYS DOWN THE LAW
Junior guard Eshaya Murphy has led USC in scoring 20 times so far this season and has hit double figures in 23 straight games now -- 27 total. In USC's gut-wrenching 67-64 loss at Oregon State on Feb. 25, Murphy hit a career-high 27 points. That was just a game after hitting 21 points in the second half alone at Oregon on Feb. 23. She had a double-double in that Oregon match as well, notching her fifth of the season with 23 points and 10 rebounds in the 69-64 comeback win. Now with 62 three-pointers on the season, Murphy has more than matched her previous career total and now is tied at No. 1 all-time with 110 threes. Entering the NCAA Tournament, she is tied at No. 50 in the nation in scoring with 17.6 points per game, and was second in steals (2.4 spg), third in 3-pointers (2.3 pg), fourth in scoring and fifth in rebounding (7.5 rpg) entering the Pac-10 Tournament. Murphy also recently was named a Region 8 All-America finalist.
Sophomore point guard Camille LeNoir has been a key part of the balanced attack for the Women of Troy. She's USC's top distributor with 4.1 assists per game (fourth in Pac-10) and has scored in double digits in every game but eight. In her first start for USC on Dec. 20, she finished with just four points, but dished up a season-high six assists. Since then, she hit a new career-high 24 points against California on Jan. 1 that came along with a career-best five 3-pointers, and hit a pair of jumpers to get USC into the lead against No. 9 Arizona State on Jan. 6 in a 13-point outing. Against UCLA, LeNoir knocked in a career night with 27 points (22 in the second half and 12-of-14 from the free-throw line) and seven assists, earning her Pac-10 Player of the Week honors. Recently against WSU, LeNoir bettered that career mark with eight assists on Feb. 11. Her next career best came at OSU when she picked off five steals on Feb. 25.
HAGIYA HEATS UP
USC junior point guard Jamie Hagiya had a hot night against Washington State on Jan. 12, matching her career high of 16 points on four 3-pointers and a 100 percent effort from the free-throw line. She began the season by going from season highs to career highs in a span of two games when she first nailed a season-best 13 points and three 3-pointers against LMU, and then upped the ante with four 3-pointers on her way to a career-high 16 points and grabbed a career-best seven steals against Cal State Northridge. She's second on the team in assists with 3.7 per game and third in steals with 1.5 per game.
JASKOWIAK OFF THE PINE AND ON THE RADAR
Allison Jaskowiak is a bench-warmer no more. Stifling defensive pressure and tenacious rebounding have earned the junior guard/forward a starting job in USC's last 15 Pac-10 games, giving her 21 starts on the season. She's gone from averaging just 7.7 minutes a game as a sophomore to 26.2 mpg as a junior, doubled her career high scoring to 12 points, scored in 19 games and more than doubled her previous career total rebounds and 3-pointers with 121 boards and 12 threes so far this season. Against Washington on Feb. 9, she pulled down a career-high 10 rebounds, and she came just one point shy of her career best with 11 crucial points against UCLA on Feb. 18.
PARKER IN THE PAINT
Freshman center Nadia Parker has made a home for herself in the key. She scored in 11 straight Pac-10 games, and set career marks in rebounds with seven against Cal on Jan. 1 and then topped out with 10 points and a pair of steals against Arizona on Jan. 8. She just matched that career best with 10 points against Washington in the Pac-10 Tournament.
KERR IN THE KEY
Junior center Chloe Kerr went big against UCLA on Feb. 18 with a career-high 21 points on 75-percent shooting from the floor. It wasn't quite the .900 mark she hit early in the season vs. Cal State Fullerton, but the big-time scoring effort more than cracked a small slump for Kerr. Kerr had totaled 21 points across the past previous three games before busting loose with career night of 21 all in one game vs. crosstown rival UCLA. She's also ranked No. 3 in the Pac-10 in blocked shots with 1.45 per game.
TAGTEAM, BACK AGAIN
Guards Eshaya Murphy and Camille LeNoir created a dangerous scoring tandem in many of USC's biggest wins this season. As the trend goes, Murphy was the hot-handed one in the first half, followed by LeNoir's cool and collected second-half spikes. In the Jan. 6 win over then-No. 9 ASU, Murphy scored 11 points -- all from the field -- in the second half and finished with a career-best 22. LeNoir then stepped in and drilled eight of her final 13 in the second. The following weekend at No. 25 Washington, Murphy poured in 13 first-half points (finished with 19), and LeNoir pumped in 14 second-half points on the way to an 18-point night. In a tight win over UCLA, Murphy nailed four 3-pointers and had 16 points by halftime before giving way to LeNoir's sharpshooting from the field and the free-throw line. Murphy finished with 20 points on 67 percent shooting, and LeNoir added a career-high 27 -- 22 of which came in the second half (11 in second-half free throws).
USC has now hit the .500 mark in shooting percentage twice this season, going .526 in a 94-54 win over Cal State Fullerton on Dec. 16, 2005, and then hitting 50 percent on the money against Washington State on Feb. 11, 2006. Chloé Kerr had a big role in the .526 output with a .900 effort on 9-of-10 shooting. No Trojan had hit such a high mark since 1987, leaving Kerr tied at No. 5 all-time for her single-game shooting percentage against the Titans.
The USC women's basketball team has had at least three players score in double figures in 17 games so far this year, suffering their first loss with three double-digit scorers on Jan. 29 vs. Stanford. In an earlier dominating win over Cal State Northridge, six players nailed double digits and all 10 players who hit the court scored in the game. At the Waikiki Beach Marriott Classic, four players hit double digits in both games. Chloé Kerr, Eshaya Murphy and Camille LeNoir all hit double digits twice, as the Trojans had eight and seven different scorers, respectively, emerge against Hawai'i and Eastern Illinois. Against Notre Dame, Cal State Fullerton, vs. Oregon State, and at ASU and UCLA, the Women of Troy produced another balanced attack with four double-digit scorers, although the Notre Dame and ASU games saw the Trojans get stuck with a loss despite that widespread scoring production.
BACK ON THE BOARDS
USC's 27 offensive rebounds in its season opener against Eastern Illinois bettered last season's top offensive boards mark of 26, set on Feb. 12, 2005 against Arizona. USC had 52 total rebounds in that game, but bettered that mark once more against Cal State Fullerton with 55 rebounds. USC hasn't hit such a high mark on the boards since tearing down 58 against New Mexico on Nov. 21, 2003.
COUNTDOWN TO GALEN
This season marks the final stint for the USC women and men in the Lyon Center and Sports Arena, as the Trojans eagerly await the completion of the highly anticipated Galen Center. The Galen is set to be the new home for basketball and volleyball for the 2006-07 season. All systems are go over at the new site, with construction in its final stages for the impressive facility. The structure is located on the corner of Jefferson and Figueroa, and will contain a 255,000 square-foot arena capable of seating 10,258 fans. Locker rooms, practice courts, offices and more will also find shelter within the Galen Center walls.
BACK IN ACTION
USC returns 10 players from last season to this year's roster that registered a 20-11 overall record, second-place finish in the Pac-10 and second-round NCAA Tournament appearance, and has added to it one highly regarded recruit, one walk-on player and a complete coaching staff with their first season at Troy tucked solidly under their belts. All told, almost 80 percent of the Trojans' scoring production returns to the court for the 2005-06 campaign. Leading the way are a pair of sophomore guards -- Camille LeNoir and Brynn Cameron -- who started as freshmen and emerged as the Trojans' top two scorers. The pair accounted for 18.5 points per game last season. Even mightier as a group is this year's junior class of six -- comprised of Jamie Hagiya, Jamie Funn, Eshaya Murphy, Chloé Kerr, Allison Jaskowiak and Markisha Lea. That group averaged a combined 27.1 ppg, 17.2 rpg, 6.16 apg and 5.0 spg last season as sophomores. The lone senior on the squad, Meghan Gnekow brings back her experience and adept skills on the boards as the team's leading rebounder (5.8 rpg last season) and defensive stopper.
PRESEASON PICK 'EM
Last season's 20-11 overall record, second-place finish in the Pac-10 and second-round NCAA Tournament appearance -- coupled with a daunting 10 returners back -- translated into several preseason rankings for the Women of Troy. In 2004-05, the Trojans were one of five Pac-10 teams to reach the NCAA Tournament and win at least one game. This season, USC has been picked to finish No. 2 behind No. 1 Stanford in the Pac-10 Coaches Poll and No. 3 in the Pac-10 Media Poll behind UCLA. In the larger 2005-06 scene, USC also was chosen among the elite top 25 teams in the nation, selected at No. 22 standing in the USA Today/ESPN Preseason Poll and a No. 24 slot in the Associated Press Top 25 Women's Basketball Poll. The Women of Troy join five other Pac-10 schools in the national preseason polls. In the Athlon preseason poll, USC picked up its highest ranking at No. 16, while Lindy's had the 2005-06 Trojans at No. 21.