A Night To Remember
Nov. 15, 2006
USC pulled out all the stops in the first night of basketball at the brand-new Galen Center. As the Women of Troy look toward a shining future in their new facility, there was also a strikingly historic tone to the evening as USC honored two Trojan greats by retiring the jerseys of No. 31 Cheryl Miller and No. 33 Lisa Leslie on Friday, Nov. 10.
You could feel the energy in the arena when you arrived, and you could sense that the fans were expecting to see something special. The Women of Troy shot around to the hip-hop music being played over the speakers. The night was about being serious as much as it was about having fun, but one thing was for sure, a silent confidence pervaded the arena -- apparent through the loose nature of the Trojan players. In the hallway, some uniformed players were quite vocal about the way their injured teammates had arrived, dressed particularly nicely for tonight's ceremonies. As tip-off drew closer, the Women of Troy left the court first to gather in the locker room.
When the Trojans returned from their pregame meeting in the locker room, the whole arena could hear them in the hallway, cheering and chanting as they prepared to the take the court officially for the first time this season. As they circled the court with the fight song roared, fans in attendance stood to applaud them as formal warm-ups began. The Long Beach State lineup was announced first. Then, the lights went off, and music blared as strobe lights circled the arena. The PA announcer emphatically introduced the Trojan starters to raucous applause, cat calls and screams from fans. Smiles on their faces, the Trojans returned to the bench for one last pep talk, put their hands in on a huddle and came out as serious as ever.
The first half began somewhat slowly, with each team holding the other in check. But you could sense that the Trojans had what it took to pull away and it was only a matter of time before that would happen. Lisa Leslie sat near mid-court with her husband, watching the Women of Troy battle the 49ers and signing autographs for young fans. She was soon joined by Cheryl Miller, who also had engaged in an impromptu autograph session as she made her way to her seat alongside Leslie.
At halftime, two shrouded easels were set up at center court opposite each other, facing the fans on the west side of the arena. The 49ers and coaching staff left the court, but the Women of Troy all stood as the ceremony began. Teammates of Lisa Leslie, line including current assistant coach Jody Wynn, stood in a line at the south basket free-throw line, while teammates of Cheryl Miller stood in a line at the north basket free-throw line.
As the ceremony began and the lights dimmed, the PA announcer started out by introducing the reason for the night and rattling off statistic after impressive statistic of Lisa Leslie's as a montage of her great achievements were played on the scoreboard screen up above. Leslie then took the microphone and addressed the crowd, ending her speech encouraging the youth in attendance to follow their dreams, saying she'd see them in the WNBA one day. After Leslie's speech, a montage of Cheryl Miller's accomplishments at USC played on the big screen to the narration of the PA announcer. Afterwards, Miller took the microphone to much applause and addressed the crowd, indicating that her decision to come to USC was an easy one after Paula McGee had told her, 'You're a Bruin for four years (dramatic pause) but you're a Trojan for life -- and I'm a Trojan for life!'
The crowd went nuts for a good 10 seconds before the PA came back on to announce the presence of chief of police Bernard Parks, who shared some words of inspiration as well. Then, USC athletic director Mike Garrett and senior associate athletic director Carol Dougherty came to center court and gave flowers to each of the honorees. Before they would unveil the retired jerseys on the easels, Cheryl Miller invited former teammates from the Lisa Leslie era and the Cheryl Miller era to join them at center court, saying that they were just as responsible for this honor as she was. As the ceremony drew to a close, the Women of Troy returned to the locker room for halftime just as the 49ers returned to the court in time to witness the raising of the retired numbers to the rafters. The Trojan Marching Band played as the jerseys were lifted into the night sky as Miller and Leslie smiled proudly. When the # 31 and # 33 jerseys finally reached the top, Miller and Leslie took pictures with teammates, friends and family at center court, and later continued to sign autographs and greet fans throughout the remainder of the game.
Appropriately inspired and riding the Trojan pride bouncing around the Galen Center, the Women of Troy came out for the second half firing on all cylinders in front of their cheering alums and fans. USC went from a 39.5 percent shooting performance in the first half to a 64.5 percent effort in the second and ended up outrebounding LBSU 41-29 behind a game-high eight boards from Chloe Kerr.
The Women of Troy dominated the 49ers en route to an 85-50 season-opening victory over the 49ers, led by senior guard Shay Murphy's 21-point night, which stretches her double-digit scoring streak to 26 straight games spanning from last season's NCAA Second Round appearance by the Women of Troy. Senior center Kerr also hit double figures with 15 points, and freshman point guard Hailey Dunham announced her presence as a member of USC's starting lineup with a 10-point outing. All told, nine Trojans scored in the game, while Murphy and Kerr also combined for 15 rebounds, and Dunham dished out a team-high five assists in a truly memorable and landmark night in USC history.