USC Women Go Round Two With UCLA
Feb. 12, 2008
USC sets up for its favorite rivalry game of the season, as the Trojans take their turn to visit crosstown foe UCLA for their second Pac-10 clash of the year. USC has now won six straight games against the Bruins, and are taking aim at a seventh in this weekend's game. The Trojans (15-9, 8-5 Pac-10) will face the Bruins (13-11, 8-5) at 2 p.m. on Sunday (Feb. 17) at UCLA's Pauley Pavilion in Westwood.
GRAB THE GAUNTLET
This weekend's matchup with UCLA marks another heated battle in the year-long Lexus Gauntlet competition between the rival schools. The Women of Troy are playing to pad the Trojans' lead, which currently stands at 40-10 entering this weekend's action. USC captured the first five points of the season with its 64-56 win over the Bruins at the Galen Center in January. Another five points are on the line in Sunday's game. UCLA won last year's trophy in the annual all-sports competition. It takes 57.5 points to clinch the Lexus Gauntlet.
Live audio, broadcast by Jon Horn, as well as live stats through Gametracker will be available online for this weekend's game through the women's basketball page at www.usctrojans.com.
IN THE NATION
USC and UCLA are unranked in this week's polls.
USC improved its home stand this season to 11-1 with its fourth and fifth straight wins at the Galen Center. First, the Trojans avenged a previous poor outing on the road against Washington with a 68-52 victory over the visiting Huskies on Friday night. The Trojans had four players finish in double figures for the first time since Dec. 21, getting a team-high 14 points from Nadia Parker, a career-high 13 from Simone Jelks, and 10 apiece from Hailey Dunham and Heather Oliver. USC stayed composed in the game, first answering a first-half dry spell to take a 33-17 lead at halftime. In the second half, although USC had led by as much as 19, Washington cut to within four with 5:45 to go. Again, the Trojans maintained control and ballooned their lead back up and put the Huskies out of reach down the stretch. In avenging its 60-45 loss in Washington during the first half of Pac-10 action, USC flipped the percentages that had caused trouble for the Trojans in that road loss. The Trojans upped a 26 percent shooting percentage from Seattle to 46 percent on USC's home court. The USC defense, meanwhile, cut Washington's 45-percent outing from January's game to 34 percent at the Galen Center. The Trojans also held a rebounding edge over the Huskies, 38-36, led by a team-high and career-high eight from Dunham. Two day later, USC maintained its dominance on its home court, improving to 11-1 at home after topping visiting Washington State 64-46. Two Trojans hit career highs on the day, as both Nadia Parker and Heather Oliver passed up the 20-point mark. Parker was one rebound away from a double-double, finishing with 23 points and nine rebounds, while Oliver pumped in 21 points and had a career-high eight rebounds. USC had its most productive first half of Pac-10 play this season, shooting 59 percent from the floor and scoring 40 points behind 14 first-half points from Oliver. The Trojans also held a strong advantage on the boards, outrebounding the Cougars 19-9 by halftime and ending with a 36-31 advantage. USC's scoring output cooled in the second half, but the Trojan defense remained stingy, allowing only 21 second-half points from the Cougars as USC locked away its fifth straight home win this season and 16th straight victory over WSU. Washington State shot 33 percent in the game to USC's 47 percent.
The Bruins are 13-11 overall and 8-5 in Pac-10 player after a sweep last weekend, beating WSU 68-56 and Washington 75-68. Lindsey Pluimer leads UCLA with 14.8 points and 6.8 rebounds per game. Head coach Kathy Olivier is in her 15th season at UCLA, which went 14-18 and finished seventh in the Pac-10 at 7-11 last season. USC is now 40-31 all-time against the Bruins after the Trojans posted their sixth straight win over UCLA last month in a 64-56 win at the Galen Center. The Bruins last won the crosstown rivalry match on Dec. 28, 2004 in a 62-61 decision at Pauley Pavilion.
In addition to the loss of redshirt freshman Jacki Gemelos and true freshman Stephanie Gilbreath following offseason knee surgeries, sophomore guard Aarika Hughes is sidelined indefinitely by a foot injury as of Jan. 21, and freshman center Kari LaPlante also has been sidelined by a foot injury as of Feb. 7. Morghan Medlock, too, missed the Oregon series with injury but returned to the lineup on Jan. 31. Gemelos, Gilbreath and Medlock all came to USC as McDonald's All-Americans, and Hughes has participated at the U.S. Under-20 National Team trials.
Brynn Cameron set USC records from 3-point range as a freshman, but had been sidelined since October 2006 by hip surgeries as well as the birth of her son Cole. In her first two games back in action, the junior guard stepped right back into her comfort zone outside the arc. Cameron led USC in scoring in USC's first two games this year, knocking down four 3-pointers in each game. Now with 33 threes this season, Cameron stands all alone in the No. 3 all-time slot with 124 career 3-pointers -- eight short of former teammate Jamie Hagiya at No. 2
Greatly missed from the USC lineup last season was point guard Camille LeNoir, who was sidelined with a hip injury. Following surgery, the junior returned to the floor this season as a redshirt junior, and wasted little time getting right back to her impressive ways on court. She's set up camp as USC's second leading scorer this season, averaging 10.6 points, 3.9 assists and 1.9 steals per game. Against Cal State Fullerton, LeNoir matched Trojan great Cheryl Miller's 100 percent effort on the floor from 1985, coming one short of Miller's 10-of-10 outing by going 9-for-9 and finishing with a season-high 19 points. LeNoir also served up a career-high eight assists in USC's Pac-10 opener against Arizona, and recently knocked down a career-high five 3-pointers in USC's upset win over then-No. 2 Stanford. With two more threes against Oregon, LeNoir passed up current USC assistant coach Jody (Anton) Wynn in the record books to now rank No. 6 all-time at USC in career threes with 108, and she is now just a single assist away from tying as USC's No. 10 all-time assists leader. With 85 so far this season, LeNoir holds 312 career assists.
Nadia Parker made herself well at home in the Bahamas, serving up 28 points and 18 rebounds in the two games on her way to her first-ever Pac-10 Player of the Week honors. The junior center had a career day in USC's comeback win over Virginia Tech, tallying career highs of 21 points and 11 rebounds (also her first career double-double) and a shooting percentage of 9-of-11 (.818) to help spark USC to victory. She has since hit a new career high, scoring 23 points in a win over WSU on Feb. 10. Parker has now recorded a total of four double-doubles, most recently grabbing 10 rebounds and adding 13 points in USC's home win over UCLA. Parker stands tall as USC's leading scorer (11.7 ppg) and top rebounder (6.6 rpg). She's hit double figures in 15 of USC's 24 games to date.
BLASTS FROM THE PAST
The first thing fans and followers will notice about this season's pack of Women of Troy is a group of faces who haven't quite been on the forefront of the Trojan lineup in a while. Three players who redshirted last season due to injuries et al are back in the mix. Standout point guard Camille LeNoir has healed up following hip surgery; Markisha Lea steps back in as a senior with cartilage intact in her knee; Brynn Cameron sustained her second hip surgery and gave birth to her first child on her way back to the court. Further balancing out the departure of five 2007 graduates are a pair of seniors who have extended their Trojan careers in unique ways. Kate Henderson and Allison Jaskowiak were freshmen together in 2003-04. Henderson wound up transferring after that season, but has since returned to USC and has worked her way back into the picture. Jaskowiak was granted a medical redshirt for that freshman season and has thus received another season of eligibility that allows her to return for her final year on the Trojan roster. With LeNoir, Cameron and Jaskowiak alone back on the court, USC taps back into the talent pool that helped spark the Women of Troy's resurgence to the NCAA Tournament scene with back-to-back postseason runs in 2004-05 and 2005-06.
Known for their stifling defense, USC seniors Allison Jaskowiak and Simone Jelks have also come up strong on the offensive end this season. Jelks averaged 2.6 points per game last season as a junior, and has upped her tally to 4.9 ppg so far this season to help in USC's balanced offensive effort. Jaskowiak has also increased her offensive role, going from 3.1 ppg last season to 3.7 this year. The two seniors have already tallied more 3-pointers than they hit all of last season. Jelks has nailed 15 to doubles up last year's mark of seven, and Jaskowiak has knocked down 15 so far to beat last year's 11.
Adding a serious depth charge to the backcourt is transfer Heather 'Ollie' Oliver, a member of the Australian Under-21 National Team, which won silver at the U-21 Women's World Championships this summer. She brings a smooth outside shot as well as stifling defensive abilities to the Trojan roster. She tallied her first points as a Trojan with a nine-point outing against Colorado on Nov. 18, and has now become a mainstay in the starting lineup, starting the past 17 games. Honored as the Women of Troy Classic MVP, she now is averaging 8.7 points per game after setting new career highs with 21 points, eight rebounds and three 3-pointers against Washington State on Feb. 10. She has posted double-digit efforts in nine of the past 15 games.
USC boasts a couple of different looks to the point this season, as 5-6 junior floor general Camille LeNoir returns to action after a year out to heal from hip surgery. She's complimented by 6-2 sophomore Hailey Dunham. Despite the height difference, the pair combine forces well in running the Trojans offense, each bringing their own spark to keep opposing defenses on their toes. LeNoir had her return to the court this season delayed a week, but when the junior point guard hit the floor for her first game against Colorado on Nov. 18, she came out strong with nine points and three assists in the game. The Trojan point guard tandem of Dunham (121 pts, 57 asts) and LeNoir (230 pts, 85 asts) is averaging 15.5 points and 6.3 assists per game.
DUNHAM DOES IT ALL
When fellow sophomores Aarika Hughes and Morghan Medlock were both out of the lineup with injuries, Hailey Dunham had to expand her role from back-up point guard to a flexible guard/forward that has put the sophomore in the 1, 2, 3 and 4 spots on the court for the Women of Troy. So far so good, as the flexible 6-2 Dunham showed her versatility during that stretch with 18 points, 8 rebounds, 3 steals, 2 blocks and a 4-for-4 free-throw effort in games against OSU and Oregon for the Trojans.
With her true freshman counterpart redshirting the season, center Kari LaPlante has carried the torch as the lone freshman on the court for the Trojans this year until a foot injury sidelined LaPlante as of Feb. 7. Freshman guard Stefanie Gilbreath will redshirt following offseason knee surgery. LaPlante towers as the tallest Trojan on the roster, setting up the 6-5 freshman for significant time in the paint this year. She tallied her first points as a Trojan in USC's win over Colorado on Nov. 18, putting in two points and pulling down six rebounds for the Women of Troy. After a career night against OSU where she led USC with 13 points and two more double-figure outings against Oregon and Stanford, LaPlante now averages 4.5 points and 2.8 rebounds per game.
The Women of Troy welcome three new members to the Trojan family this season. Assistant coach Jody Wynn recently gave birth to her second daughter, Kaeli, in October 2007, and junior Brynn Cameron has her son, Cole, who turned 1 in November. And senior Allison Jaskowiak added a new name to her roster page when she married former USC baseball star Ian Kennedy in October.
Although injuries have hampered the amount of time they've been able to spend on the court recently, sophomores Aarika Hughes and Morghan Medlock both have stepped up as key contributors in their second season at Troy. Both versatile players with ball-handling skills and a slick 3-point shot to go along with size and strength, the pair picked up the pace on all accounts this year. Hughes and Medlock combined for 9.0 points per game last season, and have averaged a combined 12.7 this year. Hughes upped a freshman year average of 2.6 ppg and seven total 3-pointers to a sophomore campaign where she averaged 6.1 ppg and nailed 17 threes until her foot injury sidelined her indefinitely. Medlock produced 6.4 points and 4.3 rebounds per game as a freshman and has delivered 6.6 ppg and 5.2 rpg this season.
INJURY BUG BITES BACK
It seemed to be the storyline of the 2006-07 season, but the injury bug hasn't seemed to shake completely loose of the Women of Troy yet. USC will have two players sidelined this season with torn ACLs. For redshirt freshman Jacki Gemelos -- considered the best player in the country coming out of high school in 2006 -- it is an all-too-familiar situation. Gemelos tore her ACL in her final high school game before coming to USC, redshirting her first season. She then reinjured the same knee in the offseason, bringing up a second surgery and pushing the highly anticipated guard's return to the floor back further. True freshman Stefanie Gilbreath endured the same injury just before the 2007 McDonald's All-American Game, leaving the Trojans short another outstanding newcomer for the 2007-08 season.
USC used nine different players in its starting lineup rotations last year. Six players who saw time as starters return for 2007-08 -- sophomores Hailey Dunham, Aarika Hughes and Morghan Medlock and seniors Nicole Berberet, Allison Jaskowiak and Simone Jelks. This year USC is on a similar page, with nine different players getting at least one starting nod, as the Trojans have utilized seven different starting lineups.
The Women of Troy have been slotted at No. 4 in the Pac-10 Women's Basketball Coaches Poll and the Media Poll. The Trojans received 56 points in the coaches poll to come in behind top pick and defending conference champ Stanford (79 points), No. 2 Arizona State (71) and No. 3 pick California (68). Sitting below the Trojans in fifth is UCLA with 44 points.