USC Women Head Into Home Opener
Nov. 26, 2008
USC kicks off its home schedule with a series that brings UC Santa Barbara and Michigan into the Galen Center. The Women of Troy are looking for some revenge against both teams after falling in overtime to the Gauchos and taking a road loss to the Wolverines last year. All the action is set for the Galen Center, as USC hosts UC Santa Barbara in a 2 p.m. clash on Sunday (Nov. 30) in the Trojans' home opener, and then plays host to Michigan in a 7 p.m. matchup on Tuesday (Dec. 2).
This week's games will be broadcast live through Trojans All-Access at usctrojans.com with live video along with audio provided by Pete Arbogast and Jon Horn. Live stats through GameTracker also will be available online through the women's basketball page at usctrojans.com.
IN THE NATION
USC is unranked this week. UC Santa Barbara also is unranked, and Michigan is receiving votes in the USA Today and AP polls.
USC will be without two McDonald's All-Americans once again following season-ending knee injuries sustained by both Jacki Gemelos and Stefanie Gilbreath. Nadia Parker (traffic accident) and Hailey Dunham (hand) missed the first two games, but both returned to competition on Nov. 24.
The Gauchos are 1-2 after a 71-54 loss at Fresno State and a 54-47 loss at Arizona last week. Lauren Pedersen leads the Gauchos in scoring with 19.0 points per game. Lindsay Gottlieb is in her first season as head coach at UC Santa Barbara. The Gauchos return four starters and 11 letterwinners from last year's team, which went 23-8 overall and won the Big West title. USC is 10-18 all-time against UC Santa Barbara, having fallen in an overtime road game last season, 69-63 on Nov. 11, 2007.
The Wolverines are 2-2 after falling 59-56 to Texas A&M and beating Vanderbilt 50-42 last week. Jessica Minnfield and Carly Benson lead the Wolverines in scoring with 10.8 and 9.0 points per game, respectively. Kevin Borseth is in his second season as head coach at Michigan. The Wolverines return three starters and 10 letterwinners from last year's team, which went 19-14 overall and took sixth in the Big Ten. USC and Michigan met for the first time last season, when the Wolverines got an 82-61 win over the Trojans in Ann Arbor, Mich., on Dec. 10, 2007.
In a 69-55 road win over Pepperdine on Monday, freshman guard Ashley Corral nailed six 3-pointers to tie a program record hit previously by five other Women of Troy and last achieved by teammate Brynn Cameron in 2005. USC overcame a slow first half by shooting close to 50 percent in the second half to take over the game. It was a homecoming of sorts for USC head coach Mark Trakh, who served as the Pepperdine head coach from 1993 to 2004. Leading the USC scoring push tonight was Corral's 20-point outing, as she delivered 11 points in a 13-0 scoring run by USC during the second half. The freshman also snagged a team-high seven rebounds for the Trojans, with fellow freshman Briana Gilbreath adding 14 points and sophomore Kari LaPlante getting 10 points in the win. Gilbreath also went a perfect 6-of-6 from the free-throw line.
WELCOME TO THE CLUB
Camille LeNoir broke the 1,000-point mark on Nov. 16, 2008 at the Wolfpack Invitational in Raleigh, N.C. Coming into the weekend and the season, LeNoir had recorded 979 points in a USC uniform. With her 13-point performance against Charlotte on Nov. 15, LeNoir was just eight points from the achievement with 992 points. The next day against Milwaukee, LeNoir tacked up 15 points, putting herself over the barrier at 1,007 points, where she is in elite company as one of only 21 Trojans to achieve the 1,000-point feat. Her current 1,008 points ranks her No. 20 all-time in career scoring at USC.
Plagued by foot problems through her first two seasons at USC, junior guard/forward Aarika Hughes stepped up big-time for the Trojans in the first two games of the year at the Wolfpack Invitational. With center Nadia Parker on the sidelines coming back from a traffic accident, Hughes went big on the boards and hauled in her first double-digit rebounding efforts of her career. She had 11 rebounds in game one and followed that with 13 on day two to lead all players on the boards and earn her first All-Tournament Team honors of her USC career.
BIG ON THE BOARDS
After averaging 36.3 rebounds per game last season, USC has been bent on the boards this year. The Trojans have outrebounded their opponents 138-106 so far, upping their average on the boards to 46.0 per game, led by Aarika Hughes' 10.0 rpg.
IN THE BOOKS ALREADY
In just her third game as a Trojan, freshman guard Ashley Corral solidified a place for herself in USC history, hitting a program-record six 3-pointers in a single game to help lift USC to a win at Pepperdine on Nov. 24. Teammate and fellow sharpshooter Brynn Cameron was the last to hit six, having done so in 2005.
Seniors Brynn Cameron and Camille LeNoir have both battled through season-ending hip surgeries as they now enter their final seasons at Troy along with senior center Nadia Parker. Together, Cameron, LeNoir and Parker stand as the three Women of Troy who have had a taste of the NCAA Tournament. Cameron and LeNoir were freshmen when the Trojans snapped a seven-year absence from the postseason in Mark Trakh's first season at Troy. Parker joined in as a freshman in the 2005-06 season when USC made it back-to-back NCAA appearances. Now all on the same track to graduation, the two guards and center are joined by former walk-on Nicole Berberet as Trakh's senior class of talent and leadership. Cameron, LeNoir and Parker have all garnered All-Pac-10 honors during their USC careers to date.
Added incentive for a strong regular season is the promise of hosting both the Pac-10 Tournament and the NCAA Division I Women's Basketball Championship First and Second Rounds at USC's Galen Center. The Galen Center became the new home to the Women of Troy in 2006, and USC has won 22 of 29 games on its home court since then. USC will host the Pac-10 Tournament from March 12-15, and has NCAA First and Second Round games set for March 21 and 23 at the Galen Center.
Six of USC's top seven scorers are back for more this season, including the Trojans' top three point producers Brynn Cameron, Camille LeNoir and Heather Oliver. All told, USC returns those three starters along with Cameron -- who matched LeNoir with 40 threes last year -- sophomore center Kari LaPlante and versatile juniors Hailey Dunham and Aarika Hughes as key contributors from the 2007-08 squad.
USC boasts a solid group of first-year additions to the gameplan. Guard Daniela Roark makes her debut this season after sitting out last year due to NCAA transfer rules. And three true freshmen hit the hardwood at Troy as well. Two of those newcomers were teammates as McDonald's All-Americans -- and opponents as first- and second-place finishers in the national 3-point shootout following the game. Three-point champ Ashley Corral will team back up with fellow All-American Briana Gilbreath (younger sister of Stefanie) as fast fits in the USC backcourt as freshmen, along with 6-3 freshman forward Michelle Jenkins. Corral and Gilbreath are USC's top scorers to date, averaging 15.0 and 11.7 points per game, respectively.
Until a week before the season began, there were two additional shining Trojan stars set to make their long-awaited debuts at Troy. McDonald's All-Americans Jacki Gemelos and Stefanie Gilbreath came to USC a year apart, but both now remain sidelined by repeat knee injuries. Gilbreath's redshirt freshman season has been stalled by a second tear to her right ACL, and Gemelos will now miss a third consecutive season at USC after tearing her ACL and cartilage in her left knee -- this after back-to-back tears in her right knee kept her off the court for her first two years at Troy.
GOING BIG ABROAD
Freshman Ashley Corral gathered some valuable international experience this summer, winning gold as a starter with Team USA at the U-18 FIBA Americas Championships in Argentina. The Trojan was the United States' top scorer against Puerto Rico, and finished the tournament leading her team in minutes played.
RIGHT ON SCHEDULE
The 2008-09 test begins on the road for the Trojans, with USC's schedule kicking off with a trip to Raleigh, N.C. After a visit to the Wolfpack Invitational to open against Charlotte and then face either North Carolina State or Wisconsin-Milwaukee, USC returns to California to play Trakh and his staff's former program, Pepperdine. Aside from a trip to Hawai'i for the Women's Seasider Challenge for matchups with Utah Valley and BYU, the bulk of the nonconference stretch will be played on home turf. USC has UC Santa Barbara, Michigan, Montana State and Utah tabbed for visits to Troy and the Women of Troy Basketball Classic bringing Duke, Harvard and Siena to town. The Trojans take on the Blue Devils in a bigtime clash on December 19. After a December 30 tilt with Utah, 2009 marks the start of conference clashes. The Pac-10 has been a battleground for years, and the competition level for the coming season has the makings of yet another full plate for conference squads.
In 2008-09, the Trojans played out 12 games that were decided by five or fewer points. One of those nailbiters turned out to be one of the most exciting wins by the Women of Troy in years, as USC edged No. 2 Stanford 73-72 for its first win over the Cardinal since 2004. Stanford would go on to reach the NCAA championship game, but the Trojans would fall short of the postseason after the injury bug bit again late in the season, taking top scorer and rebounder Parker out of the picture with a knee injury during the final week of the regular season. USC finished 17-13 overall on the year after earning the No. 4 seed into the Pac-10 Tournament with a 10-8 conference mark.
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