USC Women Off To Oahu For Hukilau Invitational
Dec. 3, 2008
USC carries a four-game win streak off-shore this week in a trip to Laie, Hawaii for the Hukilau Invitational, hosted by BYU Hawaii. There, the Women of Troy come up against two teams from Utah. On Friday (Dec. 5), USC (4-1) will take on Utah Valley (2-4) in a 4 p.m. HT game. The Trojans will then move into a matchup with BYU (3-2) on Saturday (Dec. 6) in a game also to be held at 4 p.m. HT.
Live audio, broadcast by Jon Horn, will be available online for both USC games this week through the women's basketball page at www.usctrojans.com.
IN THE NATION
USC is unranked in the national polls this week. Utah Valley and BYU also are unranked.
SCOUTING UTAH VALLEY
The Wolverines are 2-4 overall after a 77-70 loss to Hawai'i on Tuesday. Robyn Fairbanks and Julie McMurray lead UVU in scoring with 22.5 and 20.0 points per game, respectively. Cathy Nixon is in her 14th season as head coach at Utah Valley. The Wolverines return eight letterwinners and all five starters from last year's team, which went 16-12 overall. This will be the first-ever meeting between USC and Utah Valley.
The Cougars are 3-2 overall after falling 96-47 to UConn and beating Southern Utah 70-64 last week. Mindy Nielson and Shawnee Slade lead BYU in scoring with 12.8 and 12.0 points per game, respectively. Jeff Judkins is in his eighth season as head coach at BYU. The Cougars return 12 letterwinners and two starters from last year's team, which went 13-16 overall and placed fifth in the Mountain West at 7-9. USC is 4-2 all-time against BYU, having lost the past two meetings. BYU won the most recent matchup in a 76-73 victory over the Trojans in Provo on Dec. 18, 2004.
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.
TUESDAY VS. MICHIGAN
USC played arguably its best basketball of the season so far, serving up a powerful 81-53 home win over visiting Michigan. The Women of Troy had five players finish in double figures on the night, led by Camille LeNoir's 19 points. Freshman Briana Gilbreath had her fourth straight game in double digits, hitting 13. Ashley Corral added 12 points on four 3-pointers, Nadia Parker also had 12, and Heather Oliver had 10 points. By halftime, USC was shooting at a 58-percent clip in a high-powered start. After hitting seven threes in the first half, the Wolverines came up empty from 3-point range in the second half, as the Trojans took control and finished off the night with a season-high 11 threes. USC finished the game shooting 48.5 percent and held Michigan to 32.1 percent with just 18 points scored by the Wolverines in the second half. The Trojans also beat out the Wolverines on the boards 38-33.
SUNDAY VS. UCSB
USC made good on a comeback effort in its home opener on Sunday afternoon, heating up at the right time on the way to a 62-53 win over visiting UC Santa Barbara. In their first game of the season at the Galen Center, the Trojans overcame a slow start and shot 48 percent in the second half. Nadia Parker led the way with 19 points for USC, followed by a career high 18 from freshman Briana Gilbreath and 11 from Camille LeNoir. The Trojans sputtered offensively in the first half, shooting just 26 percent to UC Santa Barbara's 37 percent. Trailing by six at halftime, USC got it together and heated up to shoot 48 percent in the second half and finish out the game at a 35 percent clip. Camille LeNoir had all 11 of her points in the second half, hitting a key 3-pointer to provide some momentum for the Trojans on an 11-0 run to get USC into the lead for the first time all game. It was the first time this season that USC was out-rebounded, as UCSB held a 36-33 edge.
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 1,038 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 209-175 so far, upping their average on the boards to 41.8 per game, led by Aarika Hughes' 7.4 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. Gilbreath and Corral are USC's top scorers to date, averaging 13.2 and 13.0 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 Hukilau Invitational 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.