USC Women Home Again, Face Montana State
Dec. 9, 2008
USC looks to get back on in a winning groove here, as the Trojans return home to the courts of Troy for a single game this weekend. The Women of Troy (4-3) set up for a clash with Montana State (4-3) at USC's own Galen Center on Saturday (Dec. 13) at 4 p.m.
This weekend's game 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 in the national polls this week. Montana State also is unranked.
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 full competition on Nov. 24.
USC took two tough losses last weekend at the Hukilau Invitational in Laie, Hawaii. The Trojans' three losses this year have all been by just one or two points, although USC has out-rebounded opponents has either tied or committed fewer turnovers in all three losses. In Hawaii over the weekend, USC came out flat against a hot-shooting Utah Valley and trailed 35-30 at the half. UVU ended up shooting 46 percent in the game compared to USC's 35 percent outing. The Trojans fought back in the second half and held a 64-59 lead with 2:13 left in the game, only to see UVU chip away at the lead over the next minute, narrowing the margin 64-63 with 47 seconds left. After a USC miss, UVU's McMurray hit a three with four seconds left to take the lead 66-64. Nadia Parker and Brynn Cameron led USC in scoring with 11 and 10 points, respectively, while Aarika Hughes pulled in nine rebounds. The next day vs. BYU, USC came out stronger and led 34-28 despite a 46-percent shooting effort by the Cougars in the half. BYU picked up its scoring pace further in the second half, however. USC grabbed a slim late lead, up 62-61 entering the final minute, but a jumper from BYU got the Cougars back in the lead and two free throws followed. Down by three with 12 seconds left, USC was just off on a late 3-point try. Parker put in the rebound with just two seconds left, but the Trojans were left just short with a 66-64 loss. Briana Gilbreath led USC with 11 points on the night, with Hughes adding 10. Parker had eight rebounds. USC finished the game shooting 39 percent to BYU's 49 percent effort.
SCOUTING MONTANA STATE
The Bobcats are 4-3 overall after falling 70-65 to Boise State and beating Great Falls 100-62 last week. Katie Bussey and Nubia Garcia lead Montana State in scoring with 11.1 and 11.0 points per game, respectively. Tricia Binford is in her fourth year as head coach at Montana State. The Bobcats return eight letterwinners and three starters from last season's team, which went 18-13 overall and was third in the Big Sky at 11-5. This will be the first-ever meeting between USC and Montana State.
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 290-243 so far, upping their average on the boards to 41.4 per game, led by Aarika Hughes' 7.3 rpg.
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 1,055 points ranks her No. 19 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. She has continued to hold court on the boards, leading the team with 7.3 rebounds per game.
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 teams back up with fellow All-American Briana Gilbreath as fast fits in the USC backcourt as freshmen, along with 6-3 freshman forward Michelle Jenkins. Gilbreath stands as USC's leading scorer to date, averaging 12.0 ppg, while Corral has nailed a team-high 19 threes so far.
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 began 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 returned 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 and a Dec. 30 trip to Utah, the bulk of the nonconference stretch will be played on home turf. USC has UC Santa Barbara, Michigan and Montana State tabbed for visits to Troy and the Women of Troy Basketball Classic brings Duke, Harvard and Siena to town. The Trojans take on the Blue Devils in a bigtime clash on December 19. After that Dec. 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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