USC Women Wind Up For Trip To Westwood
Jan. 6, 2009
USC is geared up for its yearly journey across town to take on rival UCLA in the teams' first Pac-10 clash of the season. The Trojans (8-5, 2-0 Pac-10) will face the Bruins (10-3, 1-1) in a 2:30 p.m. clash on Sunday (Jan. 11) at Pauley Pavilion in Westwood.
This weekend's rivalry game will be televised live by Fox Sports, with play-by-play from Paul Sunderland and color commentary from Ann Meyers. Live audio, broadcast by Jon Horn, as well as live stats through GameTracker also will be available online through the women's basketball page at www.usctrojans.com.
IN THE NATION
USC is unranked in the national polls this week. UCLA also is unranked.
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 25-10 entering this weekend's action. Five points are on the line in Sunday's game. USC won last year's trophy in the annual all-sports competition. It takes 57.5 points to clinch the Lexus Gauntlet.
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 picked up a Pac-10 sweep last weekend with wins in the Trojans' conference openers at the Galen Center. First, USC pushed past visiting Oregon for a 66-56 win on Friday night. After nine lead changes, USC held on to its late lead and expanded its margin behind some key defensive stops and scores at the other end. Nadia Parker led the Trojans with 17 points, while Brynn Cameron added 13 and Briana Gilbreath had 10. Also notching notable performances were Hailey Dunham with a career-high 10 rebounds and Camille LeNoir with five assists to move the senior ahead of Trojan great Cynthia Cooper on the all-time career assists list. The Trojans got down by 10 in the first half, but managed to generate a 15-2 run in a span of 4:30 to get back in the game and take their first lead. Although USC remained at a loss on the boards, another scoring spurt later in the half helped the Trojans heat up to a 53.8 percent scoring effort and a 36-32 lead by halftime. In the second half, USC buckled down on the boards and passed up the Ducks to finish out-rebounding Oregon 36-32. Shooting cooled down for both teams as the lead continued to change hands, leaving USC shooting 40.7 percent and Oregon at 41.5 percent in the game. Two days later, USC picked off another season-high 15 steals in another strong defensive home effort to beat out visiting Oregon State 78-54 win. Led by a career-high 20 points from Cameron, 19 from Heather Oliver and 12 from Gilbreath, the Trojans overcame slow starts in each half to tack up a Pac-10 win over the Beavers. Cameron had a set new season-high for herself by halftime, dumping in four 3-pointers and going 7-of-8 from the floor for 18 points as the Trojans led the Beavers 41-21 at half. USC trailed 5-0 to open the game, but improved its shooting effort to 42.5 percent with Oliver and Cameron in double figures. OSU was hitting at a 43.8 percent clip, but was behind on the boards to the Trojans 21-13. The Trojan defense also pestered 21 turnovers out of the Beavers in the half and had scored 17 points off of OSU turnovers by halftime. After a 13-0 scoring run from the Beavers to open the second half, USC woke up and pieced together 11 straight to work back into a more comfortable position down the stretch. The Trojans rounded out the game shooting 44.9 percent to OSU's 41.5 percent, and beat out the Beavers on the boards 39-25. OSU committed 33 turnovers thanks in part to 15 USC steals.
The Bruins are 10-3 overall and 1-1 in Pac-10 play after beating Oregon State 60-53 and losing to Oregon 73-56 last week. Doreena Campbell leads UCLA in scoring with 11.5 points per game. Nikki Caldwell is in her first season as head coach at UCLA. The Bruins return 10 letterwinners and four starters from last year's team, which went 16-15 overall and finish tied for fourth in the Pac-10 at 10-8. USC is 41-32 all-time against the Bruins after having a seven-game winning streak snapped in last year's Pac-10 Tournament. USC beat UCLA 64-56 and 49-36 during the 2007-08 regular season, but fell 73-72 in the 2008 Pac-10 Tournament quarterfinals.
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 hit a season-high 51 rebounds in two different games to now outrebound their opponents 542-453 so far, upping their average on the boards to 41.7 per game, led by Nadia Parker's 6.3 rpg.
BRYNN BRINGS IT
Senior guard Brynn Cameron now has hit double digits in four of the past five games, hitting 14 threes across those same five games to now average 8.8 points per game. Now 17-of-18 (.944) from the free-throw line on the year, Cameron earned her first career Pac-10 Player of the Week award after putting in 13 points in a Pac-10 opening win over Oregon and then dumping in four more 3-pointers on the way to a career-high 20 points in a win over Oregon State. Against the Beavers, Cameron had set a new season high by halftime, going 7-of-8 from the floor (4-of-5 from 3-point range) to hold 18 points after the first half. She currently ranks No. 2 all-time in career 3-pointers with 152 to trail leader Shay Murphy's 181.
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 that 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. She has since leapfrogged into the No. 17 all-time slot in career scoring, now holding 1,111 points. She is one of four Trojans averaging double figures to date, putting in 10.2 ppg. What's more, with five assists against Oregon on Jan. 2, LeNoir passed up Trojan great Cynthia Cooper on the all-time career assists list to take over the No. 6 slot for career assists. LeNoir has now served up 389 assists in her time as a Trojan.
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, and now averages 6.0 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. She has tallied a team-high 26 threes to date, and entered the weekend averaging 2.0 per game to rank sixth in the Pac-10 just ahead of Cameron's 1.8.
Seniors Brynn Cameron and Camille LeNoir have both battled through season-ending hip surgeries as they now engage in 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.
Each junior has a different story to tell, but all four have found a home at USC. Hailey Dunham, Jacki Gemelos and Aarika Hughes all entered Troy as freshmen in 2006, while Heather Oliver and Daniela Roark joined the team last year as transfers. Dunham and Hughes both are playing in their third season for the Trojans; Oliver is settling into her second year of action; and Roark is eligible for competition this year after sitting out last season due to NCAA transfer rules. Altogether, the USC junior class has combined to score 817 points and accumulated 457 rebounds.
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. Selected to the Women of Troy Classic All-Tournament Team after setting a new career high with 22 points against Harvard, Gilbreath continues to stand as USC's leading scorer to date, averaging 11.8 ppg. Meanwhile, Corral has nailed a team-high 26 threes so far and is averaging the team's fourth-best scoring mark of 9.8 ppg.
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.
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.