USC Women Host UCLA Rematch On Sunday
Feb. 3, 2009
USC returns to the Galen Center for its highly anticipated crosstown showdown with UCLA this weekend. The Trojans have beaten the Bruins nine straight times on USC home courts coming into this year's clash, and the Women of Troy hold an 8-1 record on their home floor at the Galen Center this year. Lexus Gauntlet points go on the line again in this week's face-off, as USC (11-9, 5-4 Pac-10) hosts UCLA (14-6, 5-4) at 2 p.m. on Sunday (Feb. 8) at the Galen Center.
This weekend's rivalry 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. 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 25-20 entering this week'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 is 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. Dunham suffered a foot injury on Jan. 11 vs. UCLA and was sidelined for four games, returning at Cal on Jan. 31. Parker sat out the Jan. 24 game vs. WSU with an ankle injury.
USC wound up with two road losses last week in a trip to the Bay Area to face the Pac-10's two top-10 teams, Stanford and Cal. At the No. 8 Cardinal, USC fell 81-53 after a season-low shooting effort and some struggles on the boards left the Trojans trailing the Cardinal early. Despite a couple scoring runs, USC couldn't keep up with the league's top-scoring squad. USC's lone player in double digits on the night was senior guard Camille LeNoir, while there were four Cardinal in double figures. USC finished out the game shooting 27 percent in comparison to Stanford's 42-percent clip. On the boards, the Trojans were doubled up, with the Cardinal pulling down 62 rebounds - the most given up by USC on the year - while the Women of Troy wound up with a season-low 31. USC did win out in the steals count (11-8) and came away with fewer turnovers (16-22), but Stanford's 51-point second half outdid the Trojans. Two days later, USC battled through a down-to-the-wire matchup on No. 5 California's home court, but came up just short thanks to a late layup with 2 seconds to go from the Bears. The Trojans wound up with a 73-71 road loss despite double-digit efforts from Briana Gilbreath, LeNoir and Nadia Parker. Gilbreath tallied a double-double for the Women of Troy including a late-game steal that she took to tie things up with 18 seconds left. USC finished out the game shooting 37 percent while Cal wound up shooting 48 percent. With an improved effort on the boards from the previous game, USC held close to the Bears, behind 40-36.
No. 2 in the conference and 21st in the nation in scoring entering the week, the USC offense is now averaging 73.9 points per game. That's due in large part to a wildly balanced offense in which four different Women of Troy are averaging in double digits to rank in the Pac-10's top-30 in scoring. Camille LeNoir leads the way with 12.4 ppg, followed closely by 11.6 from Briana Gilbreath, 10.9 from Nadia Parker and 10.0 from Ashley Corral.
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 and outrebounded opponents in 12 games. In total, USC has outrebounded opponents 812-782 so far, upping its average on the boards to 40.6 per game, led by 6.0 rpg from Aarika Hughes.
BRYNN BRINGS IT
Senior guard Brynn Cameron has hit double digits in four Pac-10 games this year and nailed 20 threes in the past 12 games to average 7.9 points per game. Now 18-of-19 (.947) from the free-throw line on the year, Cameron earned her first career Pac-10 Player of the Week award on Jan. 5 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 158 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. Thanks to a 28-point effort across the two games, LeNoir moved into the history books by the weekend's close. She has joined elite company as one of only 21 Trojans to achieve the 1,000-point feat, and continues to shoot up in the all-time ladders at Troy. She has since leapfrogged into the No. 14 all-time slot in career scoring, now holding 1,227 points to now sit just three points away from taking over at No. 13. 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 411 assists in her time as a Trojan to currently sit three short of another USC great -- Cheryl Miller at No. 5. She also recently took up residence as USC's No. 3 all-time 3-point shooter, just behind teammate Brynn Cameron, with 133 career threes. LeNoir is one of four Trojans averaging double figures to date, putting in a team-leading 12.4 ppg overall, and she's averaging 14.1 ppg during Pac-10 play.
Plagued by foot problems through her first two seasons, 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 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 a team-high 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. With four more last week, Corral has tallied a team-high 39 threes to date, and entered this week averaging 2.0 per game to rank fifth in the Pac-10 just ahead of Cameron at No. 10 with 1.5.
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, and guards Cameron and LeNoir now hold down the No. 2 and 3 slots all-time in career 3-pointers.
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 907 points and accumulated 529 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 gone 30-8 on its home court (8-1 this season) 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 stands as USC's second leading scorer to date, averaging 11.6 ppg. Meanwhile, Corral has nailed a team-high 39 threes so far and is averaging the team's fourth-best scoring mark of 10.0 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.