Cooper's Trojans Come Back To Beat Bulldogs 68-63

Nov. 15, 2009

Box Score

LOS ANGELES, CALIF. - The USC women's basketball team secured its first win under first-year head coach Michael Cooper tonight with a second-half comeback push that carried the Trojans to a 68-63 victory over visiting Fresno State on Sunday night at the Galen Center. USC trailed by as much as seven points before making a 13-0 run to move into the lead. Stingy defense in the final minute carried the Women of Troy ahead and clinched the win, as USC goes to 1-1 overall on the season. Fresno State also is now 1-1 to open 2009.

Fresno State's Jaleesa Ross and Hayley Munro proved a potent scoring tandem for the Bulldogs with 22 and 21 points, respectively. But the Trojans got it done with a widespread assault, as four different Women of Troy finished in double figures to counter a slow night from 3-point range. USC knocked down just two 3-pointers on the night, but mixed things up offensively in response to the tune of a 17-point outing from Briana Gilbreath, 12-point nights from Kari LaPlante and Christina Marinacci, and 10 from Ashley Corral. Gilbreath and Marinacci also grabbed seven rebounds apiece to help lead the Trojans on the boards.

Overall, USC picked up its scoring pace from 33 percent in the first half to 44 in the second, finishing at a 38.2 percent clip to edge out Fresno State's 33.8 percent shooting percentage on the night. The Bulldogs were significantly more productive from 3-point range, however, hitting eight threes to USC's pair from Aarika Hughes and Heather Oliver. On the boards, USC won out 42-38.

USC had climbed ahead by five early in the game, but the Bulldogs pulled back in and made it a see-saw battle for the majority of the first half. An 8-1 run by Fresno State tugged the Bulldogs out of the game's fifth tie-up and carried them ahead of USC 26-21 for their largest lead of the half. USC responded with a 6-0 run next on free throws from Kari LaPlante and buckets from Christina Marinacci and Briana Gilbreath, but the Bulldogs got back at it again and worked ahead 32-27 with scores in the final minute before Gilbreath hit a jumper to hold Fresno State's halftime lead at 32-19.

In the second half, USC stared at its largest deficit of the game when Jaleesa Ross nailed a three, but the Women of Troy rallied back. Down 55-48 as the teams crossed the 10-minute mark, USC kicked off on a long-awaited scoring spurt. Heather Oliver hit Kari LaPlante down low for the junior's 12th points of the half, and then a stretch of perfect free throws from Ashley Corral, Gilbreath and Aarika Hughes followed for the Trojans. Hughes ripped down a defensive board, and Oliver blasted a three at the other end to take USC ahead 61-55.

Fresno State would end its six minutes of scoring silence next to cut within one on a jumper from Ross and a three from Hayley Munro. Munro would lock up the game a minute later on her fifth 3-pointer of the day, putting the score tied at 63-63 as USC called a timeout with 1:03 on the clock. The Trojans took the floor and put up a three that missed its mark, but Marinacci was there for the putback try and got sent to the free-throw line. The freshman hit the first to lift USC ahead by one with 46 seconds to go. Gilbreath came up big at the other end, nabbing a steal at the top and taking it coast to coast for the finish and the and-one to make it 67-63 USC. Fresno State lofted a three on its next possession and missed it, and then Corral slipped through with a steal, leaving the Bulldogs forced to foul. Corral put away the first to make it 68-83, and then Fresno State threw away the ball on its final chance to close out the game as a five-point victory for USC.

USC's next action takes the Trojans to Gonzaga next week. USC will play Gonzaga in a 6 p.m. game on Thursday (Nov. 19) in Spokane, Wash.

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