USC Women Take Final Pac-10 Road Trip Through Oregon
Feb. 23, 2010
USC packs up for its final Pac-10 road trip of the year as the Women of Troy make a play for a strong finish to conference play with a visit to the Oregon schools this week. USC (14-11, 8-6 Pac-10) first stop in Eugene to face Oregon (16-10, 7-7) in a 7 p.m. game on Thursday (Feb. 25). The Trojans will then head to Corvallis to play Oregon State (9-16, 1-13) at 2 p.m. on Saturday (Feb. 27).
This week's games will have live audio broadcast by Chris Fisher at usctrojans.com. 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 this week's national polls. Oregon and Oregon State also are not ranked.
USC got stuck with a tough Pac-10 home split last week, as the Trojans suffered their first loss to Washington State since 2001 in a 64-52 defeat before snapping a five-game losing streak with a much-needed 56-51 win over Washington at the Galen Center. No Trojans hit double figures in the loss to the Cougars, and although USC scored under 60 points for the fifth straight game against the Huskies, the Trojans had three in double digits to help USC erase a six-point deficit during the second half. Jacki Gemelos led USC with 13 points against Washington.
Out for the season with ACL injuries are 2007 McDonald's All-American Stefanie Gilbreath, freshman Vicky Tagalicod, and sophomore Michelle Jenkins, who suffered her season-ending knee injury (left ACL) on Nov. 19 vs. Gonzaga. McDonald's All-American Jacki Gemelos returned to game competition for the first time in her USC career on Feb. 4 after the 2006 top recruit had been sidelined for the past three complete seasons with knee injuries.
The Ducks are 16-10 overall and 7-7 in Pac-10 play after losing 104-60 at Stanford and falling 79-73 at Cal last week. The Ducks have the No. 2 offense in the nation, averaging 83.9 points per game. Taylor Lilley leads Oregon in scoring with 17.5 points per game. Paul Westhead is in his first season as head coach of the Ducks, who went 9-21 overall and finished 5-13 in Pac-10 play last season. Nine letterwinners return from that team, including four starters. USC is 35-17 all-time against Oregon, after falling 85-77 to the Ducks last month at the Galen Center.
SCOUTING OREGON STATE
The Beavers enter the week with a 14-game losing streak. They are 9-16 overall and 1-13 in Pac-10 play after losing 66-62 at Cal and 82-48 at Stanford last week. Talisa Rhea leads OSU in scoring with 16.5 points per game. LaVonda Wagner is in her fifth season as head coach of the Beavers, who went 20-12 overall last season, finishing 9-9 in the Pac-10 and reaching the WNIT Third Round. Seven letterwinners return from that team, including two starters. USC is 34-18 all-time against Oregon State after beating the Beavers 61-34 last month at the Galen Center.
After almost four years on the sidelines with knee injuries, Jacki Gemelos -- a high school All-American and the nation's top recruit as a freshman in 2006 -- took to the court for the first game action of her Trojan career on Feb. 4 at Cal. She got in the game in the first minute of play and played 28 minutes, finishing with eight points, five assists and five rebounds. Now with five games under her belt, Gemelos is averaging 10.6 points, 5.0 rebounds and 2.2 assists per game for the Trojans. Beyond the arc, she's shooting 46.7 percent (7-of-15). Gemelos is academically a senior with plans to start up graduate study next semester.
NO BACKING DOWN
USC's opening run at the 2009-10 season was an impressively competitive stretch. The Trojans played six straight games on the road and faced four different ranked teams during USC's first eight games of the year. USC has served up upset wins over ranked Texas, Mississippi State and Arizona State, while falling to ranked Xavier in overtime, ranked Duke after leading for most of the game in Durham and falling twice to No. 2 Stanford. In total, eight of USC's first nine opponents played in last year's NCAA Tournament, and the Trojans have posted three wins over ranked teams to date -- all on the road. Thanks to a five-game win streak during Pac-10 play, USC matched its best Pac-10 start since the 2004-05 season with a 7-2 run through the first half of conference action.
USC's five-game win streak was pieced together primarily through come-from-behind victories. The Trojans trailed at halftime in five straight Pac-10 games, but only No. 2 Stanford was able to sidestep a victorious second-half comeback effort by the Women of Troy. In four straight comeback wins, USC outscored opponents Cal, UCLA, Washington and Washington State 152-109 in the second half, thanks to a combined 47 percent second-half shooting effort. During the second half, USC trailed by as much as 10 to Cal, 7 to UCLA, 9 at Washington and 6 at Washington State before rallying back to wins down the stretch. USC's win over Oregon State made it five straight wins for the Trojans, but marked the first time in six games that USC was in the lead through the entire game.
WINS AND SEA
USC had a largely successful run at the competitive Paradise Jam in the U.S. Virgin Islands over Thanksgiving, as the Trojans took second place in the Reef Division with a 2-1 record after upending two ranked opponents. USC opened with a 66-51 Thanksgiving Day loss to Rutgers before bouncing back for a pair of big upsets as the Trojans shocked No. 13 Texas 61-54 and then topped No. 19 Mississippi State 64-60. Poor shooting plagued the Trojans in their loss to Rutgers as USC shot a season-low 25 percent from the floor. Ashley Corral had a game-high 24 points for the Women of Troy, but USC could not keep pace offensively with Rutgers in the losing effort, despite a perfect 12-for-12 outing from the free-throw line. The next day, however, the Trojans put together a balanced game with a much improved shooting output as USC stayed ahead of No. 13 Texas by shooting 46 percent from the floor and getting four players in double figures. Briana Gilbreath led USC with 13 points while Aarika Hughes and Kari LaPlante each had 12. Meanwhile, Corral served up a career-high eight assists and nine rebounds. For USC's third game in three days and sixth straight game against a 2009 NCAA Tournament team, the Trojans faced No. 19 Mississippi State and got another impressive win. Thanks in part to clutch free throws late in the game from Gilbreath and Corral along with a career-high 14 points from Hughes on 6-of-8 shooting, USC dealt MSU a 64-60 blow that boosted the Trojans to a 3-3 overall record.
USC turned some heads in its opening weekend of play, as the Trojans took No. 11 Xavier to overtime in USC's season opener at the Galen Center. The Women of Troy recovered from an eight-point halftime deficit to rally back and force overtime against the Musketeers. Size advantage came through in overtime for Xavier, however, with the Musketeers pulling through for an 81-71 win. Sophomore point guard Ashley Corral led the way for USC with a career-high 25 points, including five 3-pointers. Two days later, USC went up against another tournament team in Fresno State. Again, USC trailed at halftime -- this time by three points -- and even fell behind by seven in the second half before generating a comeback to win. USC held the Bulldogs scoreless for almost six minutes to take back the lead, and a late-game steal from Briana Gilbreath helped the sophomore to a team-high 17 points while also helping clinch a 68-63 win for USC -- head coach Michael Cooper's first collegiate coaching victory. Corral added a career-high seven assists in the win over Fresno State.
Sophomore point guard Ashley Corral has been busy this season. She averages conference-high 36.5 minutes per game, and has been using that time to the max. Early this year, Corral broke the USC all-time record of single-game 3-pointers by nailing seven on the road vs. Duke, while also setting new career highs for herself with 27 points (at Arizona), 11 rebounds (at Long Beach State), 9 assists (at Duke), 5 steals (at Gonzaga) while going a perfect 8-8 from the free-throw line (at Gonzaga), and shooting 60 percent (9-of-15) vs. Xavier. Entering this week, she leads the Pac-10 with 4.7 assists per game [No. 63 in the nation], is second in the conference with 2.6 threes per game [No. 38 in the nation], is No. 7 in free throws with an .839 average (73-of-87) [No. 45 in the nation], and is seventh in the Pac-10 in scoring with 15.1 points per game. She's also made a home in the USC all-time top-10 for career 3-pointers, ranking No. 5 all-time with 118 career threes to date. She also holds the fourth-best single-season 3-point tally at USC with 65 this season so far.
BRI'S TOP BLOCKS
Briana Gilbreath served up a career-high six blocks in USC's win over Long Beach State and has continued to deliver stuffs on defense. She had nine blocks in two games against OSU and Oregon in January, helping to push the sophomore to the No. 3 slot on the Pac-10 charts on the year entering the week with 39 blocks and an average of 1.7 blocks per game. That's also good enough to rank Gilbreath 70th in the nation in blocks.
Youth reigned supreme for the Trojans in their first weekend of play, led by the All-American sophomore tandem of Briana Gilbreath and Ashley Corral. Corral had back-to-back new career highs, topping out with 25 points against No. 11 Xavier and then serving up seven assists against Fresno State. Gilbreath pushed through with 19 points in the opener and then 17 points to lead the Trojans in game two. Corral continued to raise the bar for herself in big games, as she picked up Paradise Jam Reef Division All-Tournament Team honors after 23 points vs. Rutgers and career-high rebounding and assists marks in USC's wins over No. 13 Texas and No. 19 Mississippi State. The pair is still dominating the top of the Trojan stats ladders as USC's two top scorers. Corral is averaging 15.1 points per game, and Gilbreath is next with 13.1. Gilbreath has hit double-digit scoring in 18 games, and Corral has done so in 17.
OLLIE GRINDS OUT BIG SHOTS
Senior guard Heather Oliver has proven a comeback kid for the Trojans, nailing clutch 3-pointers to key Pac-10 road wins at No. 17 Arizona State and at Arizona. In the Jan. 1 upset of ASU, Oliver nailed 4 threes in under 7 minutes to get USC ahead after trailing by nine with 5 minutes left and on to a 60-56 upset win over the Sun Devils -- USC's first win in Tempe since the 2001-02 season. Oliver finished second on the team in scoring with 14 points in that one, and was second again two days later with 19 points in an overtime win at Arizona. Oliver again knocked down huge 3-pointers for USC as the Trojans came back from a 13-point deficit to bring up an overtime push. Oliver's 19 points all came in the second half and overtime. She hit her four 3-pointers in a span of eight minutes -- the first coming with 7:05 to go in regulation, and the fourth drained in overtime. Oliver had seven points in OT to help USC to an 81-78 road win over the Wildcats. She's fifth on the team in scoring with 7.3 ppg, and ranks No. 6 all-time at USC in career threes with 112 to date. Oliver also stands out as USC's second-sharpest shooter from beyond the arc, holding a 37.8% mark from 3-point land so far in her USC career. Her current season mark of .374 is the fifth best in the conference to date, and she averages 1.5 threes per game.
MAKING HER MARK
USC true freshman Christina Marinacci has come up strong for the Trojans in her first season at Troy. She earned her first nods as a starter last week against the Washington schools, averaing 7.0 points and 5.5 rebounds per game in the two games. Entering the week, she's averaging 5.4 points per game to go along with 3.4 rebounds in her 17.3 minutes per game off the bench. A McDonald's All-American, Marinacci is one of two incoming freshmen to the Trojan roster this season, but is the only freshman on the court this year following a season-ending knee injury suffered by fellow freshman Vicky Tagalicod in late October.
POWER DOWN LOW
Anchoring the paint for her third season at Troy is junior center Kari LaPlante, who appeared in every game last season and looms large as a 6-foot-5 threat down low. She set a new career high this season with 18 points and 15 rebounds against Oregon, and is averaging 6.8 points and 4.8 rebounds per game.
PAC-10 COMES HOME
As in 2009, postseason play kicks off on USC's home court. At the 2009 Pac-10 Tournament at the Galen Center, the Trojans served up a quarterfinal upset of then-No. 16 Arizona State before taking down No. 12 California in the semifinals. The Trojans turned a lot of heads with their late push during the conference tourney, and they'll have a chance to take the tournament by storm once again with the 2010 Pac-10 Tournament coming back to the Galen Center from March 11-14.