USC Opens Season With 79-73 Win Over No. 22 Gonzaga
USC used a 12-0 run early in the second half to overcome a seven-point halftime deficit to defeat No. 22 Gonzaga 79-73 at the Galen Center today (Nov. 12) before 533 fans. USC's Briana Gilbreath (15), Christina Marinacci (13) and Cassie Harberts (12) combined to score 40 of the Trojans' 49-second half points to lead the team to victory in the season opener for both schools.
The junior Gilbreath finished with a game-high 21 points and 10 rebounds, while sophomore Marinacci had 16 points and 10 rebounds, for the first pair of double-doubles on the season. The freshman Harberts tallied 16 points in her Trojan debut.
"Even though we struggled we continued to play hard," said USC head coach Michael Cooper. "I wasn't happy with the way we played, but we are still trying to find ourselves."
USC trailed 44-40 with 14:11 left to go in the game when they scored 12 unanswered points to take a 52-44 lead with 11:41 left to go in the game. Gonzaga responded with a 17-9 run of its own to forge a tie at 61 with five and one-half minutes left. The lead went back and forth five times before the final tie at 67-all with 3:44 left to go.
Harberts then hit a running layup at the 3:26 mark of the second half to give the Trojans the lead for good. That was followed by a layup from redshirt junior Jacki Gemelos to make it a four-point lead. After a pair of free throws from Gonzaga's Janelle Bekkering cut it to two points at 71-69, Gilbreath followed her own miss with a steal and a layin while being fouled, completed the three-point play and the Trojans had opened up a 74-69 lead with two minutes left.
After two more free throws by Gonzaga's Katelan Redmon, Harberts rebounded a missed three-pointer by Corral and was rewarded with a pass back from Corral as she cut to the basket and was fouled. Harberts hit both free throws for a 76-71 lead with 1:18 left.
Gilbreath's jumper at the shot-clock buzzer with just 33 seconds left gave the Trojans a 78-71 lead and sealed the victory. Gonzaga added one more basket and Corral a free throw for the final score.
USC trailed by as many as 11 points in the first half at 25-14 as it committed many of its 14 first-half turnovers early. The Trojans regrouped the rest of the way, but still finished with 25 turnovers in the game.
"It was disappointing that we had so many turnovers," said Marinacci. "We can't have that many turnovers vs. Duke. I need to lead by example."
Gonzaga jumped out to an early 17-9 lead in the game as the Trojans committed six turnovers in the first eight minutes. After Gonzaga hit consecutive three-pointers the lead had swelled to 23-14 for Gonzaga and Michael Thompson was forced to call a timeout. USC's next three possessions ended in turnovers, but then the Trojans got to work.
First a jumper from the free throw line by Gemelos, then a finger rolll layup by senior Kari LaPlante, followed by another another layup by LaPlante and two free throws by Gemelos to cut the lead to 25-22. Two more free throws by Gemelos and a running layup by Corral cut the lead to 27-26 with 3:28 to go in the first half. Gemelos then made a steal and fed a streaking Briana Gilbreath who was foulded and hit hit both free throws to recapture the lead at 28-27. Gilbreath then had a steal of her own and was fouled on a layup attempt but missed both shots. Gonzaga's Meghan Winters made USC pay with a three-pointer from the top of the key and a 30-28 Zags lead. A steal and a basket by Courtney Vandersloot and another jumper by Winters stretched the lead back out to seven at 35-28. The first half ended with Vandersloot hitting a drivng layup at the buzzer while being fouled and hitting the free throw for a 37-30 Gonzaga lead at the break.
Vandersloot led Gonzaga with 19 points and added five assists. Gonzaga went 29-5 during the 2009-10 season and advanced to the NCAA Sweet 16.
USC's defense held Gonzaga to 37.8 percent shooting from the field, an impressive mark considering the Bulldogs made 47.4 percent from the field a year ago. USC countered by hitting 52.8 percent from the floor and outrebounding Gonzaga, 40-32.
Not unnoticed in the late-game flurry of points was a basket by Stefanie Gilbreath with 4:50 left in the game which gave the Trojans a 64-63 lead. The important basket was the first of the redshirt sophomore's career after three-straight seasons with knee injuries. It was also the first time that she and her sister Briana were able to play together at USC.