USC Steps Up For A Pac-10 Semifinal Slot
March 12, 2010
LOS ANGELES, CALIF. - The USC women's basketball team sidestepped Oregon efforts at a comeback with an inspired effort down the stretch in the Trojans' 80-76 win over the Ducks in Friday's quarterfinal at the Pac-10 Tournament at the Galen Center. The win was charged by a strong start from Kari LaPlante and a powerful second half from Briana Gilbreath as the Trojans made their move into tomorrow's Pac-10 semifinals against either UCLA or Oregon State. The No. 3 seeded Trojans will play at 5 p.m. tomorrow (March 13) at the Galen Center for their second straight appearance in the Pac-10 Tournament semis. USC improves to 19-11 overall with today's win -- the Trojans' sixth straight victory -- while Oregon goes to 16-15.
Thanks in part to a 6-for-6 effort from the floor by USC's Kari LaPlante in the first half, the Trojans had a 39-34 lead over the Ducks at halftime. USC was shooting 44 percent in the half to edge Oregon's 40-percent start, while the Trojans led on the boards 24-21. The Ducks would pick it up and finish out the game shooting 43 percent to USC's final 41 percent, but USC's rebounding effort remained strong down the stretch as the Trojans finished ahead 48-35 on the boards. Oregon's Taylor Lilley led all scorers with 22 points with fellow Ducks Victoria Kenyon and Nia Jackson each adding 18. USC, meanwhile, had every player on the floor score in the game, led by Briana Gilbreath's 19 points - 15 of which came in the second half - to go with 16 from Ashley Corral - including a back-breaking 3-pointer with 24 seconds left - and 15 from LaPlante. Christina Marinacci led all players on the boards with eight rebounds.
After leading by five at the half, USC got behind by five points with nine minutes remaining in the second half. Instead of getting flustered by Oregon's rally, the Women of Troy dug in and fired off a 9-0 run that included seven points and a big block from Gilbreath to give USC an emotional lift and some room to work with. Oregon would cut it to one with a minute left, but clutch free throws from Jacki Gemelos and a bigtime 3-pointer from Corral to beat the shot clock powered up the Trojans for the 80-76 victory.
The lead changed hands six times in the first eight minutes before USC got a little padding with back-to-back 3-pointers - the first from Ashley Corral and then one from Aarika Hughes. Up 20-15, the Trojans had the Ducks close to one, but Kari LaPlante continued to finish down low for USC, starting out 5-for-5 from the floor. LaPlante hit the first of her free throws at 8:11, missing the second but having it sucked in by Christina Marinacci for the putback to get USC up 25-21. A Taylor Lilley three and an Oregon layup off a Trojan miss put the Ducks ahead 28-27 with 6:22 to go in the half. USC answered back with a pair of takes to the hoop, with a runner from Corral and a left-handed score from Jacki Gemelos to make it 31-28 USC entering the final five minutes of the half. A frantic back-and-forth battle ensued with Oregon creeping to within one only to have the score answered by the Trojans. A defensive stop by USC broke the cycle, as Heather Oliver knocked down a baseline jumper and LaPlante drained her sixth straight shot from the floor with a score from the elbow to make it 39-34 USC with 42 seconds remaining.
The second half kicked off as a continued shootout, with Oregon 3-pointers bringing the game back to a tie at 50-50 with 14:45 on the clock. Briana Gilbreath slammed a three for USC next, only to have the Ducks work ahead by five on a stretch of free throws as Corral picked up her third and fourth fouls of the game. Instead of being shaken by Oregon's run back into the lead, the Women of Troy generated an impressive change of momentum and streaked ahead. A three-point play from Gilbreath cut things to two with 8:30 to go. Oliver hit Gilbreath for another score to tie, and Gilbreath then served up a booming stuff at the other end to stall out the Ducks offense. Dunham dumped in the go-ahead score, then took a charge. Gilbreath converted from the free-throw line to make it a 9-0 USC run for a 68-64 advantage. Oregon ended almost three minutes of scoring silence with a three to cut it to one, but Gilbreath blasted another block and Dunham delivered on the layup to get the score to 70-67 USC with 5:30 remaining. Oregon's Lilley also got tagged with her fourth foul of the game at 6:54, but was back on the court later to hit a pair of free throws to make it 71-69 with three minutes left. Also carrying four fouls, Corral went to the line herself with 2:04 on the clock and hit the first, while Oregon's Micaela Cocks would follow with two at 1:09 to get it to a one-point game. With 52 ticks to go, Aarika Hughes went to the line. She hit the first but was off on the second. In a clutch hustle play, Dunham got to the long rebound and whipped it back in to Corral. As the shot clock threatened to expire, Corral knocked down the three, and USC was up 76-71 with 24 seconds left. That was enough time for Oregon's Nia Jackson to get to the hoop and convert a three-point play to bring it again to a two-point affair with 16 seconds remaining. The Ducks would send Gemelos to the line in the bonus, and she hit both with 14 ticks left. After an Oregon turnover, Gemelos earned another successful visit to the free-throw line with 8 seconds left, and although Jackson slipped in a Duck score with 2.7 left, that was it for Oregon as the Women of Troy closed out the 80-76 win to advance to tomorrow's Pac-10 semifinals.