Trojans visit their sixth state of the season with this week's Pac-12 journey to play ASU and Arizona.
Jan. 3, 2012
USC WBB Release
COMING UP NEXT
After skipping through five states and a new country during its nonconference stretch, USC women's basketball has four more states to visit during Pac-12 play. Now holding a 6-6 overall record and 1-1 Pac-12 mark, the Women of Troy set off for Arizona to dig further into conference action this week. USC will head to face Arizona State (10-2, 1-0 Pac-12) in a 6:30 p.m. MT clash on Thursday (Jan. 5) in Tempe, Ariz. Then, it's over to Tucson to take on Arizona (11-2, 0-1) at 2 p.m. MT on Sunday (Jan. 7).
This weekend's games will have live audio provided by Jason Schwartz. Live stats through GameTracker for all games also will be available online through the women's basketball page at usctrojans.com.
GET TO GALEN!
USC students receive FREE ADMISSION to all home games! For other Trojan fans, tickets are available online (http://www.gettrojantix.com) or by calling 213-740-GOSC. Group discounts ($3 per person) are also available for groups of 10 or more. For families, pick up a Family 4-Pack for $40 to receive four tickets, four hot dogs and four drinks. Visit http://www.usctrojans.com/201112wbbpromostix.html for more info on promos and tickets.
IN THE NATION
USC opened the year with a spot in the national rankings for the first time since 2006, ranked at No. 23 in both the AP and USA Today/ESPN preseason polls. After the first week, USC moved up to No. 22 in the USA Today/ESPN poll and No. 23 in AP, but fell out of the rankings in week two. USC is currently unranked. Arizona State and Arizona also are unranked.
USC opened Pac-12 play with a home split last week, falling 61-53 to No. 4 Stanford and blasting Cal 74-54 at the Galen Center. USC spent a few stretches ahead of the Cardinal in Thursday's Pac-12 opener, but the Stanford pushed ahead late in the game. Ashley Corral led all scorers with a 21-point outing for the Women of Troy, who also received 12 points and nine rebounds from a determined Christina Marinacci. Briana Gilbreath added 12 rebounds to the Trojan cause, which finished just four boards shy of the Cardinal, 44-40. Stanford's Ogwumike sisters each finished with double-doubles to charge up the Cardinal. Nnemkadi Ogwumike had 19 points and 15 rebounds, and Chiney Ogwumike had 12 points, 13 rebounds. Lindy LaRoque also hit doubles figures with 15 points on the night. Stanford shot 38 percent from the floor to outpace USC's 31 percent. USC dug out of a 12-point hole in the first half and got it to a three-point game at halftime, and would even grab a second-half lead, up 44-43 with 10:25 to go. But Stanford regrouped and went on an 11-0 run to snag a lead and stay ahead of the host Trojans for the win. Two days later, USC posted its biggest win over California since 2005 with a 74-54 Pac-12 victory over the visiting Bears. After Cal tightened up the game in the early goings of the second half, USC settled in a saw Christina Marinacci get to a career-high 23 points on the day, joined by Cassie Harberts with 23 points to go with nine rebounds to lead the Trojan charge to victory. Marinacci and Harberts were joined in doubles figures by Ashley Corral with 13 points, including four 3-pointers in the first half to give USC an early lift. Cal had Brittany Boyd in the lead with 14 points, with 11 from Layshia Clarendon and 10 from Reshanda Gray. The USC defense held the Bears to a 27-percent shooting effort from the floor, while the Trojans shot at a 44-percent clip. Cal finished just ahead on the boards, 44-40, led by 12 rebounds from Gennifer Brandon.
The Sun Devils are 10-2 overall and 1-0 in Pac-12 play after a 60-45 win over Arizona in their conference opener last week. ASU's two losses to date have come to Rutgers (59-52) and to DePaul (74-55). ASU is led in scoring by Kimberly Brandon with 10.4 points per game. She averages 6.8 rebounds per game, with Kali Bennett at 6.9 rebounds per game. Joseph Anders is in his first season as the interim head coach of the Sun Devils, who went 20-11 overall last season with an 11-7 finish in Pac-10 play and a trip to the NCAA First Round. USC is 50-18 all-time against the Sun Devils, having taken two losses to ASU last season. ASU edged USC 62-61 last year at the Galen Center, then won 69-55 in Tempe during Pac-10 play.
The Wildcats are 11-2 overall after a 60-45 loss to ASU in last week's Pac-12 opener snapped a six-game Arizona win streak. The Wildcats only other loss to that point was to BYU. Davellyn Whyte leads Arizona in scoring with 18.9 points per game, and Erica Barnes leads on the boards with 9.1 rebounds per game. Niya Butts is in her fourth season as head coach of the Wildcats, who went 21-12 overall last season with a 10-8 finish in Pac-10 play and a trip to the WNIT First Round. USC is 48-20 all-time against the Wildcats, going 1-3 against Arizona last season. The teams split during the Pac-10 regular season with USC winning 81-72 at the Galen Center first and then Arizona winning 84-74 in Tucson. When the teams faced in the Pac-10 Tournament quarterfinals, the Wildcats got a 72-61 win over the Trojans.
A road-tested and decorated USC roster is back for more this season. Last season, the Women of Troy played in 11 different states in amassing a program record of 18 road games. This year, USC opened the year with another busy travel schedule. The Women of Troy visited five different U.S. states during their nonconference stretch, which included face-offs against six NCAA tournament teams, including road tilts against 2011 NCAA finalist Notre Dame and champion Texas A&M. USC is now 3-5 in road and neutral-site games to date. Four of USC's five nonconference losses came on the road against currently AP-ranked teams: No. 23 Nebraska, No. 6 Georgia, No. 3 Notre Dame and No. 10 Texas A&M. The only other road loss this year was at unranked Arkansas State in USC's first-ever trip to the state of Arkansas.
Although USC was one of three Pac-12 teams to enter conference play without a winning record, the Trojans boast the toughest schedule in the conference and sixth nationally (realtimerpi.com). USC has played three top-10 teams to date (0-3 against), with six games against currently ranked or receiving votes in the national polls (1-5 against). USC's current RPI is 36, putting the Trojans as the third-highest team from the Pac-12.
TOUGH TIMES IN TEXAS
On Dec. 18 in College Station, Texas, USC gave the defending NCAA champion Texas A&M all they could handle, leading by as much as 10 against the Aggies before a late push and a clutch 3-pointer from Sydney Carter netted a 71-70 comeback win for Texas A&M to preserve a now-47-game nonconference home win streak for the Aggies. USC trailed by two when Jacki Gemelos went down with a knee injury with 3:39 to go in the first half. The Trojans wiped away tears of fear and sorrow for what looked to be Gemelos' fourth ACL injury of her career and took the floor after a "For Jacki" cheer. USC would then mount a ferocious push against the Aggies. Less than a minute after Gemelos went down, Ashley Corral nailed her second of what would become five 3-pointers in the game. Freshmen Alexyz Vaioletama and Ariya Crook, along with junior Christina Marinacci and senior Briana Gilbreath, would also drain threes while the Trojans were also tough on the defensive boards to propel during a push to a 67-57 lead with 5:07 to go. Texas A&M would regroup, however, and kept USC from scoring any further field goals the rest of the way. Three free throws fell for the Trojans, but the Aggies managed to drain a winning 3-pointer with 10 seconds to go, and USC was unable to get back ahead in the remaining moments to wind up with the 71-70 loss. Corral led USC with 16 points, with Gilbreath and Vaioletama each adding 12 and Cassie Harberts providing 10.
USC picked up a split at the Junkanoo Jam in the Bahamas over the Thanksgiving break, taking an 80-58 loss to No. 3 Notre Dame and then beating Gardner-Webb 82-41 -- USC's largest margin of victory since the 2002-03 season. Against the 2011 NCAA finalists, USC closed the gap to nine during the second half of its tropical tangle with the Fighting Irish, but Notre Dame would pull away for the decisive win. USC was paced by Ashley Corral's 17 points, including 11 in the second half. USC trailed by 12 at halftime and cut it to nine on back-to-back 3-pointers from Corral as the teams crossed the 15-minute mark of the second half, only to see Notre Dame outscore the Trojans 20-5 in the next seven minutes to create a winning margin for the Fighting Irish. Approximately 24 hours after arriving in Freeport, USC came out strong and forced eight lead changes in the first seven minutes of action, going up 13-11 on a three from Briana Gilbreath before Notre Dame made a 9-1 run to take a lead it would not relinquish the rest of the way. The Trojans contested the boards well throughout, with Notre Dame leading 38-35 on the night. The Irish shot 43 percent in the game to USC's 33 percent, and forced 21 Trojan turnovers. USC needed a breakthrough game next in the Bahamas and found it in the form of an 82-41 win over Gardner-Webb. The Women of Troy snapped a three-game skid to some of the nation's best teams by racking up a hot-handed game against the Running Bulldogs, with Corral again leading all with 22 points - including six 3-pointers - and Christina Marinacci hauling in 14 rebounds in the win. USC goes to 2-3 overall with the victory, and Gardner-Webb now sits at 0-6. The Women of Troy shot at a 54-percent clip from the floor and outrebounded the Running Bulldogs 41-22. Four Trojans scored in double figures led by Corral's 22 along with 13 from Cassie Harberts and 12 apiece from Jacki Gemelos and Thaddesia Southall, while Marinacci dominated the boards to the tune of her 14 rebounds.
MOVING ON UP
USC seniors Ashley Corral and Briana Gilbreath both broke the 1,000-point barrier last season and continue to trek up the ladder in USC's history books. Gilbreath just moved up to No. 13 all-time on Dec. 29, now holding 1,401 career points, and Corral is at No. 15 with 1,338. Gilbreath has taken over at No. 5 all-time in career blocks (now holds 151) and is now tied up at No. 8 all-time in steals (currently holds 218) and is two free throws shy of No. 8 on that list as well (currently holds 336). On Dec. 31, she cracked the top-10 all-time in career rebounds (695). Corral already is etched as USC's all-time 3-point leader (256), and she's No. 7 on the list for career assists (currently holds 400) with 14 to go to match the esteemed Cheryl Miller's mark at Troy.
USC's newcomers all marked up the stat sheet in their Trojan debuts in the season opener on Nov. 11. Freshman Alexyz Vaioletama got the start at forward and finished up with seven points, eight rebounds and five assists in her first action. Freshman Ariya Crook came off the bench to provide two points and an assist along with two steals; and redshirt freshman Thaddesia Southall nabbed a rebound and an assist to go along with two blocks for the post in her first minutes as a Trojan. Her first career points came with a free throw at Georgia on Nov. 20, and she became the first of the newcomers to hit double figures with 12 vs. Gardner-Webb on Nov. 26. Crook would notch her first double-digit day with 10 vs. UTSA on Nov. 30.
USC has two players sidelined for the season to rehab from offseason surgeries. Freshman Deanna Calhoun (knee) will redshirt her first year at USC, and Kate Oliver (ankle) will sit out the season after transferring from Marist. Junior Christina Marinacci missed the first game of her USC career on Nov. 11 due to health reasons but returned to action at Nebraska on Nov. 18. Ariya Crook missed the Nov. 26 game vs. Gardner-Webb with an ankle injury. Redshirt freshman Thaddesia Southall sustained a tear to her ACL graft on Nov. 30 and will be out the rest of the season. Redshirt senior Jacki Gemelos suffered her fourth career ACL tear on Dec. 18 when she injured her left knee.
Compared to the 14 years of combined time at USC among guards Ashley Corral, Jacki Gemelos, Briana Gilbreath and Stefanie Gilbreath, returning starters Cassie Harberts and Christina Marinacci are relative newbies. That is, until one takes a look at the minutes they've logged during their time as Trojans. Junior forward Marinacci has played in every game since coming to Troy, and was fifth on the team in scoring last year with 8.2 points to go along with the second-best mark of 6.8 rebounds per game. Sophomore forward Harberts was the only Trojan to start every single game last season, and was one of four Trojans averaging in double digits last year with her 10.2 points per game that she paired with 6.2 rebounds per game. She secured a spot on the Pac-10 All-Freshman Team and was on the Pac-10 All-Tournament Team after posting a 30-point game during the tourney. This season, Harberts is averaging 12.0 points and 5.7 rebounds per game. Marinacci missed the first game of her career in USC's 2011-12 season opener, but has returned to provide 7.6 points and 6.7 rebounds per game to date after setting a new career high with 23 points in USC's Dec. 31 win over Cal.
Michael Cooper and his coaching staff have added a premier class of incoming talent, with a group of athletes that rank as the No. 8 class in the nation. Guard Ariya Crook and forward Alexyz Vaioletama are projected to be impact players in their first seasons as Trojans. Their fellow freshmen Deanna Calhoun and Kiki Alofaituli, meanwhile, will sit out the season along with junior transfer Kate Oliver, who comes to Troy from Australia by way of two years at Marist. Calhoun is coming back from a high school-sustained knee injury, and Alofaituli will sit out per NCAA rules.
The USC roster is loaded up with eight All-American honorees. Five returning players were McDonald's All-Americans on their way into Troy: Ashley Corral, Jacki Gemelos, Briana Gilbreath, Stefanie Gilbreath and Christina Marinacci. Also holding high school All-American accolades is WBCA honoree Cassie Harberts, now a sophomore with the Trojans. That core of six returners have two new McDonald's All-Americans also lined up for action in freshmen Ariya Crook and Alexyz Vaioletama.
In head coach Michael Cooper's second season at Troy, the Women of Troy experienced a successful postseason that saw USC make a run to the WNIT title match. The 2011 Women of Troy finished the year with a 24-13 overall record after a 10-8 mark in Pac-10 play. The 24 wins was the most by a USC team since 1993-94, and USC's 18 road games in the season the Trojans set another program record. Juniors Ashley Corral and Briana Gilbreath both earned All-Pac-10 Team honors for the second straight season, with Jacki Gemelos picking up her first conference honors with All-Pac-10 Honorable Mention. Newcomer Cassie Harberts was named to the Pac-10 All-Freshman Team and also had a spot on the Pac-10 All-Tournament Team alongside Corral. Corral and Gilbreath would also garner WNIT All-Tournament Team accolades, and Gilbreath became the first Trojan since 1997 to earn an AP All-American selection with an Honorable Mention pick after standing out as USC's leader in scoring, rebounds, blocks and steals in her junior season. Corral and Gilbreath made more Trojan history in both scoring their 1,000th career points last season. Gilbreath hit the mark on Jan. 22, 2011, and Corral followed suit on Feb. 10, 2011. Corral also took over as USC's all-time leader in career 3-pointers on that same day.