March 1, 2011
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COMING UP NEXT
USC welcomes the Washington schools to town for the final weekend of Pac-10 regular-season action, although the Trojans are hoping to be ungracious hosts as they push for strong wins over both WSU and Washington this weekend at the Galen Center. USC (16-11, 8-8 Pac-10) first faces Washington State (8-20, 6-10) for a 7 p.m. clash with the Cougars on Thursday (March 3). The regular-season finale will be a televised event on Sunday (March 6) between USC and Washington (11-14, 6-10) at 12:30 p.m. Pac-10 Tournament seedings are up in the air this weekend, with USC currently tied up in fourth place with Arizona. The Washington schools enter the week even in seventh place.
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This weekend's games will have live audio provided by Jason Schwartz and live stats through GameTracker available online through the women's basketball page at usctrojans.com. Live video of Thursday's game will be streamed online through SCTV at usctrojans.com. Sunday's game will be broadcast live on FSN with play-by-play from Jim Watson and color commentary by Mary Murphy and Anne Meyers Drysdale.
IN THE NATION
USC is not ranked in this week's polls and holds an RPI of 35. Washington State and Washington are unranked.
USC freshman forward Thaddesia Southall is redshirting this season due to an ACL injury sustained before arriving at USC. Two current Women of Troy -redshirted last season due to knee injuries -- G Stefanie Gilbreath and F Michelle Jenkins. Gilbreath returned to action for USC's season opener against Gonzaga on Nov. 12, but was sidelined as of Dec. 17 by a foot injury. Gilbreath returned on Feb. 6, and Jenkins returned on Feb. 10. Gilbreath did sit out last week's game at Arizona due to a new foot injury.
COOPER, THE FIRST
Long before Michael Cooper took the reins of the USC women's basketball program as coach, there was another Cooper who ruled the floor for the Women of Troy. Cynthia Cooper -- no relation to coach Cooper -- was a big part of USC's glory days that included back-to-back NCAA championships. Now Cynthia Cooper-Dyke, she will return to Troy this weekend to see her No. 44 jersey retired and hung in the Galen Center. Cooper-Dyke is the third USC women's basketball player ever to have her jersey retired, joining Cheryl Miller and Lisa Leslie with that prestigious honor. Currently the head coach at UNC Wilmington, Cooper-Dyke remains a powerful part of Trojan history as a two-time national champion, a 1982 WBCA Freshman All-American, 1986 All-Pac-10 First Team selection, and sits in the USC career charts as the No. 9 all-time scorer, No. 3 all-time in steals and No. 7 all-time in games player and in assists.
USC wound up with a tough pair of road losses last week in a losing run through Arizona. The Trojans first saw a tug-of-war with host Arizona State become stretched out of reach as the USC fell 69-55 in Tempe. USC had Briana Gilbreath and Cassie Harberts finish in double figures with 17 and 10 points, respectively, but ASU was strong from the stripe and made a late move ahead for the Pac-10 win. USC and ASU were virtually even from the floor, with the Sun Devils outpacing the Trojans at 40 percent to USC's 38 percent effort. ASU made good from the free-throw line to the tune of a 21-of-23 outing, while USC shot 11-of-18. The Sun Devils also held the advantage on the boards 39-32. Dymond Simon led all scorers with 22 points, including an 11-of-12 effort from the stripe. Kimberly Brandon added 15 points for the Sun Devils. At Arizona, USC took an 84-74 loss to the host Wildcats. USC's second-half efforts to close the gap with the Wildcats fell short, and Arizona held off the Trojans down the stretch in a foul-spattered Pac-10 match. Five Wildcats hit double figures in the win, with four Trojans hitting the mark, led by Briana Gilbreath's double-double with a game-high 21 points and 10 rebounds. Despite Gilbreath's efforts on the boards, Arizona outrebounded USC 31-18 in the second half as the Wildcats fought off the Trojans' comeback hopes. USC closed to within six - the same amount it trailed by at halftime - with 40 seconds to go, but free throws took Arizona ahead. USC finished the game shooting 40 percent from the floor to Arizona's 41 percent. The Trojans went 17-of-23 from the free-throw line in the game to trail a 29-of-38 outing by the Wildcats. In addition to Gilbreath's double-double, USC had Christina Marinacci score 15 points, Jacki Gemelos hit 14 and Ashley Corral finish with 12. Arizona was led by Davellyn Whyte's 19 points - 15 of which came from the free-throw line. Four other Wildcats hit doubles figures in the game. It was the first time this season that USC has lost when getting four players in double figures, and the second loss when scoring over 70 points.
Sunday is Senior Day at USC, and at the head of the class is 6-foot-5 senior center Kari LaPlante -- one of only two true seniors on the USC roster. She and Michelle Franco were USC's lone freshmen in 2007 and will finish their careers having split time between two different coaching staffs at Troy. Under the defensive-minded Cooper's guidance last year as a junior, LaPlante picked up accolades with Pac-10 All-Defensive Honorable Mention. LaPlante is currently averaging 5.7 points and 5.4 rebounds per game as USC's starting center.
The The Cougars are 8-20 overall and 6-10 in Pac-10 play after losing 65-48 to Washington last week. Sage Romberg leads WSU in scoring with 9.3 points per game, following by 8.8 and 8.7 ppg by Ireti Amojo and Jazmine Perkins, respectively. June Daugherty is in her fourth season as head coach of the Cougars, who went 8-22 overall last season and finished 3-15 in Pac-10 play. USC is 39-12 all-time against Washington State after beating the Cougars 72-57 in Pullman on New Year's Eve this season. Last year, WSU snapped a 19-game USC win streak snapped with a 64-52 Cougar win at the Galen Center last season.
The Huskies are 11-14 overall and 6-10 in Pac-10 play after beating Washington State 65-48 last week. Kristi Kingma leads UW in scoring with 16.1 points per game. Tia Jackson is in her fourth season as head coach of the Huskies, who went 13-18 overall last season and finished 7-11 in Pac-10 play. USC is 26-28 all-time against UW with wins in the past six games including a 60-51 victory over the Huskies on Jan. 2 this season in Seattle.
JOINING THE CLUB
Junior guards Ashley Corral and Briana Gilbreath have been close in stride with one another on the path to a remarkable milestone in the USC history books. USC's two top scorers passed up the 900-point mark several games ago, with Gilbreath crossing the line first with her 17-point outing against Stanford on Jan. 22. She became the 22nd player to hit the 1,000-point benchmark as a Trojan. On Feb. 10 at Oregon State, Corral joined the club as well, going for 14 points to break the 1,000-point barrier, while also establishing herself as USC's all-time leader in career 3-pointers thanks to four three hit in the game. Gilbreath now sits at 1,142 career points to stand as USC's No. 17 all-time scorer. Corral now holds 1,074 career points to rank No. 20 in overall scoring, and is distancing herself as the all-time 3-point leader with 200 made to date.
While Ashley Corral and Briana Gilbreath have been climbing up the career scoring ladder, the Trojan tandem has also jumped into the USC history books in a couple other categories as well. In addition to being USC's No. 20 scorer and No. 1 3-point shoot, Corral now ranks No. 9 all-time in career assists with 344. Gilbreath stands No. 17 all-time in scoring and has served up 116 career blocks now to rank No. 8 on that career list.
THE BEST SINCE...
USC's strong start to the season had the Trojans holding numbers the program hadn't hit in over a decade. USC's 8-3 record going into Pac-10 play marked the best such winning percentage since the 1994-95 season, when USC was 7-1 entering conference play. And USC's 10-3 overall record through their first two Pac-10 games solidified the Trojans' best overall start since 1993-94, when USC held a 17-1 record before taking its first Pac-10 loss. In moving to a 12-4 mark after two more wins at Galen, USC pulled even with its 2004-05 record at this stage in the season. That year, USC turned a 6-4 record into a seven-game win streak.
RANK AND FILE
The Trojans turned some heads in the early goings of the season in serving up upsets of two ranked teams in USC's first four games. The Women of Troy opened the year with a 79-73 win over No. 22 Gonzaga and later handed out a 71-63 win over No. 17 Georgia. Both those wins came at the Galen Center, where USC is currently a perfect 6-0 so far. On the road against two top-10 teams, USC took a 75-50 loss at No. 4 Duke and a tight 69-66 loss at No. 4 Xavier during nonconference play. With losses to the Pac-10's two highly ranked teams --- UCLA and Stanford -- the Trojans are now 2-6 on the year against ranked opponents.
After the weekend in Arizona, USC is 7-8 overall in road games, including a 1-1 split in neutral territory. Up until the trip through Fresno and Washington state, the Trojans had spent half their time outside the Pacific Time Zone, venturing into Eastern Time for games at Duke and NC State and the Vanderbilt Tournament to go along with a quick visit to Central Time to face Xavier. Overall, USC is 2-5 on trips outside PST, and is currently 10-5 in games played within the state of California; 6-5 in out-of-state games.
Briana Gilbreath kicked off the season with a bang, standing as the first player of the season to pick up Pac-10 Player of the Week honors. It was the first career selection for Gilbreath, who opened the year with a double-double to lead USC to an upset win over No. 22 Gonzaga in the Trojans' season opener. Gilbreath had a game-high 21 points and pulled down 10 rebounds, scoring 15 of her final 21 points during the second half in helping to push USC to a comeback win. The 21-point outing was just a point away from Gilbreath's career high. Three weeks later, Gilbreath repeated as the Pac-10 Player of the Week --- a feat last achieved by a Trojan in 1996 by Tina Thompson. In a long road trip through a few more time zones, Gilbreath beat her previous career high scoring total in back-to-back games. Up against the nation's No. 4 team in Xavier, Gilbreath had a double-double with a career-best 26 points to go with 12 rebounds for her third double-double of the year. Gilbreath's four 3-pointers hit in the Xavier game also was a new career high. Still on the road, the Trojans then visited NC State, with Gilbreath leading the way again with 23 points and a team-high seven rebounds as the Trojans beat the Wolfpack 84-75 to wrap up a strong road split. Gilbreath hit seven 3-pointers across the two games to go with five assists and four steals. After nailing her sixth double-double at Arizona, Gilbreath is now averaging a team-high 15.2 points, 7.6 rebounds and 2.6 steals per game for the Trojans. She also now ranks No. 17 all-time in career scoring at USC with her 1,142 career points after hitting 38 on last weekend's road trip.
PAC-10 HAT TRICK
Ashley Corral snagged USC's third Pac-10 Player of the Week honor this season -- the junior's second pick of her career -- after helping lead the Trojans to wins at the Women of Troy Basketball Tournament. Corral ran her total up to 162 career threes in providing game-high scoring for USC in wins over Colorado and San Diego State. Named to the All-Tournament Team, Corral coupled 14 points against future conference-mate Colorado with a team-high seven rebounds as USC beat the Buffs 68-54. The next day, Corral opened the championship game against San Diego State with a 5-of-5 effort from the floor, scoring USC's first 10 points of the game and finishing with 23 points to go with six assists and five rebounds, providing key points for USC as the Trojans pulled out of a four-point game to beat the Aztecs 74-64. Corral's selection marks the first time since 1996-97 that the Trojans have had more than two Player of the Week honors in a single season as she joins Briana Gilbreath's pair of picks to date. Corral is currently No. 2 on the team in scoring with 12.3 ppg and is averaging 3.8 assists per game after moving up to No. 20 all-time in career scoring and hitting her 200th career 3-pointer at Arizona.
The USC roster is loaded up with six 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 coming in with All-American accolades is WBCA honoree Cassie Harberts, who kicked off her career as a Trojan with a 16-point outing in her USC debut, and who recently notched her first career double-double. For the first time in five seasons, USC started the season with all its All-Americans healthy and on the court. This year's crew is accounting for 85 percent of USC's scoring. Briana Gilbreath, Corral and Gemelos are all averaging in double figures to date and hit double digits all together in four of USC's six-game win streak, with Harberts and Marinacci not far behind at 9.0 and 8.6 ppg, respectively, and Stefanie Gilbreath averaging 3.4 ppg in 13 appearances. Marinacci also is No. 2 in rebounds, hauling in 6.6 rpg to date.
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, 2010 at Cal. She already has completed her undergraduate degree, but this week, she's playing in the first USC season opener of her career. Now currently pursuing a master's in gerontology, Gemelos has started her first full season of competition healthy and strong. Gemelos has been granted one more season of eligibility after this 2010-11 season. Gemelos is the team's third leading scorer with 11.6 points per game and is tops on the team with a 83.0 percent free-throw effort.
Under first-year collegiate head coach Michael Cooper -- a former NBA star with the Los Angeles Lakers and a WNBA head coach for the Los Angeles Sparks -- USC finished 19-12 overall and carried a six-game winning streak into the Pac-10 Tournament semifinals. With Cooper's guidance, the Women of Troy set several new program records in that 2009-10 season, posting USC's best-ever free-throw percentage (.725) while tallying the fewest turnovers (462) and fewest fouls (484) committed in Trojan history.
PAC-10 COMES HOME
As in 2009 and 2010, postseason play kicks off on USC's home court. This season's 2011 Pac-10 Tournament will have a somewhat difference format from past seasons in that action will be split between the Galen Center and Staples Center. The first two round of play are all lined up for USC's home court of Galen Center. The semifinals and championship game, however, will move over to Staples Center to run alongside the Pac-10 Men's Tournament. The women's tourney will run March 9-12. Visit www.pac-10.org for more information and for tickets.
GET TO GALEN!
USC students receive FREE ADMISSION to all home games! For other Trojan fans, tickets are available online or by calling 213-740-GOSC. Pac-10 games are $10, and courstide reserved seats are $15. Group discounts ($5 per person) are also available for groups of 10 or more. For famlies, pick up a Family 4-Pack for $40 to receive four tickets, four hot dogs and four drinks.