Women's Basketball
    USC Hosts Women of Troy Basketball Tournament

    Dec. 14, 2010

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    After jumping around the nation in the past few weeks and then settling at home for finals week, USC gets back to action at the Galen Center this week as host of the Women of Troy Basketball Tournament. The Trojans (5-3) have won all three home games at the Galen Center this season so far, and they put that mark on the line this weekend for some tournament action. Joining USC in the tourney are future conference-mate Colorado (7-2) along with Dayton (5-4) and San Diego State (3-4). USC kicks off competition against Colorado in a 4:30 p.m. clash on Saturday (Dec. 18) that will be followed by a 7 p.m. matchup between Dayton and San Diego State. On Sunday (Dec. 19), the losers from the previous day will face in the consolation game at 3 p.m. with the winners doing battle for the championship at 5:30 p.m.

    This weekend's USC games will be broadcast live through SCTV at usctrojans.com with live video along with 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.

    USC is not ranked but is receiving votes in the latest AP poll. Colorado, Dayton and San Diego State are unranked this week.

    USC incoming freshman forward Thaddesia Southall will redshirt this season due to an ACL injury sustained before arriving at USC. Three Women of Troy -redshirted last season due to knee injuries -- G Stefanie Gilbreath, F Michelle Jenkins and G Vicky Tagalicod. Gilbreath returned to action for USC's season opener against Gonzaga on Nov. 12, while Jenkins and Tagalicod are expected to return at the start of 2011.

    USC snagged a strong road split in its last action, taking No. 4 Xavier down to the wire before falling 69-66 in the Trojans' second road visit to a top-5 team. Briana Gilbreath had a career night with her third double-double of the year in a 26-point, 12-rebound outing to lead the Trojans. USC then headed back to North Carolina for the second time this season, this time visiting NC State and serving up an 84-75 win thanks to a 53-percent shooting effort from the floor. Ashley Corral nailed three 3-pointers in the game to bump her career total to 156 and take over at No. 3 all-time in the USC history books. Briana Gilbreath again was the top scorer for the Trojans, as she finished with 23 points to set USC up with its first road win not on a neutral court and put herself on a path toward her second Pac-10 Player of the Week honors of the year.

    The Buffaloes are 7-2 overall after beating Colorado State 73-49 in their most recent action. Brittany Spears and Chucky Jeffery lead CU in scoring with 17.3 and 17.1 points per game, respectively, with Jeffery leading on the boards with 9.6 rebounds per game. Linda Lappe is in her first season as head coach of the Buffs, who went 13-17 overall last season. USC is 2-2 all-time against Colorado, winning the past two meetings including a 70-57 victory in 2007 at the Galen Center.

    The Flyers are 5-4 overall after falling 69-55 to Dayton on Saturday. Justine Raterman leads Dayton with 16.4 points and 5.6 rebounds per game, followed by 14.8 ppg from Kristin Daugherty. Jim Jabir is in his eighth season as head coach of the Flyers, who went 25-8 overall last season in reaching the NCAA Second Round. This will be the first-ever meeting between USC and Dayton.

    The Aztecs are 3-4 overall after beating Pepperdine 75-61 in their most recent action. Paris Johnson leads SDSU with 17.7 points and 9.7 rebounds per game, followed by 13.1 ppg from Courtney Clements. Beth Burns is in her sixth season as head coach of the Aztecs, who went 23-11 last season and reached the NCAA Sweet Sixteen. USC is 27-7 all-time against San Diego State in a history dating back to 1974. USC has won the past three meetings, with the last win coming in the 1999-2000 season with a 72-60 USC win in San Diego.

    The Trojans have 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 has notched three wins so far. Against Gonzaga, USC used a 12-0 run early in the second half to overcome a seven-point halftime deficit to get the win behind double-doubles from Briana Gilbreath and Christina Marinacci. The junior Gilbreath finished with a game-high 21 points and 10 rebounds, while sophomore Marinacci had 16 points and 10 rebounds. Freshman Cassie Harberts tallied 16 points in her Trojan debut. Gilbreath (15), 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 game also marked the first-ever game action for redshirt sophomore Stefanie Gilbreath, who has been sidelined for three straight seasons due to knee injuries. Stefanie tallied her first points and first rebound in her five minutes on the floor for her collegiate debut. Against Georgia, USC faced its third ranked team in four games, this time fighting out of an 11-point hole in the first half and ultimately holding off the Bulldogs' comeback attempts to stake a claim on another upset win for the year with USC's 71-63 victory. USC finished by forcing a grand total of 20 turnovers out of the Bulldogs, while committing 14 of its own. Jacki Gemelos joined Ashley Corral (team-high 15 points) in double digits for the Trojans with 14 on the night.

    The Trojans are 2-2 against ranked teams to date, with those two losses coming in lengthy road trips to top-five teams as USC paid a visit to No. 5 Duke and No. 4 Xavier. The early test against the Blue Devils in Cameron Indoor didn't go well for USC in the Trojans' first road trip of the year, but USC didn't let that loss shake its confidence. A little over two weeks later, USC paid a visit to No. 4 Xavier and had the Musketeers on the ropes. The Trojans led by three with 2 minutes to go, but Xavier closed in on a pair of free throws and then worked ahead to snag a slim win over USC.

    Briana Gilbreath has 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. Gilbreath is now averaging 14.8 points and 8.4 rebounds per game for the Trojans,

    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. For the first time in five seasons, USC has all its All-Americans healthy and on the court. This year's crew is accounting for 86 percent of USC's scoring. Briana Gilbreath, Corral, Gemelos and Marinacci are all averaging in double figures to date, with Harberts not far behind at 8.5 and Stefanie Gilbreath getting back her game with 3.1 ppg in seven appearances so far.

    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 starts her first full season of competition healthy and strong. Gemelos has been granted one more season of eligibility after this 2010-11 season. Currently, Gemelos is third on the team in scoring with 11.3 points per game and is a near-flawless 15-of-16 from the free-throw line.

    USC has four Pac-10 honorees back on the roster this season. Junior guards Ashley Corral and Briana Gilbreath were USC's leading scorers last year, and both landed on the 2010 All-Pac-10 Team as sophomores. Gilbreath was the Pac-10's Co-Defensive Player of the Year as well. Senior center Kari LaPlante earned 2010 Pac-10 Defensive Honorable Mention, and forward Christina Marinacci was a Pac-10 All-Freshman Honorable Mention recipient last season.

    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.

    At the head of the class for 2010-11 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.

    Arguably the most inspiring aspect of the year to come is seeing two hard-working Trojans finally take the floor for their first full seasons at USC. After being knocked back by multiple knee injuries, the 2006 top recruit in the nation and McDonald's All-American Jacki Gemelos returned to competition for the final 11 games of last season. Meanwhile, stuck on the sideline for her third straight season due to knee injuries was Stefanie Gilbreath -- another McDonald's All-American out of high school. It's been a heartbreakingly long road back for both Women of Troy, but this season marks a long-awaited milestone for Gemelos and Gilbreath. They both appeared in USC's season opener, and have stepped right into their roles as contributors for the Women of Troy.

    When Stefanie Gilbreath hit the court for the first time in USC's season opener on Nov. 12, it was a long-awaited on-court reunion for USC's sister act. Older by a year, Stefanie now beats out junior sister Briana in remaining eligibility. It's been four years since the pair lasted suited up in the same uniform for gametime -- when Stefanie was a senior in high school and Briana was a junior at Cinco Ranch High in Katy, Texas. They both came out of high school as McDonald's All-Americans, although Stefanie's knee troubles stalled out her Trojan debut while Briana picked up Pac-10 Freshman of the Year recognition and All-Pac-10 Team honors in her first two seasons at USC.

    The other key element of added success for USC in the coming season is Michael Cooper's first class of recruits. Ranked No. 7 in the nation (according to hoopgurlz.com) as a group, the newest Trojans on the roster are a well-rounded group of impact players. USC's 2010 freshman class includes WBCA All-American Cassie Harberts, who comes in as the nation's No. 11 ranked recruit. Speedy guard Len'Nique Brown and the versatile Desireé Bradley bolster the Trojan backcourt with even more firepower. The rest of the freshman class includes two true posts in 6-4 Lauren White and 6-4 Thaddesia Southall, although Southall will be sidelined for the year in recovering from knee surgery for an injury sustained in her final high school season.

    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.