Women's Basketball
    USC Women Kick Off Pac-12 Play At Galen Center
    USC hosts Stanford and Cal this week at the Galen Center.
    USC hosts Stanford and Cal this week at the Galen Center.

    Dec. 27, 2011

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    COMING UP NEXT
    After almost a full month on the road, the USC women return to the Galen Center this week to open up Pac-12 play. The Women of Troy (5-5) kick off conference action against No. 4 Stanford (9-1) at 7 p.m. on Thursday (Dec. 29). The Trojans will then transition to their final game of the calendar year with a New Year's Eve clash with California (9-3) at 11 a.m. on Saturday (Dec. 31).

    FOLLOW ALONG
    This week's 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.

    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. 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. Click here 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. Stanford ranks No. 4 in this week's AP and USA Today/ESPN polls. California is receiving votes in both polls.

    RECENT ACTION
    USC pulled out a tight one in Malibu last week, turning the tide on a hot-shooting Waves squad to win out in overtime with a 75-71 victory over host Pepperdine. The win kept intact an undefeated all-time record for USC vs. Pepperdine, extending the streak to 18-0 dating back to 1977. This one was a tough one, however - the first overtime affair between the programs in their history. This season, the Waves had already won twice in OT, but the Trojans were determined to pull this one out for a lift on the way into the coming Pac-12 openers. This year, the Trojans saw the Waves nail eight 3-pointers in the first half as Pepperdine built as big as a 10-point lead. USC trailed 42-35 at halftime, but came out of the gates determined and focused. Lauren Bell, who had 18 points at halftime, would get just four more in the second, and Pepperdine would not hit another 3-pointer the rest of the way as the Trojan defense tightened up. USC finished the game with a 52-33 advantage on the boards - crucial in securing victory today - and shot 41 percent from the floor to Pepperdine's 38 percent. Cassie Harberts led all with 23 points on the day, and Stefanie Gilbreath was next with 10. Christina Marinacci hauled in 12 rebounds, and Briana Gilbreath finished with a career-high nine assists. Pepperdine was led by Bell's 22 points, with Jazmine Jackson getting 17 and Katie Menton adding 15 for the Waves.

    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.

    SCOUTING STANFORD
    The Cardinal enter the week ranked No. 4 in the nation according to the AP, holding 9-1 overall record after beating Tennessee 97-80 and Cal State Bakersfield 90-48 before the holiday break. Nnemkadi Ogwumike leads Stanford with 24.0 points and 11.0 rebounds per game. Tara VanDerveer is in her 33rd season as head coach of the Cardinal, who went undefeated in Pac-10 play last season and reached the NCAA Final Four, falling to Texas A&M in the semifinal. USC is 19-47 all-time against the Cardinal, having lost the past eight games against Stanford. The Cardinal beat the Trojans 95-51 in Palo Alto and 78-64 at the Galen Center last season. USC's last win over the Cardinal came in a 73-72 victory at Galen Center in the 2007-08 season.

    SCOUTING CAL
    The Bears enter Pac-12 play with a 9-3 overall record after losing 77-75 to Ohio State and beating Dartmouth 80-39 before the holiday break.Reshanda Gray and Layshia Clarendon lead Cal in scoring with 10.7 and 10.4 points per game, respectively, and Gennifer Brandon leads on the boards with 10.7 rebounds per game. Lindsay Gottlieb is in her first season as head coach of the Bears, who went 7-11 in the Pac-12 last season and reached the second round of the WNIT. USC is 34-23 all-time against Cal after taking an 82-71 loss in Berkeley and beating the Bears 80-67 at Galen Center last season.

    ROAD WARRIORS
    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 have 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 losses to date have all come on the road against currently AP-ranked teams: No. 23 Nebraska, No. 6 Georgia, No. 3 Notre Dame and No. 10 Texas A&M.

    TROPICAL TANGLES
    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 l ead 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 currently stands at No. 14 all-time, now holding 1,391 career points, and Corral is up to No. 15 with 1,304. Gilbreath has taken over at No. 5 all-time in career blocks (now holds 151) must moved up to No. 9 all-time in steals (currently holds 214) and free throws made (329) on Dec. 15. She also ranks No. 11 all-time in career rebounds (675). Corral already is etched as USC's all-time 3-point leader (250), and she's No. 7 on the list for career assists (currently holds 394).

    FRESHMAN FIRSTS
    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.

    INJURY REPORT
    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.

    YOUNG GUNS
    Compared to the 14 years of combined time at USC among those four guards, 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 11.9 points and 5.9 rebounds per game. Marinacci missed the first game of her career in USC's 2011-12 season opener, but has returned to provide 5.4 points and 6.4 rebounds per game to date.

    FRESH FACES
    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.

    ALL-AMERICAN GIRLS
    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.

    LAST SEASON
    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.