Women's Basketball
    USC Women Host Vanderbilt in Finale for 2012
    The Trojans wrap up 2012 at home this week vs. Vanderbilt.
    The Trojans wrap up 2012 at home this week vs. Vanderbilt.

    Dec. 27, 2012

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    THIS WEEK
    The USC women's basketball team is looking to wrap up 2012 on a winning note with one last nonconference game set up for Saturday (Dec. 29) at 2 p.m. against Vanderbilt. The Trojans (3-7) set up camp once again at Galen Center to host the Commodores (9-3) for the first time in program history in a year-end finale. USC is looking to snap a five-game losing streak, while Vanderbilt totes a six-game win streak into the visit to Los Angeles.

    FOLLOW ALONG
    Saturday's game will be STREAMED ONLINE with audio broadcast by Jason Schwartz and Daren Flam. Live stats through GameTracker also will be available online through the women's basketball page at usctrojans.com.

    IN THE NATION
    USC opened the year receiving votes in the national polls but is now unranked. Vanderbilt is unranked but receiving votes in both polls this week.

    LAST WEEK
    For the first time in the six-year history of the Women of Troy Basketball Classic, host USC took two losses during the two-day action at Galen Center, falling first 78-69 to UC Davis before a 75-60 loss to No. 4 Duke. USC opened up against a hot-handed UC Davis squad in the opener of the Classic. The Aggies knocked down 14 threes in the game to build and keep some space on the host Trojans, holding onto a lead down the stretch to hand host USC a 78-69 loss. USC goes to 3-6 overall with the loss, and UC Davis improves to 4-4. It was the first-ever meeting between USC and UC Davis, and the Aggies proved the aggressors, especially from beyond the arc. UC Davis shot 54 percent from 3-point land as it knocked down 14 threes in the game and led by as much as 19 points. USC would cut it to four during the final two minutes - thanks in large part to a set of steals by Brianna Barrett, who finished with eight on the night - but UC Davis was helped by a 6-for-6 free-throw effort from Sydnee Fipps in the last 38 seconds to keep the Aggies a step ahead. Fipps would finish with a game-high 22 points on a 3-for-3 outing on threes. Cortney French hit five threes in finishing with 20 for the Aggies, who shot 50 percent overall from the floor. USC shot 36 percent and received a team-high 18 points from Ariya Crook, who hit a career-high five 3-pointers in the game. Cassie Harberts and Brianna Barrett finished with 10 points apiece. USC head coach Michael Cooper was serving a one-game suspension for Friday's game vs. UC Davis because of an NCAA secondary violation involving the use of an ineligible player in practice. Associate head coach Daron Park assumed head coaching duties at the game. Coach Cooper returned for Saturday's game vs. No. 4 Duke, where the Trojans took a 75-60 loss to the Blue Devils. Cassie Harberts delivered her 10th straight double-digit performance of the season with 17 points in the game, while Kate Oliver tallied her first double-digit day as a Trojan. Not only that, Oliver emerged with a double-double for USC, finishing up with 15 points and 10 rebounds. Another Trojan first came from the hands of sophomore Alexyz Vaioletama, who nailed two 3-pointers for the first time in her young Trojan career on the way to 10 points on the day. Duke, meanwhile, had all five starters finish up in double figures, led by Chelsea Gray's 17 points. USC held tight to the Blue Devils for much of the first half, cutting the Duke lead down to two under four minutes. That 26-24 Duke edge would expand to a 39-30 halftime lead, however, thanks in part to a late three by the Blue Devils before the break. USC was hitting well from the floor, going 41 percent to match Duke's scoring pace, although the Blue Devils hit four 3-pointers in the half to help counter the Trojans. Duke skipped ahead by as much as 15 points, up 45-30 on the Trojans with a 6-0 start to the second half. USC's Kate Oliver proved powerful for USC next, securing her first double-digit game as a Trojan as she dumped in six more points in a 7-2 USC scoring run that cut the Duke lead down to 10. USC got it to a nine-point margin on several occasions, but Duke was able to convert off Trojan turnovers and build up to a 67-50 advantage entering the final three minutes of action. At the end of the day, USC's Brianna Barrett was named to the Women of Troy Classic All-Tournament Team.

    SCOUTING VANDY
    The Commodores carry a six-game win streak into this week's game at USC. Vanderbilt (9-3) is led by Tiffany Clarke with 15.2 points and 7.8 rebounds per game. Melanie Balcomb is in her 11th season as head coach of the Commodores, who went 23-10 overall last season in reaching the NCAA Second Round. This will be the first-ever meeting between USC and Vanderbilt.

    BACK FOR MORE
    USC returns 52 percent of its scoring and 52 percent of its rebounding from the 2011-12 roster. Cassie Harberts is the top returning scorer (357 points, 11.9 per game) and Christina Marinacci is back as USC's leader on the boards (215 rebounds, 7.4 per game). That pair, along with junior Desireé Bradley, are USC's most experienced returners with a combined 217 games played entering the 2012-13 season. From there, USC's roster is filled with players with no more than one season of experience, including sophomores Ariya Crook and Alexyz Vaioletama, who provided 5.2 and 4.5 points per game, respectively, as freshmen. Outside of those five players, returner Thaddesia Southall has played six games around injury, with eight Trojans in line to play their first-ever career games as Women of Troy this season.

    VETERAN STATUS
    Forward Christina Marinacci is the lone senior on the roster this season as she enters her second year as a captain for the Women of Troy. Although awarded with Pac-10 All-Freshman Honorable Mention in her first season and selected to the Vanderbilt Thanksgiving All-Tournament Team as a sophomore, Marinacci went even bigger for USC as a junior. The team's leading rebounder overall last season (7.4 rpg), Marinacci really hit her stride during Pac-12 play. There, the junior hauled in 8.2 rebounds per game and averaged 10.6 points per game. For her standout efforts as a leader in all realms, Marinacci picked up All-Pac-12 Honorable Mention and Pac-12 All-Defensive Honorable Mention. She also hits the books as hard as she does the boards, having earned Pac-12 All-Academic Honorable Mention and standing tall as USC's Lowe's Senior CLASS candidate for 2012-13. Against Arkansas State on Nov. 21, Marinacci tallied her first double-double of the year with 12 points and 11 rebounds, notching her sixth career double day overall.

    POWER IN THE PAINT
    Forward Cassie Harberts is USC's top returning scorer from last season, having stood as the Trojans' No. 2 scorer in 2011-12 as a sophomore. Now a junior, Harberts is tabbed to shoulder the load for the Women of Troy. So far, she's proven wholly capable of that challenge, as she opened her junior season with three consecutive double-doubles, and has scored in double figures in every game to date. That start has Harberts now holding 10 career double-doubles, going along with career highs of 31 points as a freshman vs. WSU along with 18 rebounds also as a freshman vs. Oregon. She has started every game of her career since setting foot at Troy.

    THE NEW KIDS
    USC head coach Michael Cooper and his staff have added a class of freshmen that ranks No. 14 in the nation on the recruiting charts. With 2012 McDonald's All-American Jordan Adams standing tall as a highly touted guard, USC's talented class also includes guards Brianna Barrett and Destinie Gibbs. Adams and Gibbs have been in the starting lineup for every game to date, and Barrett has been an early sub for the backcourt as the trio has factored in heavily to the Trojan gameplan. The three true freshmen have combined to provide 13.1 points per game so far.

    READY TO GO
    Last season, USC had four players waiting in the wings for their chance to hit the courts for the Trojans. Thaddesia Southall actually started out the year, but was sidelined by a knee injury that kept her on the bench the remainder of the season. She's almost ready to go this year as a redshirt sophomore coming back from injury. Redshirt freshman Deanna Calhoun, who was out with a knee injury also last season, saw her first action as a Trojan on Nov. 30 at San Diego State. The Women of Troy also welcome the additions of sophomore Kiki Alofaituli and junior Kate Oliver, who were unable to compete last season due to NCAA transfer rules. All standing over 6-feet tall, add them up, and that's a good 25 feet of basketball talent to factor into the 2012-13 USC gameplan. Alofaituli and Oliver have both picked up several starts, and are averaging 4.8 and 5.7 points per game, respectively. Oliver recently tallied her first career double-double as a Trojan with 15 points and 10 rebounds on Dec. 22 vs. Duke.

    FRESH FACES
    The 2012-13 USC roster has been rounded out by two walk-ons -- freshman Franceska Regnier and sophomore Rachel Totten, who studied for a year at UC Santa Barbara -- and a transfer from Hawai'i, Malia Cravens. Cravens will sit out the 2012-13 season due to NCAA transfer rules. Regnier is yet to play due to her eligibility status, and Totten saw her first playing time as a Trojan on Nov. 30 at San Diego State.

    COOP'S TROOPS
    Head coach Michael Cooper has a new staff on hand this season, having added associate head coach Daron Park and assistants Tai Dillard and Evan Unrau to his coaching crew. Daron Park comes to USC after a season at California, with a resume replete with success in eight seasons of collegiate coaching and seven NCAA Tournament appearances. Before his stint in Berkeley, where he helped the Bears to an NCAA appearance in 2012, Parks served as associate head coach at Louisiana Tech for five seasons. Park and the Techsters made back-to-back NCAA appearances in 2010 and 2011. His collegiate career began in Maryland, where he and the Terps won a preseason WNIT championship and earned two No. 1 seeds with two trips to the NCAA Elite Eight. Park had come to Maryland after serving as an assistant coach at Utah from 2004-07, where he began to gather his NCAA Tournament prowess in reaching two tournaments, including an Elite Eight appearance in 2006. Assistant coach Tai Dillard comes to USC after five seasons as an assistant coach at UTSA. Prior to that, Dillard has an accomplished collegiate and pro resume as a player, having played at Texas before starring in 57 games as a guard for the WNBA's San Antonio Silver Stars. While coaching at UTSA, Dillard helped see the Roadrunners to back-to-back NCAA Tournament trips in 2008 and 2009. A four-year letterwinner with the Longhorns, Dillard also experienced four NCAA Tournaments as a player, including a visit to the 2003 NCAA Final Four. Assistant coach Evan Unrau also brings experience as a player to the Trojan coaching staff. An Honorable Mention All-American during her four years playing at Missouri, she also was drafted by the WNBA's Washington Mystics and also played professionally overseas. Her coaching career took her most recently to Santa Clara, where she was an assistant for three seasons. Prior to that, Unrau served as an assistant coach for one season at UC Santa Barbara, reaching the 2009 NCAA Tournament. Her collegiate staff experience began at Stanford, where she was video coordinator during the Cardinal's run to the 2008 NCAA title game.

    TROJANS ON TV
    The USC women's basketball team has a solid lineup of television appearances on tap for 2012-13, thanks to the development of the Pac-12 Networks, which are taking the Trojans live to the small screen for 10 games this coming season. USC's Pac-12 Network debut will come fast, with the Trojans' Nov. 23 clash against Nebraska set for national broadcast live from the Galen Center at 2 p.m. After that, USC has a bigtime clash with Duke set for TV on Dec. 22, followed by eight Pac-12 tilts to be televised by the Pac-12 Networks, including home-away series with California, Stanford and crosstown rival UCLA. That includes a wild stretch of three games in five days as the Trojans host Stanford on Feb. 15, California on Feb. 17 and UCLA on Feb. 19 for a television frenzy for the Women of Troy at Galen Center. Other televised conference tangles set for TV will be a Feb. 3 face-off with Colorado at the Galen Center and a March 1 matchup at Arizona.

    WHO'S NEXT?
    USC welcomes two acclaimed players to the roster for 2013-14 with the signing of Drew Edelman and Courtney Jaco to national letters of intent on Nov. 14, 2012. Head coach Michael Cooper is eager to add the two California talents to his crew for next season, as the pair offers up a well-balanced skill set for the Women of Troy. A 6-4 post player, Drew Edelman hails from Atherton, Calif., as a standout player from Menlo School under coach John Paye. Ranked No. 41 in the nation at her position, Edelman played club for East Bay Xplosion under coach Mark Anger. While Edelman controls the paint, Courtney Jaco will be called on to take charge in the back court. A 5-8 guard from Compton, Calif. who ranks No. 44 in the nation at her position, Jaco played at Windward School for coach Vanessa Nygaard and club for Elbert Kinnebrew's Cal Sparks team. Edelman and Jaco are all set to hit the floor for the Women of Troy in 2014. Stay tuned!

    LAST SEASON
    USC finished the 2011-12 season with an 18-12 overall record after finishing third at 12-6 in the Pac-12 conference. The Trojans had ended the regular season on a six-game winning streak before taking a devastating loss to No. 11 seeded Washington State in the quarterfinals of the Pac-12 Tournament. That loss likely sealed the postseason fate of the Trojans, who had played a grueling nonconference schedule. USC's best wins of the year were an upset of Gonzaga on the road and a season sweep of California, including a heart-stopping overtime victory over the Bears in Berkeley. The Trojans also played defending NCAA champion Texas A&M down to the wire in College Station, where sixth-year senior Jacki Gemelos suffered her fifth season-ending knee injury of her career. USC would take a 71-70 loss to the Aggies in that one, to end a rough road trip that also saw the Trojans take an unexpected loss at Arkansas State in their first-ever trip to Arkansas. USC's tough nonconference schedule also put it up against No. 11 Georgia and No. 3 Notre Dame. At year's end USC seniors Ashley Corral and Briana Gilbreath would both pick up another spot on the All-Pac-12 Team, with Cassie Harberts and Christina Marinacci earning All-Pac-12 Honorable Mention and Ariya Crook on the Pac-12 All-Freshman Honorable Mention list.