USC: Ashley Corral

Jacki Gemelos scored 15 points to lead USC to a lopsided 63-36 victory over Illinois State in the semifinals of the women's NIT Wednesday night at Redbird Arena.

USC will face Toledo in the WNIT Championship at 12 p.m. PT on Saturday in Toledo, Ohio.

The win was USC's fourth straight road win in the WNIT and Illinois State's first home loss of the season. The Trojans (24-12) jumped out to a 16-1 lead over the first 10 minutes of the game. Illinois State came back and trailed only 30-22 at the half, but USC held them to just 14 second-half points to finish off the blowout win.

Ashley Corral added 14 points for the Trojans. Briana Gilbreath had 11. ISU had no players finish in double figures.

USC women in dance but not Big Dance

March, 30, 2011
The USC women's basketball team was supposed to make the NCAA Tournament this year, supposed to go to the Big Dance and make a little noise.

But the Women of Troy didn't, finishing with an underwhelming 19-12 regular-season record that left them on the outside looking in on Selection Monday.

But they're still doing a little dancing of their own as they prepare to face Illinois State tonight at 5:05 PT in the semifinals of the Women's NIT in Normal, Ill. And for a team that declined an NIT invitation last year in Cooper's first year on the job, the experience has proven much-needed for the future.

"This is obviously not the dance we want to be in, but it's a dance," Cooper said Wednesday by phone from the team hotel in Normal. "The key is, we needed some postseason play to understand what it's gonna take and the things you have to put into the season before it's all said and done.

"It's important that we do learn from our mistakes and enhance our strengths, and that's what we've been doing here -- playing good basketball."

The Women of Troy are playing good basketball now, and they're doing so under fairly tough circumstances that will only continue. Since beating UC-Santa Barbara at home two weeks back in the first round of the tourney, USC has had to travel to three different cities in a one-week period to clinch a spot in the semifinals, beating Nevada, BYU and Colorado in back-to-back-to-back games.

USC has won each game after the first round by a double-digit margin. Junior point guard Ashley Corral and senior guard Jacki Gemelos each had 20 points in a second-round victory over Nevada, four players scored in double-digits in a third-round win at BYU and Sunday's win over Colorado -- played at altitude in Boulder -- featured Corral putting up a 32-point performance, the highest-scoring game by a USC woman in 14 years.

So, no, the road trips haven't been hurting the Women of Troy so far, who, with 23 wins on the year, have now recorded the most in a season since the 1993-1994 season.

"Being on the road, it is difficult, but it's doing good things for us," Cooper said. "As Pat Riley used to say when he was my coach with the Lakers, 'championships are won on the road.'

"You gotta go out there and play."

The winner of Wednesday's game will play against either Charlotte or Toledo on Saturday at noon PST. If USC does win, it will be forced to play another road game because that date would coincide with the Nickelodeon Kids' Choice Awards being held at the Galen Center this weekend.

A no go for the Women of Troy

March, 15, 2010
And so it ends for the USC women's basketball team.

Hoping — praying, even — for a bid to the NCAA tourney, the Women of Troy were turned away Monday, the likely first ones out of the 64-team tourney. Last-minute projections had them sneaking in and earning a No. 10 seed, but, alas, it was not their day.

The NCAA selection committee decided on unexpected teams like Green Bay and Arkansas Little-Rock instead.

"Boy, it hurts," USC coach Michael Cooper said after speaking with his team following the announcement. "I thought that we had done enough this year to definitely put us in the tournament.

"But, again, the committee says they saw something different."

The Women of Troy finished 19-12 on the season — assuming they don't accept a bid to the NIT, something Cooper intimated was very possible. Regardless, in the former NBA star and WNBA coach's first season at the college level, his team made undeniable strides, beating teams like UCLA, Texas and Mississippi State and finishing an impressive 12-6 in conference play.

"I'm very, very happy and proud of our team," Cooper said simply Monday. "We've overcame a lot."

But not enough, evidently. A five-game losing streak in the dog days of late January and early February ended up costing the Women of Troy dearly.

A perhaps stoic Cooper expanded on how he thought his team might have fallen just a bit short:

As for next year, USC will lose four seniors who played significant minutes this season, but, as Cooper noted Monday, the Women of Troy return a core group of players to rival most. Four of the team's top five scorers return, including All-Pac-10 sophomores Ashley Corral and Briana Gilbreath.

"We're going to be good," Cooper said. "We've got some great people coming in. We've got a core group who knows the system and knows what the coaches want. We'll be alright."

USC women fall to UCLA in Pac-10 semis

March, 13, 2010
This just might be the end for the Women of Troy.

Third-seeded USC lost a close fight to second-seeded UCLA on Saturday at the Galen Center, 59-53, in the semifinals of the Pac-10 tournament. The Women of Troy (19-12) led with as few as four minutes left, but they couldn't buy a bucket in the final minutes. After senior guard Heather Oliver hit a big three to give USC a 53-51 lead with 4:25 to go, USC didn't score again, putting UCLA (24-7) in the championship game against Stanford on Sunday afternoon.

Ashley Corral led USC with 15 points and senior Aarika Hughes added 12. UCLA's trio of Darxia Morris, Jasmine Dixon, and Markel Walker combined to score 41 points to lead the No. 23 Bruins.

The Women of Troy started horrendously, converting just 18 percent of their shots in the first 14 minutes of play. While USC did right the ship somewhat, shooting 32 percent overall, the Bruins had a sizable advantage for the game by shooting 43 percent.

USC coach Michael Cooper said before the tournament his team had a definite shot to qualify for the NCAA tournament — and that's certainly true. But a semifinal win would've given the Women of Troy a much better case. Now USC must wait until Monday, when the selection committee determines the bracket for the NCAA Women's Tournament.

USC women move on to semis

March, 12, 2010
Behind a remarkable second-half performance from guard Briana Gilbreath, in which the sophomore scored 15 points in the half and eight points in one five-minute stretch, the USC women managed to beat seventh-seeded Oregon, 80-76, on Friday in the quarterfinals of the Pac-10 tournament.

The Women of Troy (19-11) are hosting the tourney at the Galen Center. USC got 19 points from Gilbreath, 16 from point guard Ashley Corral and 15 from center Kari LaPlante, but three Oregon players scored at least 18 points to keep the Ducks in the game.

At the half, USC led 39-34. But Oregon put together a small run to lead 64-59 with nine minutes left. On USC's next possession, Gilbreath picked up an offensive rebound and converted a three-point play. Gilbreath then stole the ball away from Oregon's Taylor Lilley and put in another layup to tie the score, and on Oregon's next possession, she blocked the shot of Oregon's Micaela Cocks and dished the ball to Hailey Dunham for a jumper that gave USC the lead, 66-64.

Oregon (16-15) got as close as 72-71 with a minute and nine seconds to play, but Corral hit a big 3-pointer to ice the game. Corral finished with four assists and six rebounds; Gilbreath added four assists, seven rebounds and game-high totals of five steals and four blacks.

Third-seeded USC now moves to face second-seeded UCLA on Saturday at 5 p.m. at the Galen Center. The Bruins easily handled 1oth-seeded Oregon State on Friday night, 60-44.

Notes: Gilbreath was named Pac-10 Co-Defensive Player of the Year on Thursday in a vote of the conference's 10 coaches. ... USC also announced today that defensive tackle Hebron 'Loni' Fangupo and cornerback Marshall Jones were granted medical hardship waivers by the NCAA, giving each of them another two years of eligibility.

Wednesday links and notes

March, 12, 2010
Lots of USC news on this Wednesday:
  • As Director of Track and Field Ron Allice prepares his team for the Northridge Relays this weekend, distance runner Blake Shaw and pole vaulter Brandon Estrada are in Fayetteville, Ark. for the NCAA Indoor Championships. Shaw, who is coached by famed distance runner Laszlo Tabori, ran a mile in 3:59.85 on Saturday, becoming the first Trojan in history to go under four minutes. Tabori, of course, was the third person in the world to ever record an under four-minute mile time, in May of 1955. Shaw will run the mile again in Arkansas, but a top finish might not be in the cards — even with his record-breaking time Saturday, he still finished only fifth in the race.
  • Making his debut for USC this weekend is famed sprinter Bryshon Nellum, who hasn't run an official race since March 1, 2008. Nellum, named the Gatorade boys' track and field athlete of the year during his senior year of high school in 2007, strained his hamstring in that race and sat out the rest of the season. Then, that Halloween, Nellum was shot in the left thigh and right hamstring at a Halloween party just off-campus.
  • More awards announced today: USC point guard Ashley Corral and guard Briana Gilbreath earned All-Pac-10 honors, announced today in a vote of the conference's 10 head coaches. Corral leads the Women of Troy with 15.1 points and five assists per game; Gilbreath is second behind Corral with 12.8 points and leads in rebounds with 5.9 per game. To wrap up other honors, forward Christina Marinacci was Honorable Mention All-Freshman, and center Kari LaPlante was Honorable Mention All-Defensive.
  • Link roll: USCRipsIt reports that Jordan Cameron and Simione Vehikite have made position changes, O.J. Mayo said he never got paid "during, before or after" his time at USC on the Dan Patrick show, and former Trojan Keary Colbert will coach tight ends as an offensive graduate assistant, and the Pac-10 Tournament starts at the Staples Center.

Monday links and notes

March, 8, 2010
Plenty of USC-related news on this Monday:
  • To start it off, multiple sources are reporting tonight that USC coach Kevin O'Neill has decided not to retain assistants Phil Johnson and Gib Arnold. Both Johnson and Arnold were in their fifth seasons with the program. At the time he was hired last year, O'Neill said of Johnson: "I have a great respect for the basketball knowledge of Phil Johnson and am very pleased that he has decided to stay at USC," said head coach Kevin O'Neill. Arnold is known as a recruiting extraordinaire. Bob Cantu, the only USC assistant to stay on staff according to reports, tweeted today: "Well now that the season is over its time to hit the recruiting trail hard!!"
  • Beyond Nikola Vucevic, Dwight Lewis and Marcus Johnson's end-of-season Pac-10 awards, multiple Trojans were also honored today. Point guard Ashley Corral was named Pac-10 player of the week after she scored a game-high 20 points in USC's come-from-behind victory over Arizona State on Staturday. Corral also garnered USC Credit Union Student-Athlete of the Week honors, as did men's swimmer Clement Lefert. Lefert won the 200-yard freestyle event at the Pac-10 championships last week and set USC's school record in the process.
  • On the topic of school records, Blake Shaw became the first Trojan runner in the school's history to run a sub-four-minute mile on Saturday in Seattle, Wash. Shaw, a sophomore, ran the mile in 3:59. Watch the video of his performance here.
  • Football news: USC announced Jeff Fucci has been hired as director of football operations, projected starter at safety Drew McAllister is likely to miss spring practice due to hip surgery, and the Trojans conducted their third of six conditioning sessions on Howard Jones Field this evening.
  • From Tuesday on, USC baseball will play a remarkable six games in the next seven days, starting with an away game at Pepperdine tomorrow, a home contest with Connecticut on Wednesday, and a four-game series at Hawaii beginning Friday. USC's Kevin Couture will start tomorrow's game, roughly 48 hours after he was roughed up in his start against New Mexico on Saturday. He lasted just 2/3 of an inning in that game.

Sunday links and notes

March, 7, 2010
A bunch of USC-related news on this Sunday:
  • Trojan baseball is in the middle of a doubleheader with New Mexico as we speak. Saturday's game was rained out at Dedeaux Field, so the Lobos and Trojans are playing two today. USC won the first game, 6-2, on the strength of a strong outing from new weekend starter Ben Mount. Mount gave up just one earned run in 5 2/3 innings. But Kevin Couture, on the mound to start the second game, didn't have similar luck. Couture faced nine batters and retired just two of them — with a final line of four runs in 2/3 of an inning. And it's gone downhill from there, as the Trojans currently trail 16-7 in the ninth inning. Follow along here.
  • In more USC news, men's basketball lost Saturday afternoon in Arizona to end its season on a five-game losing streak, but the women are on an exact opposite streak. Ashley Corral and Co. have won five in a row, culminating in a 62-52 win at home against Arizona State on Saturday. Each of the past five victories for the Women of Troy have come by margins of 10 points or less.
  • USC-bound forward Bryce Jones of Woodland Hills Taft had a monster game in last night's City Division I title game. Jones, at times matching up against former USC commit Dwayne Polee, exploded for 29 points on 8-of-14 shooting. He also had 12 rebounds, by far the most active player on the Galen Center court. But his Taft team fell, 70-60, to Westchester for the second consecutive time in the city finals. We profiled Jones in advance of Saturday's game, and you can also hear from him after the loss.
  • A few links: Stanley Havili is interviewedby, the Daily News' Tom Hoffarth tells a remarkable storyof USC long-distance runner Greg Woodburn, and an Arizona Daily star columnist writeson USC coach Kevin O'Neill's blowup at the end of Saturday's game.

Recapping Thursday

February, 12, 2010
Here's what went down relating to USC sports this Thursday:
  • While the USC and UCLA men's basketball squads will match up on Valentine's Day night, the women's teams play early Saturday — and there's certainly a rivalry there too. The Women of Troy beat the Bruins, 70-63, at the Galen Center in January. "We're expecting them to come out a little bit harder," USC guard Briana Gilbreath said after practice Thursday. "They're trying to get that win in their house. They're going to be rolling in with a chip on their shoulder." In that game, USC trailed by seven with 10 minutes to go, but clutch free-throw shooting allowed the Women of Troy to move in front.
  • UCLA is in second place in the Pac-10, USC is in third, and sophomore point guard Ashley Corral leads the Women of Troy in points with 16.1 per game — but don't think she cares about her stats. "I just want to win," Corral said. "I don't care if I have no points — it really doesn't matter to me. I really just want to win this game. It's about more than just beating UCLA, it's about returning to second place in the Pac-10."
  • USC football coach Lane Kiffin has officially joined Twitter. Kiffin had a Twitter account when he was the coach at Tennessee but spent the first month of his USC tenure without one.
  • Speaking of Kiffin, our Ted Miller did a Q&A with him. Check it out here. Highlights include this, on whether the media supported his decision to leave Tennessee: "If people were familiar with all the details of the situations -- which they never will be -- I think that people would definitely understand," and this, on the nine-win 2009 season: "Losing both coordinators, 21 players to the NFL, I think most head coaches in most places would be pretty jacked to come out of that and still win nine games."
  • Talk of Pac-10 expansion continues, with viable candidates including Brigham Young, Colorado, Utah, and Boise State. But news out of Utah this weeksays neither BYU nor Utah has made any sort of contact with Pac-10 officials. The Sporting News predicts Colorado won't switch from the Big 12, and the NBC affiliate in Boise says the Broncos might not be a good fit in sports other than football.

USC women can't handle Stanford, lose 82-62

January, 8, 2010

So that's the standard for Pac-10 success.

No. 2 Stanford came into the Galen Center and blew the Women of Troy out of the water Friday night, 82-62, on the strength of 45 points from Kayla Pedersen and Nnemkadi Ogwumike.

In the front of the largest crowd at Galen for a women's game this season, coach Michael Cooper's squad started slow.

Really slow.

USC was outscored 22-4 in the first seven minutes of the game.

But the Women of Troy (8-6, 2-1) would fight back. They closed the gap to as little as nine points, 43-34, after a smooth jumper from point guard Ashley Corral shortly after the start of the second half.

From there, Stanford (12-1, 2-0) took control, with a 14-2 run powered by four 3-pointers.

Cooper said he was pleased with his squad's perseverance in coming back from an imposing deficit.

"I thought it was a very good played game by us," Cooper said. "For us to come back against the No. 2 team in the country and get within nine points, I thought that was admirable on our part. But that doesn't do anything for us."

Gilbreath spoke with high regard of a Stanford team that lost to No. 1 Connecticut by 12 last week but is still the Pac-10 favorite.

"They're definitely a team to admire," Gilbreath said. "They're very meticulous. When they run through their sets, they execute everything very well. We’ve definitely got time to grow."

Cooper said his team might have let up on the pressure when they got close. And he knew Stanford would capitalize immediately.

"The fact is that they’re a very good basketball team," Cooper said. "Once we got to within nine points we took a sigh of relief like, 'Oh, we’re back in the game.' You're not gonna win a lot of games with that kind of mindset."

Key player: Stanford had high praise for Corral, who had 18 points on 6-of-12 shooting in 33 minutes.

The 5-foot-9 sophomore covered the court aggressively while leading her team's offense.

Said head coach Tara VanDerveer: “Ashley Corral is as good a point guard as we’ve played against — on any team.”

Ogwumike said Corral found a way to score against a Stanford defense that doesn't usually allow scorers to do so.

"Ashley is very crafty," she said. "She has very good handling skills and a great 3-point shot. They screened for her a lot."

Key development: Cooper brought it up after the game: the Women of Troy still can't rebound. Stanford literally doubled USC's rebounding total, 54-27.

The Cardinal had 20 second chance points; USC had seven.

"Probably our biggest [Achilles'] heel tonight was our rebounding," Cooper said. "Championship teams rebound the ball, and that's not what we're doing."

Notes: Former Women of Troy Nicky McCrimmon and Pam McGee spoke in the USC locker room prior to the game. McCrimmon played for the Sparks under Cooper in the 2000's. Ex-WNBA great Lisa Leslie was also in attendance at the Galen Center and got significant applause from the crowd of 1,877 when she arrived in the first half.

USC women fall to NC State, 59-53

December, 30, 2009
With students home for winter break and the university essentially shut down for the week, the sleepy Galen Center played host to a non-conference battle between the Women of Troy and North Carolina State Wednesday night.

With an announced crowd of 854, not a soul sat in the upper bowl of the arena.

Men's basketball players Dwight Lewis, Leonard Washington, Nikola Vucevic and Marcus Simmons took up residence near the court, typing on their cell phones. And down in the training room, men's head coach Kevin O'Neill worked out on an elliptical just as the game was about to tip off.

For their part, the Women of Troy came out sluggish and never quite woke up. USC (6-5) scored a season-low 19 points in the first half, falling behind by 14 points, and went on to lose to the visiting Wolfpack, 59-53.

Point guard Ashley Corral shot 1-of-12 from the field as USC converted just 32 percent of its shot attempts on the night. Guard Briana Gilbreath came out firing with eight straight points to begin the half, but it wasn't enough, as N.C. State managed to keep USC at a safe distance until late in the game.

With five minutes left to play, the Women of Troy began to put together a mini-run, capped by a Daniela Roark lay-in to close the gap to 54-53 with two minutes left. But N.C. State guard Nikitta Gartrell — who freely penetrated into the lane all night — drove into the the key, nailed the lay-up, drew a foul and converted the free-throw attempt.

USC had a few more chances but couldn't convert on two one-and-ones, and N.C. State guard Amber White hit two free throws to clinch the victory. White led the Wolfpack (9-5) with 17 points and two assists.

"[You hate] to lose a game like that, where you're so close," Corral said afterward. "It wasn't our night out there today. It just wasn't our night."

No, but it was USC's final tuneup before Pac-10 conference play, which starts on New Year's Day with a 1:00 p.m. battle with Arizona State in Tempe.

The Women of Troy have only a few short hours to rest before boarding an early-morning flight Thursday morning to the Grand Canyon State.

USC head coach Michael Cooper said he wasn't worried. He suggested the physical style of N.C. State was similar to what his team would see out of the Sun Devils Friday, and he felt his team would now be better prepared.

"Hey, I thought our second half was a lot better," Cooper said as he mopped his brow after the game Wednesday. "We have a lot of potential that we're trying to learn how to utilize, and that will come."



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