USC finishing out regular season on upswing, honors seniors and beats Arizona State
LOS ANGELES – USC overcame poor first-half shooting and an Arizona State surge in the second half to seal a 59-53 win Saturday, as the program’s seniors were honored.
Ashley Corral scored nine of her 10 points in the second period, and Christina Marinacci six of her 12, to go along with 10 rebounds. Sun Devil Deja Mann led all scorers with 22 points. The win gives the Trojans possession of third place in the Pac-12 Conference, with two games remaining in regular season play.
The home team got off to an 11-0 start before ASU clamped down on defense to slow them down. The Sun Devils then went on a 15-5 run to cut their deficit to one, and they used 39 percent shooting to close the half ahead, 24-20. The Trojans shot 29 percent for the period.
USC did not make a shot until the 16-minute mark, when Briana Gilbreath nailed a three-pointer and then a layup to cut ASU’s lead to 28-25. The Trojans went on a run, but ASU responded, and the score tied three times before an Alexyz Vaioletama three-shot with 2:40 to go put USC up for good. Two free throws from Corral, as well as a three-pointer to answer one from the the Sun Devils, gave the Trojans enough of a cushion to hang on for the win.
USC out-rebounded ASU 41-33, and the Sun Devils had 16 turnovers to the Trojans’ 10. It was the fourth consecutive victory for USC, who also beat Arizona Thursday night, 78-63.
Coach Michael Cooper said the wins have given the Women of Troy confidence, as the conference tournament looms next week.
“When the Pac-12 Tournament starts, we’ll be ready for that,” he said.
Corral, who was one of five seniors honored before Saturday’s match up, said the win was doubly important.
“This game was more than a senior game,” she said. “To secure third place, we really needed to get this win.”
The Trojans have had a challenging season. They began with a No. 22 ranking, but were derailed in December when senior star guard Jacki Gemelos sustained her fourth ACL tear, and was lost for the season. USC dropped three straight games in January and two earlier this month, but now seem to be back on the upswing.
Senior forward Michelle Jenkins, who had to redshirt the season with an ACL injury, was honored Saturday as was Stefanie Gilbreath, who had sustained multiple ACL tears, like Gemelos. Gilbreath has played the full season, and for the first time in her college career, starred in more games than her younger sister Briana Gilbreath, the fifth Trojan senior.
All five took the court with their parents prior to the game and received framed jerseys and flowers.
Cooper, in his third year as head coach, said the day meant a lot to him.
“These young ladies have really matured,” he said. “It took a lot for me not to cry, after being here three years and watching these ladies grow up. It’s joyful to watch today.”
The Trojans head to Washington this week for their final regular-season games.
Other Pac-12 scores from the weekend
Sunday, February 26
Washington 60, Washington State 56
Saturday, February 25
UCLA 72, Arizona 58
No. 2 Stanford 69, Utah 42
California 64, Colorado 43
Oregon State 68, Oregon 53
Thursday, February 23
California 60, Utah 46
No. 2 Stanford 68, Colorado 46
UCLA 53, Arizona State 38
USC 78, Arizona 63