Women of Troy look to stay hot

After a dispiriting loss to Rutgers dropped the USC women’s basketball team to 1-3, the players came together and reached a decision.

Enough is enough.

They weren’t referencing the Donna Summers classic. Rather, the team was tired of being on the wrong end of the final margin.

“We just didn’t want to keep losing,” junior Kari LaPlante said. “After the Rutgers loss it sunk in and we decided [that was] not what we wanted.”

USC (3-3) turned it on after that, knocking off a pair of ranked opponents in its next two games to move to .500 on the season. The Women of Troy get a chance to build on that momentum this week with road tests against Long Beach State and No. 11 Duke.

“Championships are won on the road,” USC coach Michael Cooper said. “If you can’t win [on the road] it’s not going to be too good for you at home.”

Neither game will be an easy victory. Former USC player and assistant coach Jody Wynn, in her first season at the helm for Long Beach State (3-3), will be gunning for a win in her return to Troy.

“I think that’ll give [them] more incentive to play extremely hard,” Cooper said. “Usually when a coach leaves a program they always want to come back and do well.”

LaPlante said the returning players are eager to show their former coach how much they have improved.

“It’s going to be exciting because we’ve worked on our game a lot over the summer,” she said. “We’re going to throw a couple of new things at her.”

Senior Karina Figueroa leads the 49ers in scoring with 18.2 points per game.

The Duke game gives USC a chance to exact revenge for last season’s loss at the Galen Center. The Women of Troy were up by as many as 17 points in the second half before relinquishing the lead and the game. Duke won in overtime, 97-89.

Slowing down junior Jasmine Thomas will be key for USC against Duke. The lightning-quick guard leads her team in scoring and is coming off just the third triple-double in school history.

“Any player that we play in the country is going to have to go against all five of our players,” Cooper said. “We’ll make it tough for her to score.”

The early-season schedule has been challenging by design. Cooper said that playing tough non-conference games would help prepare the team for conference play.

“We’re still a work-in-progress,” he said. “All of these games are a tune-up for when the Pac-10 conference starts, and that’s when we want to be ready.”

The Women of Troy play Long Beach State at 7 pm PT on Thursday and tip-off against Duke at 11 am PT on Saturday.

USC received a handful of votes in both the AP and Coaches Poll this week.

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