After a disappointing loss to Oregon, the USC women’s basketball team looks to bounce back this week against two of the top teams in the Pac-10.
USC (13-7, 7-2) kicked off the second half of its conference schedule with road games against California and No. 2 Stanford. The Women of Troy beat Cal (11-9, 5-4) earlier this season on a last-second 3-pointer by sophomore guard Ashley Corral.
“We had a tough game against Cal here at home and they’re probably coming out to avenge that loss,” senior guard Hailey Dunham said. “We have to go in with a new focus and correct the things we didn’t do as well the first time we played them.”
One thing USC needs to figure out is a way to slow down the Golden Bears’ inside-out combination of freshman forward/center DeNesha Stallworth and redshirt senior guard Alexis Gray-Lawson. In the first game between the two teams this season, the duo combined for 50 points.
“After that we switched up our post defense,” USC assistant coach Mary Wooley said. “We’re really challenging our [bigs] to play better defense because they let a freshman get 30 points on them.”
USC must also be ready for Cal’s pressure defense. The Women of Troy turned the ball over 18 times against Oregon and spent practice discussing how to overcome it.
“A lot of it comes down to recognizing where we need to be on the basketball floor,” Wooley said. “We try and tell them one thing that counteracts pressure is calmness. If you stop and slow down, the pressure can’t be as effective.”
The road does not get any easier for the Women of Troy after that. USC battles No.2 Stanford (19-1, 9-0) on Sunday in a game that will be televised locally. Stanford won handily at the Galen Center last month and has yet to be challenged this season in the Pac-10.
“Every game that we play we want to measure ourselves against Stanford,” Wooley said. “If we can come out and compete with them I think we can surprise some people.”
This weekend could feature the debut of redshirt junior guard Jacki Gemelos. The former McDonald’s All-American has been cleared for action after sitting out the last three seasons with knee injuries.
Other members of the team are dealing with injury concerns as well. Corral, who leads the team in scoring, sat out of practice on Monday with a sore heel.
“Everybody’s got bumps and bruises, but I don’t think we’re beat down at all,” Dunham said. “We’re coming out fired up about the Oregon loss.”
The Women of Troy play Cal at 7 p.m. tonight. They take on the Cardinal at 1 p.m. Sunday.