Once again, a weak spot USC women’s basketball team was exposee. This time it cost the team a win.
California dominated the undersized Women of Troy (13-8, 7-3) on the boards and stole a 61-55 victory Thursday night in Berkeley, Calif.
USC led for most of the game but gave up 23 offensive rebounds and 31 second-chance points to Cal (12-9, 6-4). The Golden Bears outrebounded USC 49-30 overall.
The final minute was a microcosm of the game for the Women of Troy. Consecutive 3-pointers by sophomore guard Ashley Corral pulled USC within two points before the team’s rebounding woes came back to haunt them.
Cal rebounded its own missed free throw twice to put the game away. The Golden Bears made three separate trips to the foul line in the possession and knocked down 4 of 6 attempts.
The Women of Troy jumped out to an early lead in the first half behind a hot start by sophomore guard Briana Gilbreath and contributions from an unexpected source.
After senior forward/guard Aarika Hughes tweaked her ankle on the opening possession of the game, redshirt junior guard Jacki Gemelos checked in and provided the Women of Troy with a spark.
Gemelos gave USC a glimpse of what to expect when the rust accumulated over three years of inaction comes off. She finished with eight points, five rebounds and five assists in her USC debut.
With an assist from Gemelos, the tandem of Gilbreath and Corral carried USC for much of the first half. Combined, the duo had 18 of the team’s first 22 points and paced USC to a 28-23 halftime lead.
A 3-pointer by senior guard Heather Oliver pushed the lead to six points midway through the second half, but the Golden Bears went on a 10-2 run after that to take a lead they would not relinquish.
Cal extended the lead to eight points in the final minute before the near-heroics by Corral. After a 3-pointer by Corral drew the Women of Troy within five points, the Golden Bears turned the ball over and gave it back to USC. Corral knocked down another deep 3-pointer to give the Women of Troy momentary hope.
Corral finished with a team-high 16 points on 7 of 13 shooting. Gilbreath added 12 points but scored just two after halftime.
USC held Cal guard Alexis Gray-Lawson to just nine points but had trouble containing the Golden Bear’s frontcourt. Gray-Lawson entered the game averaging 24 points per game in conference play.
Forward/center DeNesha Stallworth and forward Gennifer Brandon combined for 21 points and 24 rebounds.
USC has lost two straight for the first time since early this season. Next up is a showdown with No. 2 Stanford at 1 p.m. on Sunday.