After a strong showing against Biola on Tuesday night, the Women of Troy officially kick off their season with a showdown against the Gonzaga Bulldogs (1-0) at the Galen Center today at 1 p.m.
“[Playing against Biola] was a good game for us considering what we’re trying to do,” USC coach Michael Cooper said. “We had our lulls, but we got it together and we were able to put them away.”
The Women of Troy showed off a newly fortified and healthy lineup that saw five players hit double figures in the 93-66 win.
One lingering issue from last season was missing during the exhibition game as the Women of Troy outrebounded Biola 41-26 as well.
“I was pleased with our rebounding against a smaller team,” Cooper said. “I was happy with the effort we made since we’ve been working on that.”
Two freshmen that are expected to make significant contributions this season started off their Trojan careers on a high note. Freshman forward Cassie Harberts scored 14 points and grabbed six rebounds, while fellow freshman guard Len’Nique Brown scored 11 points and grabbed six rebounds.
Along with these two, the Women of Troy also received solid contributions from their returning core group of players.
Senior center Kari LaPlante (20 points), sophomore forward Christina Marinacci (17 points), senior guard Jacki Gemelos (12 points) and junior guard Ashley Corral (six points, nine assists) continued their strong play from last season.
Junior guard Briana Gilbreath came off the bench and saw limited action because of a lingering shoulder injury but is expected to be back in the starting lineup today.
Defensively, the Women of Troy know they need to do a better job against the Bulldogs, who come into the Galen Center after a 115-51 beat down of Western Oregon University in their exhibition game last Saturday.
Last season, the Bulldogs (29-5, 16-0) reeled off a perfect record in conference play on their way to the NCAA tournament, before falling in the regional semifinal game to Xavier.
They return two of their four leading scorers from last year in guard Courtney Vandersloot and guard/forward Katelan Redmon and look poised to make another run at a West Coast Conference title.
With these two returning, the Women of Troy know they will have their hands full.
“Transition defense is big,” Corral said. “[Vandersloot] is one of the best point guards in the nation and we’ve got to get up on her early. And boxing out is always [key].”
Despite a strong performance against Biola, the coaching staff believes there is room for improvement.
“I was pleased with our performance in spots,” Cooper said. “I thought it was a good effort and a lot of people got to play, but there is still a long process to this.”