For the second game in a row, the USC women’s basketball team fell behind early. Only this time, the Women of Troy (1-1) could not overcome a slow start.
No. 5 Duke (2-0) jumped out to an 18-point halftime lead and coasted to a 75-50 victory at Cameron Indoor Stadium in Durham, N.C., handing the Women of Troy their first loss of the season.
“The difference in the two games is we weren’t having fun [Monday],” junior guard Briana Gilbreath said. “We were pressing because we were down so many points and got out of our style of basketball.”
Poor rebounding once again hurt the Women of Troy against Duke. The Blue Devils pounded USC on the glass all night, outrebounding the Women of Troy 50-37 and grabbing 21 offensive rebounds.
“When you give up 26 second-chance points you aren’t going to win many games,” USC coach Michael Cooper said. “It doesn’t matter what you do prior to a team shooting the ball. When the ball is in the air that determines what’s going to happen.”
Cooper and his players said the best remedy for their rebounding woes is more effort.
“We didn’t do a bad job against Gonzaga, so we thought we’d be fine doing the exact same thing [against Duke],” Gilbreath said. “Going back to the drawing board and working on the little things like boxing out will help us.”
Foul trouble also plagued USC for most of the game. All five starters committed at least three fouls, and sophomore forward Christina Marinacci fouled out late in the second half. Duke turned those fouls into 19 points from the free-throw line.
USC made several runs during the second half but couldn’t get the margin below 14 points. Gilbreath led USC with 12 points and four steals. Junior guard Ashley Corral added 10 points but shot just 3-of-10 from the floor.
“We have [Ashley] in a difficult situation because she should just be shooting the ball for us,” Cooper said. “But we are asking her to be a playmaker and a leader. But she’ll get better, it just takes practice.”
Corral was not the only player who struggled with shooting. USC held Duke to 42 percent from the field, but the Women of Troy made only 17 of their 54 attempts.
Senior guard Jasmine Thomas led Duke with a game-high 14 points. The Duke reserves also outscored USC’s bench, 34-13.
“This would have been a monumental win for us,” Cooper said. “But again we’ve got to go back to the drawing board. I think we did some good things, just to be 1-1. It’s a long season and we can make this ground up in the next two games. We have to use this as a learning experience.”
Aggressive nonconference scheduling has been the norm for USC since Cooper arrived on campus, and the next month does not get any easier, with upcoming games against No. 6 Xavier and No. 19 Georgia. Still, the team is confident it can rebound from the Duke game.
“[Tonight] was a learning experience for us,” Gilbreath said. “It’s better to lose like this early in the year when we have time to go back and fix our mistakes.”