Just when it seemed like poor shooting would doom the USC women’s basketball team, Briana Gilbreath got hot.
Down 58-51, the sharpshooting junior guard knocked down consecutive three-pointers to pull the Women of Troy (11-4, 3-1) within one point. The teams traded baskets the rest of the way in a game that wasn’t decided until Oregon guard Nia Jackson missed a layup in the final seconds, preserving a 79-76 win for the Women of Troy.
Gilbreath poured in 26 points for USC — with 20 coming after intermission — and added seven rebounds and four steals despite being plagued all game by foul trouble.
Freshman forward Cassie Harberts scored 11 points and grabbed 18 rebounds for the Women of Troy, who outrebounded Oregon 56-42 and held a 23-12 edge in offensive rebounds.
“I knew I had to rebound to help the team tonight,” Harberts said. “Our guards had a size advantage which helped [all of us out].”
USC knocked off one of the highest-scoring teams in the nation despite shooting just 36 percent from the field. After the game, USC coach Michael Cooper credited his player’s resolve for allowing them to rally back from a double-digit deficit in the second half.
“I like our toughness and think again that goes back to our preseason schedule and the team’s we played,” he said. “That has given us something and gotten us ready for conference play.”
Oregon led 45-35 before the Women of Troy went on a 12-0 run that gave them their first lead since the midpoint of the first half.
USC held the Ducks nearly 10 points below their season average and frustrated Amanda Johnson, the conference’s leading scorer.
Sloppy play marred the first 20 minutes of action. USC trailed 37-30 and connected on just 11 of its 38 field goal attempts. The Ducks were barely better at 33 percent, but hit nine three-pointers in the half.
Oregon jumped out to an early 9-2 lead on a trio of three-pointers before Gemelos came off the bench and sparked USC with five quick points. From there, the lead seesawed back and forth for the rest of the half before Oregon pulled away late with an 11-4 run.
For the half, Gemelos led the Women of Troy with eight points off the bench. The USC starters combined to shoot just 6-24 from the field in the half.
With the victory, USC moved to 6-0 on the season at the Galen Center.