One month ago, the USC women’s basketball team was coasting toward a postseason berth.
Having won eight of their last nine games at that point, the Women of Troy sat just outside the national rankings with a 12-4 record.
Next came a disastrous trip to the Bay Area.
USC (15-8, 7-5) put points on the board at California but couldn’t keep its opponent from grabbing every critical rebound. The Women of Troy lost 82-71.
Then came the debacle against then-No. 4 Stanford — a 95-51 reality check that dropped the Women of Troy to 4-3 in conference play.
A pair of wins against the Oregon schools last week restored USC to its winning ways, but this week’s homestand will play a key role in determining the team’s postseason fate.
And with Cal (14-10, 6-7) and Stanford (22-2, 13-0) visiting the Galen Center, junior guard Briana Gilbreath said the team has added incentive to perform.
“It gives us more motivation, especially with Stanford being ranked so high and losing the way we did,” Gilbreath said. “Both games we thought we should have played better.”
First on the docket is a game tonight against No. 3 Stanford, which enters the contest on a 16-game winning streak. Last month, the Cardinal jumped out to an early double-digit advantage and led 67-38 at halftime.
“We have to look at the mistakes we made early on in the game,” Gilbreath said. “Against Stanford you have to play 40 minutes of solid basketball with minimal mistakes because they capitalize on every one.”
For much of the season, rebounding has been a barometer for the Women of Troy’s success. When the USC team rebounds well, it tends to win. And when it doesn’t, the results are often disastrous.
Against Cal, the Women of Troy collected just 22 rebounds. USC was out-rebounded 54-36 by the Cardinal.
“There were some times during the Cal and Stanford game where we didn’t box out and they got crucial offensive rebounds,” Gilbreath said. “Boxing out on both ends of the court will be very important.”
If the Women of Troy are able to solve their rebounding issues, Gilbreath said they have an excellent shot at reaching their ultimate goal: the NCAA tournament. Earlier this season, USC coach Michael Cooper said his team would probably need 20 wins to lock up a berth in the tournament.
“These games are two stepping stones to where we’re trying to get,” Gilbreath said. “If we can get five or six wins in these last six games that would be amazing.”
USC takes on Stanford at 7 p.m. tonight at the Galen Center. Tipoff for the Cal game is scheduled for Sunday at 2 p.m.