Despite losing three of its last six regular-season games, the USC women’s basketball team enters the Pac-10 tournament with a strong chance of earning a postseason bid.
First up for the Women of Troy (18-11, 10-8) is a game against Washington State, a team they beat twice during the regular season.
Last week, USC overcame a second-half deficit to take down the Cougars (8-22, 6-12) at the Galen Center.
“Washington State is a hot team,” said USC coach Michael Cooper. “They have some guards who can shoot the ball. One thing we have on our side is that the game is being played at the Galen Center.”
Cooper says his team is peaking at the right time. In their final regular season game, the Women of Troy blew a double-digit halftime lead against Washington, but rallied to win in overtime.
“Two weeks ago we might have lost that game,” Cooper said. “We’re excited because we ended [the season] on a positive note. We hold our destiny in our hands and have a chance to get into the tournament.”
All season long, the Women of Troy have pointed to 20 wins as the benchmark for earning a postseason berth.
Last season, USC won 19 games and was denied a tournament bid.
Reaching that number will be made more difficult by the absence of junior guard and all-conference performer Ashley Corral, who will serve the second game of her suspension tonight against the Cougars. Corral was suspended before the Washington game for violating team rules.
In her place, USC will rely on redshirt senior guard Jacki Gemelos and freshman guard Len’Nique Brown. Gemelos, who started handling the ball more as the season progressed, gives the Women of Troy a versatile threat at point guard.
“[Gemelos has] done a great job handling the point position,” Cooper said. “We’re going to need her leadership and perimeter shooting.”
Brown, who has played well in limited duty, will be called on to relieve Gemelos at the point.
“Len’Nique just has to play good, steady basketball,” he said. “[We] don’t need her to score 20 points, we just need her to play good defense and get us into our plays.”
Tip-off is scheduled for 5:15 p.m. on Thursday.
Looming after that game is a semifinal clash with No. 2 Stanford. USC hung tough with the Cardinal last month at the Galen Center and is looking for a repeat performance.
“We know what we need to do,” Gemelos said. “We need two wins in the Pac-10 tournament, and then against Stanford we need to compete and beat them as well.”
Tip-off is at 5 p.m. tonight at the Galen Center.