Following a closely-contested win in the first round of the WNIT, the USC women’s basketball team made sure a victory in the second round would be assured from the tip-off.
The Women of Troy (21-12) shot 49.2 percent from the field as they defeated the Nevada Wolf Pack, 78-59, to advance to the Sweet 16 of the WNIT.
“We just came out and we were all on point,” said junior guard Ashley Corral. “We didn’t have any mistakes, we were all playing together, we hustled after loose balls … we all came out with the same mentality today, and we just put it all together.”
Senior guard Jacki Gemelos led the charge with an all-around game, tallying 20 points, six assists, six rebounds and two steals.
Corral, USC’s career leader in three-pointers made, came off the bench to score 20 points.
But that doesn’t seem to have negatively affected her play. If anything, it has improved it.
Corral is eight-for-nine from three-point range and has scored a team-leading 35 points in the WNIT despite being relegated to a sixth-man type role.
“With [Corral] coming off the bench, it’s been fun to watch,” said senior center Kari LaPlante. “She’s been having a lot of really good games coming off the bench and just hitting shots, instead of having to run the offense and do other things that she’s had to do in the past.”
The Women of Troy started off the game hot, grabbing an 8-0 lead. After a brief rally from the Wolf Pack, USC went on a 12-0 run to gain a 30-11 lead with seven minutes to go in the first half.
A 42-26 lead marked the biggest halftime lead that USC had held all season.
The lead would extend to 26 points in the second half, but a late scoring run manufactured at the free-throw line by Nevada cut USC’s lead to its final 19-point deficit.
The Wolf Pack were led by senior Tahnee Robinson, who scored 19 points and also added 6 rebounds.
“I thought we did a very good job of containing [Robinson] and all the players around her,” Corral said.
In the WNIT’s third round for the first time in school history, USC will play BYU (25-8), the regular-season champions of the Mountain West conference.
The Cougars were relegated to the WNIT when they were upset in their conference tournament by one point Utah.
The two teams will tip-off in Provo, Utah on Wednesday at 6 p.m.
“BYU is another big opponent, and we’re going to have to play as hard as we did today,” Corral said. “We’re hoping to keep playing hard, and hope to get the next four wins [and win the WNIT championship].”