No. 23 USC started off the season with a 77-65 exhibition win over Westmont on Monday, finally pulling away at the end of the game after trading the lead back and forth with the Warriors.
Four players scored in double digits for the Women of Troy, who were led by 23 points from senior point guard Jacki Gemelos.
Senior guard Ashley Corral (17 points), senior guard Briana Gilbreath (14 points) and freshman guard Ariya Crook (10 points) also scored in double digits for USC.
Westmont hung tough with USC thanks in large part to forward Tugne Canitez, who scored over half the team’s points by recording 33 buckets.
The Warriors grabbed a 27-26 lead with 3:10 to go in the first half, but the Women of Troy ended the frame with a 13-4 run to take a 39-31 lead.
Westmont got within four points as late as the 6:24 mark in the second half, but USC went on a 10-2 run sparked by threes from Gemelos and Corral to take a 70-58 lead that wouldn’t get much closer as the game wound down to a close.
Canitez, who narrowly missed a double-double by recording nine rebounds, gave the Women of Troy trouble down low all night.
USC sent Canitez to the free throw line 13 times, and she took advantage by sinking 12 of those chances.
But the Women of Troy came out on top in the end, in large part to their superior performance from beyond the arc.
USC made 6-of-15 shots from three-point range, including a perfect 3-of-3 from Gemelos.
Forward Alexyz Vaioletama, the lone freshman starter for USC, held her own on the boards by securing a team-high nine rebounds while chipping in four points.
The Women of Troy’s first official game of the 2011-2012 season comes on Friday, when they face Fresno State at 5 p.m. at the Galen Center as part of a doubleheader with the men’s squad.