[Correction: A previous version of this article stated that the women’s basketball team will host UCLA on Jan. 14. UCLA is the host of that game.]
The Women of Troy claimed a conference road sweep this weekend in the Grand Canyon State, beating Arizona State 60-48 on Thursday before staving off Arizona’s late comeback bid in a 72-67 victory on Saturday.
“Last year we came down to Arizona and Arizona State and went 0-2, and that’s what kind of ruined our season,” junior forward Christina Marinacci said. “We came in with a chip on our shoulder. We wanted to play with more energy than [Arizona and Arizona State], even though we were on the road.”
After enduring several disappointing losses in their nonconference schedule, the Women of Troy (8-6, 3-1) have won four of their last five games and are starting to look like the team that was ranked No. 23 in the preseason AP poll.
Even though USC still feels the sting of close losses to No. 8 Texas A&M, No. 15 Georgia and unranked Arkansas State, they think the experience and motivation gained from those letdowns will help them in the long run.
“I attribute both of these road wins to the tough preseason schedule we had,” Marinacci said. “We were just over losing.”
The Wildcats (12-3, 1-2) staged a late comeback bid in the second half, cutting what was once a 16-point lead for USC to a 3-point advantage.
But senior guard Ashley Corral sank two clutch free throws with seven seconds left to preserve the victory, getting her ninth and 10th points of the day to fend off the pesky Wildcats.
Senior guard Briana Gilbreath was one of five Women of Troy to score in double figures on Saturday, leading USC with 17 points and nine rebounds.
The close win by the Women of Troy was preceded by a comeback victory of their own on Thursday night at Arizona State (10-4, 1-2).
The Sun Devils led by six points with 15 minutes to go, but led by a 21-point effort by Corral, USC stormed back to claim their largest victory in Tempe since 1999.
Corral went 7-of-8 from the free- throw line in the last four minutes to go along with four 3-pointers to clinch the win.
It was the first home loss of the season for Arizona State, as well as its first loss to an unranked team.
Ever since a shocking road loss to Arkansas State on Dec. 15, the Women of Troy seem to have righted their ship.
“We just got it together after that,” Corral said. “That was the downfall last season, we hit a streak [of losses] and never got everything going again. You have to come out of nonconference play with a chip on your shoulder.”
Since falling to Arkansas State, the Women of Troy have won four out of their past six games. Their only two losses since then were a one-point nailbiter to defending champion Texas A&M, and an eight-point defeat to No. 4 Stanford at home after leading for most of the game.
The four victories, meanwhile, have been won by an average of more than 10 points.
“All these conference games coming up are must-wins,” Marinacci said. “It doesn’t matter who we’re playing, if it’s a lower team in the Pac-12 or if it’s Stanford. We just have to take it game by game and not look ahead.”
The Women of Troy resume conference play on Saturday in Westwood against host UCLA (7-8, 2-2). Tip-off is at 2 p.m.