Although the Pac-12 tournament begins in exactly one week, the USC women’s basketball team have to tackle one final road trip before they can begin their looming postseason journey.
USC (16-11, 10-6) will carry four straight wins into Seattle and take on Washington (15-11, 7-9) at 7 p.m. Thursday in the first contest of a two-game road trip.
After their recent 59-53 victory over Arizona State (18-10, 9-8) on USC’s Senior Day, the Women of Troy maintained their third-place standing in the Pac-12 with a one-and-a-half-game cushion over the Sun Devils.
Oregon State (18-9, 9-7) and UCLA (14-13, 9-7) are still hot on USC’s heels, however, trailing by only one game in conference standings. No. 2 Stanford (26-1, 17-0) and California (22-7, 13-4) have already secured first and second place, respectively.
The top four conference teams receive a bye in the first round, and USC can lock their position at third place with wins over Washington and Washington State in their concluding road trip.
“We know these next two games will be very difficult games,” USC coach Michael Cooper said. “We have to come out and continue this streak we’re on, and see if we can finish out the season with six straight wins.”
The last time USC squared off against Washington, the Huskies pulled away 67-61 at the Galen Center on Feb. 5. The Women of Troy were led by 19 points from senior guard Ashley Corral and a double-double from sophomore forward Cassie Harberts.
It was the Huskies’ freshman guard Jazmine Davis, however, who controlled the court by leading a trio of Washington women in double-digits with a game-high 26 points.
“We’re going to lock [Davis] up,” senior guard Briana Gilbreath said. “She got some really good shots down here, and she really went off on us, so if we can contain her and stick to our defensive schemes, we’ll be OK.”
With a combined 44.1 points per game from top scorers Corral, Gilbreath, Harberts and junior forward Christina Marinacci, the Women of Troy are poised to snap the Huskies’ two-game winning streak.
In the contest against the Sun Devils, Marinacci led the Women of Troy with 12 points and 10 rebounds. USC has had five different leading scorers in each of their last five games.
Despite USC’s offensive potential, Gilbreath contends that defense will be the key to the team’s victory.
“If we can play defense and get stops, and we can run in transition, the more better for us,” Gilbreath said.
With the postseason just around the corner, the Women of Troy look to enter this year’s Pac-12 tournament with six straight wins and push for a conference title after falling to Arizona 61-72 in the second round of last year’s Pac-10 competition.
“We’re in a good position, but the road is still tough ahead,” Cooper said. “When the Pac-12 tournament starts, we’ll be ready for that. I’m excited about it, and I’m looking forward to it.”