Defense key to USC victory over Beavers

The Women of Troy buckled down on defense against the Oregon State Beavers Thursday night at the Galen Center, opening up their two-game home stand with a convincing 61-34 victory.

Patrolling the boards · In a game defined by defense, senior forward Aarika Hughes contributed seven big rebounds to go with her five points. The Women of Troy turned a seven-point halftime lead into a 27-point victory against Oregon State. - Tim Tran | Daily Trojan

“I liked our defense,” said USC coach Michael Cooper. “It’s getting better as we go on, and we have a lot of players playing good basketball.”

Sophomore guards Ashley Corral and Briana Gilbreath paced the Women of Troy with 19 points and 13 points respectively.

Corral also finished with seven assists and four rebounds.

“Ashley is doing what we want her to do,” said Cooper. “But now, she is distributing the ball more and reading defenses better and we’re a lot better when she does that.”

Even with Corral’s offensive performance, defense was the key in this game.

The first half did not see much offense, as both teams struggled to score and take care of the ball.

In the first half alone, both teams combined for 16 turnovers. The Women of Troy shot just under 37 percent from the field but the Beavers did not fare much better, managing to outdo their opponents by shooting just under 30 percent.

Despite all this, the Women of Troy managed to take a seven-point lead into halftime.

The second half proved to be much better for the Women of Troy but not so for the visiting Beavers.

The Women of Troy employed a full-court press, stifling the Beavers on offense and forcing them to turn the ball over.

An 11-4 run in the beginning of the half broke the game open, and the Women of Troy never looked back as they cruised to their fifth consecutive victory.

The Women of Troy also received solid contributions from senior forward Hailey Dunham, who finished with 10 points and nine rebounds, and senior guard Heather Oliver, who came off the bench to score nine points.

The Women of Troy were also able to control the boards and keep junior guard Talisa Rhea in check, limiting her to 16 points on just 5-17 shooting.

“Defensively, we just wanted to lock down on Rhea,” said senior guard Heather Oliver. “Rebounding was also a huge thing for us [this game] and we were able to control that.”

The Women of Troy also finished with a season-high 11 blocks, with freshman forward Christina Marinacci leading the way with three blocked shots of her own.

The win gives the Women of Troy a 7-1 record in Pac-10 play heading into Saturday’s matchup with the Oregon Ducks.

“We just have to attack their press, handle the pressure and shut down their shooters,” said Oliver. “We want to do a good job against them.”

A win against the Ducks would give the Women of Troy their best start in conference play in over a decade.

Tip-off is scheduled for  2:30 p.m.