USC has a chance to turn streak around

Two weeks after climbing to second place in the conference, the USC women’s basketball team finds itself mired in a stretch of poor play that culminated in a blowout loss to No. 2 Stanford.

Driving force · USC coach Michael Cooper has revitalized the Women of Troy this season, but a recent stretch of poor play has hurt the team. - Tim Tran | Daily Trojan

Things won’t get any easier for the Women of Troy going forward.

Next on tap for USC (13-9, 7-4) is a difficult road game against crosstown rival UCLA. The Bruins (15-7, 8-3) sit one game ahead of USC in the conference standings.

“We’re going in there expecting it to be a war,” USC assistant coach Mary Wooley said. “That game has been notorious for being a physical, aggressive game, and I don’t think it’s going to be any different on Saturday.”

The Women of Troy beat UCLA 70-63 earlier this season behind 24 points from sophomore guard Ashley Corral and 19 points and six assists from sophomore guard Briana Gilbreath. USC trailed for much of that game before a late spurt in the second half carried the team to victory.

It will be more difficult for the Women of the Troy to beat UCLA this time around. Poor free throw shooting in the first meeting prevented UCLA from capitalizing on its rebounding advantage. The Bruins outrebounded USC 36-29 but shot just 9 of 20 from the foul line.

“Obviously, rebounding is a big must for us every game,” senior guard Heather Oliver said. “Hitting shots is a big thing for us.”

If the Women of Troy can keep the Bruins off the glass, the team is confident it can shut down the UCLA offense. The only question is whether it can generate enough points of its own. USC shot just 18 percent from the field against Stanford.

“Defensively, we can pretty much hold any team in the country,” Wooley said. “We need to be ready to execute offensively. That’s something that obviously really held us back against Stanford and Cal.”

One thing that should help USC on offense is the continued development of redshirt junior guard Jacki Gemelos, who is rounding into shape after multiple knee surgeries. Gemelos paced the Women of Troy against Stanford with 13 points.

“Her first game she was a natural,” Wooley said. “You could see her making plays that most basketball players [aren’t] able to make.”

For their part, the team seems eager to put the Stanford game behind it and get on with the season.

“This week is not about the loss we had,” Oliver said. “It’s about UCLA.”

The game is scheduled for tip-off at 11 a.m. Saturday.