The USC women’s basketball team started its season with a 93-66 home win in an exhibition game against Biola University Tuesday night.
“We still got a long way to go, but this was a pretty good first step we took,” USC coach Michael Cooper said.
Senior center Kari LaPlante led the Women of Troy with 20 points. Overall, five USC players scored in double digits — freshman forward Cassie Harberts (14), freshman guard Len’Nique Brown (11), sophomore forward Christina Marinacci (17) and redshirt junior Jacki Gemelos (12).
LaPlante made back-to-back baskets and junior guard Ashley Corral hit a three-pointer to put the Eagles, members of the Golden State Athletic Conference in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics, in a 20-9 hole within the game’s first seven minutes. Biola fought back to tie the game at 24 before the Women of Troy pulled away once again, this time for good.
“We just needed to buckle down and focus,” LaPlante, who had seven rebounds and four steals to go along with her 20 points, said. “We took their first punch and ran with it.”
Corral buried another three-pointer with 6:25 left in the half to extend the lead to 30-26. Right before the halftime buzzer, the Women of Troy worked a textbook pick-and-roll as Brown found LaPlante rolling off the pick and fed her down the lane for a layup to make the score 44-33.
The Eagles never cut the lead below double digits for the rest of the game.
“We have to be a defensive-minded team,” Cooper said. “When we played defense like we did the first few minutes of the game, we were up 20-9. Then all of a sudden we just got away from that and started going strictly on our offense. We just can’t afford to do that.”
The Trojans’ defense forced the Eagles into committing 25 turnovers, and seven different players had steals for the team. The Women of Troy capitalized on those mistakes, turning those Eagles turnovers into 27 USC points.
Another strength for the Women of Troy was their domination of the paint throughout the game. They outscored the Eagles 46-20 in the paint and outrebounded them, 41-26.
“We’ve been working a lot with rebounding because that’s something we’ve had trouble with in the past,” LaPlante said.
LaPlante’s seven rebounds led the team, but all five starters were productive on the boards as each recorded at least four rebounds.
Corral picked up where she left off last season, leading the Women of Troy with nine assists. Gemelos dished a few passes off herself, finishing with four assists.
The Women of Troy face off against No. 22 Gonzaga on Friday at the Galen Center to mark the official beginning of the regular season. Cooper thinks his team is up to the challenge, as long as it focuses on one particular aspect of its game.
“We have to play tough defense for 40 minutes. … When we do that, we’re a pretty good team,” Cooper said.