Redshirt sophomore guard Stefanie Gilbreath and junior guard Briana Gilbreath did all they could to lead the USC women’s basketball team to a possible upset over No. 3 Stanford.
The two sisters combined for more than half of USC’s points, as Briana scored 17, while older sister Stefanie chipped in with 16 off the bench.
But that wasn’t enough to beat the Cardinal (23-2, 14-0), as the Women of Troy (15-9, 7-6) fell 78-64.
“I was excited to see Stefanie play really well today,” Briana said. “But this is another loss on the record that we could have won.”
In its last game against No. 3 Stanford, USC was dominated from the start, quickly falling behind and eventually losing in a rout on the road, 95-51.
But on their own home court, the Women of Troy showed why they have a good chance to play in the NCAA tournament in March.
“We had our chance to get back in [the game] … we’re developing toughness,” said USC coach Micahel Cooper. “I think we’re definitely getting better … [we’re] learning what it takes to play the top-echelon teams.”
The beginning of the game was closely contested, and at one point, USC held a six-point lead over Stanford.
But midway through the first half, Stanford went on an 8-0 run to take a 19-16 lead over the Women of Troy.
The Cardinal proceeded to extend their lead to 31-22, and for a few minutes it looked as though they would pull away from USC.
But the Women of Troy outplayed their foes from Palo Alto for the rest of the first half, converting four of their five shots from three-point range to cut the deficit to 38-36 going into halftime.
Stanford leads the conference in field-goal percentage defense, as their opponents make only 32.9 percent of their shots. But USC bettered that mark in the first half, converting 48.4 percent of its shots.
Briana helped the Women of Troy off to their fast start by scoring 11 of their first 16 points, while Stefanie made the most of her five minutes on the court by making all three of her shots for a total of eight points.
The Women of Troy made five out of their nine attempts from three-point range in the first half, despite missing junior guard Ashley Corral from the starting lineup.
Corral, who recently became USC’s all-time leader in career three-pointers, suffered an ankle injury in practice this week and played only 12 minutes.
But the Cardinal also had to play through a key injury when junior forward and leading scorer Nnemkadi Ogwumike fell awkwardly on her right ankle near the beginning of the second half.
Ogwumike hobbled into the visitors’ locker room shortly after, and didn’t play for the rest of the game.
“[Ogwumike] is a major part of everything Stanford does, offense and defense,” Briana said. With somebody like that out of the game, we think ‘Okay, maybe we can start chipping off the lead a little bit.'”
But by that time, the Cardinal had already built a 50-38 lead after they seemed to finally find the shooting stroke that has carried them to an undefeated record through the Pac-10 thus far.
“I think [the key to the game] was the first five minutes in the second half,” Briana said. “[Stanford] came out and they buckled down. They got more physical … we just kind of ran out of gas.”
USC did mount a 9-2 run after Ogwumike exited to get back into the game, but Stanford responded a few minutes later with a 12-2 run of its own.
That streak gave the Cardinal their biggest lead of the game at 66-51.
The two teams essentially traded baskets for the rest of the game, and the Women of Troy never got another scoring run together in an attempt to give Stanford its first loss in conference play.
Seniors Jeanette Pohlen and Kayla Pedersen, who scored 19 and 17 points, respectively, led the Cardinal.
The Women of Troy play at home against California on Sunday at 2 p.m., in a crucial battle that will help determine who finishes third in the Pac-10.
USC and Arizona State are currently tied for third place, but Cal, Arizona and Washington State are all within a game and a half.