A left ankle injury limited junior guard Ashley Corral to 12 minutes in the game against Stanford.
Against Cal, the ankle — and her shot — looked just fine, as Corral sparked USC to an 80-67 victory over Cal (14-12, 6-9) by knocking down three-pointers on the Women of Troy’s first two possessions.
Her fourth three-pointer — in four attempts — gave USC (16-9, 8-6) a 25-11 lead midway through the first half.
Minutes later, USC’s all-time leading three-point shooter knocked down a corner three to give the Women of Troy a 32-13 lead.
“[My shot] felt good but they were all created by my teammates,” Corral said. “They set great picks for me and Jacki [Gemelos] was great getting me the ball in transition.”
Corral wasn’t the only player who came out hot for USC though. The Women of Troy jumped out to a 19-6 lead by connecting on eight of their first nine possessions and the lead swelled to as many as 21 points in the half.
Even with the hot shooting, what stood out most was the intensity USC played with.
Three times in the first half, senior center Kari LaPlante beat every other player down the court for a layup.
On one possession, the 6’5″ center missed a contested layup, but the effort was fitting of a team fighting for its postseason life.
“[Cal’s] post players are a lot bigger so they’re focused on rebounding,” LaPlante said. “I focused on getting out in transition. [I love] running the floor and getting layups.”
As well as USC shot in the first half, the Golden Bears kept the game from getting out of hand by dialing up their defensive pressure.
Cal forced the Women of Troy into eight turnovers and took advantage of their size on the offensive glass, but USC led 50-33 going into the break.
“Ever since the UCLA loss [at home] I think our team has gotten better,” said USC coach Michael Cooper. “If you want to call it peaking, now is the right time to be peaking, but we looked very good.”
In the first half, Corral paced USC with 18 points, including six-of-seven from beyond the arc. LaPlante and redshirt senior guard Jacki Gemelos added nine points apiece for the Women of Troy.
With Corral lighting it up from outside, junior guard Briana Gilbreath took on the role of playmaker and handed out six assists.
For the half, USC shot 65 percent from the field and held Cal to 34 percent shooting.
Coming out of halftime, the Golden Bears quickly trimmed the margin to 12 points on a three-pointer by guard Lindsay Sherbert. But Corral stole an outlet pass on Cal’s next possession and buried a jumper to slow down the rally.
Cal got no closer than 10 points the rest of the way, as the Women of Troy maintained and kept pace with Arizona State for third place in the Pac-10 conference.
Corral led USC with a season-high 26 points on 9-of-12 shooting, Gemelos added 16 points and five rebounds and LaPlante rounded out the double-digit scoring with a season-high 15 points.
“Kari’s a great presence in the middle for us, both offensively and defensively,” Cooper said. “She doesn’t get the notoriety that some of the other players get, but she’s very important to our success.”
As a team, USC shot 54 percent for the game.
Next up for the Women of Troy is an important road series against the Arizona schools.
Arizona State is tied with USC in the Pac-10 standings, but eked out a 62-61 win earlier this season at the Galen Center.