Women of Troy prepare to take on Arizona schools

After this week’s games at Arizona State and Arizona, the USC women’s basketball team could comfortably find itself in third place in the Pac-10, two games ahead of its closest competitors, with two games left in the regular season.

“Both games are very important,” said junior guard Ashley Corral. “This is a must-win road trip.”

The Women of Troy begin their road trip tonight against Arizona State. The two teams are currently tied for third place in the Pac-10 with 8-6 conference records.

If the Women of Troy continue their recent streak of hot shooting, they have a good chance of sweeping their opponents.

In last week’s game against California, the Women of Troy put on an offensive show.

They scored a season-high 50 points in the first half en route to an 80-67 win.

Two days earlier, USC hung around with No. 3 Stanford for most of the game, eventually falling behind late in a 78-64 loss that was closer than the score indicated.

“We came out shooting well both games,” Corral said. “Everybody’s finding their shot, finding their rhythm.”

Corral registered a career high, drilling seven three-pointers against Cal.

Sophomore guard Stefanie Gilbreath converted all four of her three-point attempts against Stanford, chipping in a total of 16 points.

That marked the first double-digit point total in Gilbreath’s USC career, which has been plagued by a variety of injuries.

According to senior center Kari LaPlante, who scored a season-high 15 points against Cal, Corral and Gilbreath have been key to USC’s offensive revival.

“It definitely helps us offensively … for Stefanie to get back in and do so well, and for [Corral] to find her stroke,” LaPlante said. “It’s exciting for the team and it relieves pressure from the post.”

The Sun Devils won the first meeting 62-61 in a game that marked the first home loss for the Women of Troy.

“We just came out very slow against [Arizona State] at home,” Corral said. “Their [defensive] pressure got to us. This time we have to focus on playing with poise, running through [their pressure] and getting to our offense.”

Senior guard Dymond Simon is the only Sun Devil to average double-digit points with 14.2 per game and also leads Arizona State with 2.7 assists per game.

The team currently owns a record of 16-9, and has four more games in the regular season, plus the Pac-10 tournament, to reach 20, the magic number.

Throughout the season, USC coach Michael Cooper has said that 20 wins will probably get the Women of Troy a bid to the NCAA tournament.

“We know our ultimate goal [of making the tournament], and we want that really, really bad,” said senior guard Jacki Gemelos.