HUSKIES LOSE: Corral loves her home state, but is happy to return to her Southern California home with a 60-51 win against Washington. “It’s freezing here,” she said. “I don’t know if I can take the coldness anymore, but I will miss seeing my family and friends.” The PG had seven points and four assists, taking pride in Gilbreath stepping up defensively to cover the offensive struggles. The Trojans were at Hec Ed at 6:45 a.m. for shootaround and have been on the road since Dec. 28 playing three games, including the Pac-10 opener against WSU on Friday. So, Corral said fatigue was the reasoning for the poor shooting (28.4 percent). Yet, USC outrebounded Washington 52-40, holding the Huskies to just six second-chance points.You could pin the trouble on not having depth — four players did play more than 30 minutes and posts Argens and Heard were in foul trouble. But Jackson didn’t want to make excuses. Plus, if her team made better decisions late, they may have pulled the upset. “This is a team that gets after you and they’re only going to get better,” said USC coach Michael Cooper, whose team is on a six game win streak. “I know coach Tia Jackson is just wishing that she can get people healthy and we’ve experienced that last year, so I know the feeling. But this is a great basketball team and I’m just glad we were able to come in here and get the win.” Gilbreath led with 13 points, six rebounds, three blocks, and three steals. Kingma had 18 points and a career-high eight boards. UW was a disappointing 9 of 20 from the FT line.
CLICKING: Kingma nailed another three-pointer, but Corral, a childhood friend, drove baseline and found Gilbreath in the paint for an easy score. The Trojans are up 53-45, avoiding their lowest scoring game of the season. That remains a 75-50 defeat against then fifth-ranked Duke in November. Morton found Kingma on the trey for the PG’s seventh assist, tying Morton’s career-high.
NICE PASS: A series of good looks from Gemelos to Corral to Harberts, who laid the ball in for a score, got the Trojans rolling offensively. They’re on a 7-0 spurt to build a 47-40 lead with 7:42 left in the game. Kingma has a career-high eight rebounds to help UW get some second chances, but the needed opportunities are still rare.
SCOREBOARD: There were five games in the conference Sunday, and the others are a wrap with Stanford defeating Cal 78-45. UCLA pounded Washington State 80-55 and Arizona State defeated Oregon 86-67. Arizona survived a scare against a feisty Oregon State, winning 67-65.
SLOPPY GAME: I love defense, but this is a little ridiculous. Neither team is able to get anything going, making for a quiet afternoon at Hec Ed. The Trojans are shooting a stunning 8 percent (1 of 12) while UW is 1 of 22 from the field — 22 percent in the second half. Good thing I requested a double-shot in the eggnog latte. Trojans up 34-30 with 13:25 on the clock.
DAWGS BARKING: It’s methodical, but it’s working. UW has opened on a 6-2 run to pull within 32-30 with 15:47 remaining in the game. The Huskies still can’t get an offensive board and there must be a lid on both rims the way both teams are missing seemingly easy layins. But the rare USC errors are giving UW a chance.
HALFTIME: USC used a 14-4 run to pull ahead 24-15 after a jumper by Harberts with 5:50 remaining in the half. UW did have some good plays in the waning minute of the half, but it appears that the Trojans are just warming up. They aren’t giving the Huskies any second-chance points and their bench has outscored the Huskies’ reserves 8-4. Harberts leads with eight points and six boards. Washington, which only has two offensive rebounds, is led by Kingma’s eight points and five boards. There have been five lead changes, USC’s biggest advantage being 10 with 4:21 left in the half.
BIG MAC: Consistency is a question mark for Argens. Yet, after her double-double against No. 8 UCLA on Friday (18 points and 11 rebounds), she’s starting to perk up to give the Huskies some needed power inside. Limited due to two quick fouls, she made a nice turnaround layin off a feed from Kingma. Count Kingma’s three-pointer earlier and UW is hanging with USC 30-24 with 53 seconds left in the half.
NEW BLOOD: Washington coach Tia Jackson said she needed more bodies to compete and the addition of Anderson is giving her the opportunity to play some different looks. At times UW still has to play five guards. But Barlow and Anderson have lined up together with Heard to get some fighters on the court. The offense is suffering a little, though, and Heard isn’t hitting like she has in the past. USC’s offense has caught up to its defense, slowly building a 24-15 lead with 5:48 remaining in the opening half.
SPOT ME: Washington men’s coach Lorenzo Romar and former Storm co-owner Anne Levinson are among the crowd at Hec Ed. USC has taken a 10-8 lead after UW gave up three offensive rebounds, giving Corral a chance to nail a three-pointer in front of Romar’s family. There’s 11:02 on the clock.
UW DEBUT: Anderson has checked into the game, subbing for Barlow during the timeout. It’s her first game of the season.
BLOCK THAT: Gilbreath got her first block of the game on Kingma as the UW guard attempted a three-pointer. Shots by Heard, Barlow, and Morton have the Huskies up 6-5 with 14:43 remaining in the opening half. USC is a little cold offensive, going 2 of 9 from the field. Expect that to change.
EARLY LAUGHS: You know this UW-TV thing is new this season, so there will be glitches. Since broadcasters Dan Giuliani and Sara Mosiman sit to my left, I get to see all the behind-the-scenes outtakes. Radio personalities Steve Sandmeyer and Elise Woodward are across the court, so who knows if they bobble their head sets or look at each other silly when supposed to be talking. But I know they don’t practice holding their mic. That was Giuliani and Mosiman on Sunday. The duo, who are starting to bring life to Huskies game on TV, ultimately decided with the outer hand on the stand-up shot for the pregame intro. But, yes, they did try the locked-arm look normally reserved for wedding toasts between partners. Thank heavens that was nixed.
Conference play across the nation is starting off with an interesting tick, some prognosticators beginning to look at NCAA tournament seeding if the selection committee met today. Of course that wouldn’t bode well for Washington, but Sunday’s foe Southern California would receive good news.
After getting dissed last year, a healthy Trojan team is playing with purpose this season and is my pick to be a surprise in the Pac-10 conference. You may have noticed that I’m already giving them votes in the Associated Press media poll and believe the conference should get six teams given the strong showing in nonconference play. And that’s not just because No. 9 Stanford ended No. 1 Connecticut’s streak of 90 consecutive wins.
USC (9-3, 1-0 Pac-10) plays both ends extremely well, getting the return of national high school player of the year Jacki Gemelos. She averages double digits (12.9) along with Washingtonian Ashley Corral (14.0) and reigning conference defensive player of the year, Briana Gilbreath (14.6).
“Before that, that was the hardest practice I’ve ever gone threw and then we didn’t get announced and I was like ‘Oh,'” said Corral of her selection show memories last year. “I’ve never worked this hard in the offseason and as a team, every single day it’s to get to the next thing. We have our long-term goals that we’re fighting for and that was definitely a big push coming into the season.”
The Trojans have played tough against contenders like No. 4 Xavier (69-66 loss) and defeated Gonzaga (79-73) and Georgia (71-63) when both teams were ranked. USC is averaging 72.1 points overall, holding opponents to 38.4 percent shooting for a 65.6 point-average.
They’ve won the past five games against the Huskies (5-5, 0-1).
UW is getting some good news in sophomore wing Jeneva Anderson dressing for the game. She tested her hip on Saturday morning and was cleared to play, undergoing surgery last summer.
Juniors Mollie Williams (concussion) and Regina Rogers (hamstring) remain out, however. The Huskies are looking at the Oregon road trip for a return for at least Rogers, but you can sense frustration in not figuring out why the injury is so tough to completely heal. Rogers has practiced in non-contact drills. She has not played since the season-opener against Portland State. If needed, she could qualify for a medical redshirt, sitting out one college season already after transferring from UCLA.
Lastly, wing Charmaine Barlow was spotted getting acquainted with a Edmundson Pavilion trash can pregame. She said it was lingering affects of the flu and a spokesman said Barlow should be able to play. She’s currently warming up with teammates.
Well, this is the final game in five days of impressive local hoops from Seattle University’s Holiday Hoops Classic to the Pac-10 opener. Let’s get ready for a solid finish with the starting lineups:
F Cassie Harberts
F Briana Gilbreath
C Kari LaPlante
G Ashley Corral
G Jacki Gemelos
F Charmaine Barlow
F Marjorie Heard
C Mackenzie Argens
G Sarah Morton
G Kristi Kingma
Tonight’s officials are Anita Ortega, Brian Hall, and Michol Murray.