Tuesday’s practice didn’t really feel any different for the USC women’s basketball team. “Same focus as we had before,” said sophomore point guard Ashley Corral.
Ashley Corral – USC athletics
But coming off their impressive performance in the Paradise Jam in the Virgin Islands – the Women of Troy rebounded from a first-round loss to Rutgers to beat ranked teams in consecutive games – it’s time to find out if things really have changed. USC beat No. 13 Texas, 61-54, and then handled No. 19 Mississippi State, 64-60. “I think it shows us that we are a lot better than we thought,” Corral said. “I think it helped us prove something.”
Mostly to themselves. The Women of Troy needed the confidence boost after a 1-2 start.
Corral is playing her part in the success infusion. The Vancouver, Washington native is settling in well as the team’s replacement for longtime point guard Camille LeNoir, who served very capably as USC’s floor general for the previous few years.
Corral is the team’s top scorer at 15.5 points a game, and also the team leader in assists and steals. She was selected to the all-tournament team at Paradise Jam after a particularly noteworthy effort against Texas in which she finished with a career-high eight assists and nine rebounds.
Corral was the team’s leading rebounder from the backcourt in the two victories, learning the lesson of the 66-51 loss to Rutgers to open the tournament, a game in which USC shot a season-low 25 percent from the field. Corral had 24 points in the loss.
But it was the team’s improved performance on the boards that turned the tide.
“Rebounding was the thing we stressed the whole week before we left,” Corral said. “We know, if we don’t rebound, we are going to get killed. The Rutgers game and the Texas game were like two completely different teams.”
Next up, USC (3-3) hits the road again to take on Long Beach State (3-3) – coached by former assistant Jody Wynn – on Thursday and then travel east again for a Sunday game at No. 11 Duke.
Duke will be USC’s fourth-ranked opponent of the season. The Women of Troy are playing a tough schedule that has already included Xavier and Gonzaga. After Duke, USC will face North Carolina State before the opening of Pac-10.
This weekend’s success makes the Women of Troy the biggest wild card in the conference.
USC looks capable of toppling the league’s best teams on a good day.
Corral said the players have had a smooth transition to new head coach Michael Cooper and his staff, that the new coaches have been open and clear about expectations.
“Every day is a constant reminder of how championship teams work,” Corral said. “We’re not as perfect as we’d like to be, but I think we all have the same common goals.”