Nov. 28, 2009

ST. THOMAS, USVI - The USC women's basketball team shocked No. 13 Texas tonight with a balanced offensive attack and swarming defense that carried the Trojans to a 61-54 victory in front of 1,933 fans in the second round of the U.S. Virgin Islands Paradise Jam Women's Basketball Tournament. The Women of Troy shot 54 percent from the field in the second half to build on the Trojans two-point lead at the half. USC's defense disrupted the Longhorns, who shot just 28 percent for the game. USC is now 2-3 on the season, while Texas drops to 3-2 overall.

Texas' Kathleen Nash and Brittany Raven proved a potent scoring tandem for the Longhorns with 17 and 15 points, respectively. But the Trojans got it done with a widespread assault, as four different Women of Troy finished in double figures. USC's Briana Gilbreath had a team-high 13 points, while Kari LaPlante and Aarika Hughes shared success in the paint with 12 points apiece. The Trojans had help from Heather Oliver's timely shooting as she finished with 10 points in the game. USC guard Ashley Corral had nine rebounds and eight assists, both career-highs for the sophomore.

USC matched the Longhorns stride for stride in the first half. Texas' Earnesia Williams scored the contests first basket, but USC's Hailey Dunham responded taking the ball the length of the court for the lay in at 17:13 to tie the game. Texas' Erika Arriaran rattled home a three pointer to give the Longhorns a 5-2 lead. Briana Gilbreath grabbed an offensive rebound and went right back up with it for the score at the 15:00 mark to cut the Texas lead to one. After Texas connected on a jumper from Cokie Reed, who was held to just four total points, Corral found Gilbreath for the bucket in transition with 13:36 in the half remaining and USC down 6-7. Texas however came right back on Brittany Raven's fast break basket. USC' tied the game on Christina Marinacci's three-point shot with 11:50 before half.

But Texas was hot early shooting just under 50 percent with 10:20 left in the first half. The Longhorns were getting high percentage shots near the basket. USC hung with Texas however scoring on another one of Corral's outlet passes to Gilbreath for the score at 8:38 in a 14-15 game. USC took its first lead of the game with 5:45 remaining in the half on Hailey Dunham's fast-break lay up and the foul. Dunham did not connect on the free throw, but USC increased its lead off of Gilbreath's third breakaway basket with 2:10 to play in a 23-18 first half battle. Texas responded with a big three-point shot by Kathleen Nash to close the gap to within two at the half, 29-27.

USC's Hughes scored on a lay up on the first possession of the second half to extend the lead to four for the Trojans. Texas' Nash brought the Longhorns within two on a long jumper, but that was as close as they would come. USC's LaPlante had a nice move in the paint to score the first of her 10-second half points. The Women of Troy extended the lead to nine on Corral's three pointer with 13:46 to play. After Texas scored an easy basket in transition, USC's Oliver responded with a three-point shot in transition to extend the lead by double-digits. USC's defense proved to be the difference as they kept Texas to just six points in more than 10 minutes of play in the second half.

The three ball began to fall for Texas, as Nash rattled home a three pointer with 5:45 remaining in the game to cut the Trojan lead to nine. USC's Corral found LaPlante on a no-look pass for two easy points in the paint, but the Longhorns responded with another three-point basket from Ashleigh Fontenette. A Trojans turnover allowed Texas to cut the lead to four on Nash's fourth three-point shot of the contest. Following a 30 second timeout taken by coach Cooper and the USC Trojans, Corral dished to Hughes for an uncontested lay up under the basket with 1:59 remaining and a six-point lead. USC's Hughes stole the ball away from the Longhorns on the following possession, and LaPlante finished the play with an easy lay in bucket. The Trojans extended its lead to 10 late on another hookup in the paint from Corral to Hughes. Texas' Brittany Raven knocked down a three pointer in the final moments of the game, but USC proved to be too much as they went on to win, 61-54.

USC will face #19 Mississippi State tomorrow (Nov. 28) at 7 p.m. ET to wrap-up play in the Paradise Jam.