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COLLEGE BASKETBALL / NCAA TOURNAMENT

The First Look

March 10, 1997|EARL GUSTKEY

USC (19-8) vs. San Francisco (25-5)

Mideast Regional, Gainesville, Fla.

Saturday, Noon

* USC AT A GLANCE: Established itself as a top Pacific 10 team during late January, in a five-game win streak that began with a surprisingly lopsided, 87-72 victory at Arizona. The Trojans defeated Arizona State, UCLA and both Oregons. USC was only 3-3 down the stretch, but the midseason streak carried it into the tournament

* UNIVERSITY OF SAN FRANCISCO: Making its third consecutive tournament trip. Last season, the Lady Dons became the first 12th-seeded team to make the Sweet 16 in the history of the women's tournament. Co-coaches Bill and Mary Nepfel's team is tournament-sharp. It just won the WCC tournament and six out of seven before that. Since a 61-46 loss to Stanford in December, USF is 21-3.

* USC PROBABLE STARTERS:

F Tina Thompson (6-3), No. 14.

F Jodi Parriott (6-2), No. 45.

C Michelle Campbell (6-5), No. 50.

G Erica Jackson (5-8), No. 5.

G Kristin Clark (5-6), No. 32.

* USC KEY RESERVES:

Adrain Williams (6-4), No. 30.

Tiffany Washington (6-1), No. 40.

Kiyoko Miller (5-8), No. 20.

Tina Thompson ranks as one of the two or three most effective offensive players in the women's game, with Stanford's Kate Starbird and Connecticut's Kara Wolters. This season, she added a three-point shot (36%) to her strong inside game. Parriott is a sharpshooter whose coaches want her to shoot more. Michelle Campbell led the Pac-10 in blocked shots, but Adrian Williams would like her to be more of a force inside. Erica Jackson, the point guard, distributes the ball well. Kristin Clark, a sophomore, is a dangerous three-point shooter and is among the Pac-10 leaders in steals and assists.

* USF PROBABLE STARTERS:

F Renee Demirdjian (5-10), No. 24.

F Julie Murdent (6-2), No. 32.

C Denise Woods (6-2), No. 50.

G Jamie Shadian (5-7), No. 3.

G Brittany Lindhe (5-9), No. 40.

* USF KEY RESERVES:

F Andrea Kagie (5-11), No. 20.

G Deana Itow (5-7), No. 34.

San Francisco is a low-turnover, set-offense team that also ranks fourth in the NCAA in team defense, giving up only 53.4 points per game. It's a senior-dominated team, yet 6-2 freshman post player Denise Woods is the team's big surprise. Not much was expected, but she's become a solid interior defensive player. Point guard Jamie Shadian is San Francisco's one-season and career assists leader. The three-point shooter is Andrea Kagie (42%). She has made 58 this season. Brittany Lindhe is a streaky scorer, who will ring up points in spurts, then disappear.

* GUARDS: If Clark has a hot hand, USC has a big edge. She made six of seven three-point shots against Washington State Thursday and five of six at Arizona. Clark has better speed than Jackson. Edge: USC.

* FORWARDS: Thompson is a legitimate All-American, probably a Dream Teamer in 2000. Wind her up and you get a double-double. Parriott is at her best when too much attention is paid to Thompson. Rene Demirdjian and Julie Murdent are active inside. Edge: USC.

* CENTERS: Woods, San Francisco's 6-2 freshman center, is really up against it with Thompson's drives into the paint and Campbell's leaping blocks. Edge: USC.

* INTANGIBLES: USF is tournament-sharp and USC's final game, the 71-66 loss to Washington Saturday, was perhaps its worst effort of the season. Then throw in USF's balance and tough defense. Edge: USF.

* COACHING: Bill and Mary Nepfel have been married 12 years, the last 10 as USF's co-head coaches. This is their third consecutive NCAA trip. USC's Fred Williams is in his second season, having taken over from Cheryl Miller, who left in 1995 for a broadcasting job. However, Williams had been an assistant in the USC women's program for eight years in a previous stint before Miller brought him back as an assistant in 1993. Edge: USF.

* THE PICK: USC. The Trojans have more talent, more depth and more size, but the same was true in Trojan losses to Washington and Arizona this season, too.

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