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USC women hope one tournament leads to another

The Trojans open play in the Pacific Life Pac-10 tournament Wednesday with an eye on qualifying for the NCAA tournament.

March 08, 2011|By Gary Klein
  • USC's (from left to right) Michelle Franco, Jackie Gemelos, Kari LaPlante, Briana Gilbreath and Cassie Harberts look to play leading roles in the Trojans' quest to qualify for the NCAA tournament.
USC's (from left to right) Michelle Franco, Jackie Gemelos, Kari… (Kirby Lee / U.S. Presswire )

USC hopes to stage an historic run in the Pacific Life Pac-10 Conference women's basketball tournament.

The Trojans, seeded fifth, would like to join Arizona State and UCLA as the only teams other than seven-time champion Stanford to win the 10th annual event.

USC opens its quest Wednesday against eighth-seeded Washington State at the Galen Center.

Top-seeded Stanford and second-seeded UCLA earned byes into Friday's semifinals at Staples Center.

The format will allow teams such as third-seeded Arizona State (19-9), fourth-seeded Arizona (19-10) and USC (18-11) to possibly play two games before meeting the favorites, a scenario that could help them reach or eclipse the 20-win mark that is regarded as a quasi-requirement for serious NCAA tournament consideration.

Last year, USC finished 19-12 and was not invited.

"Our players know what's at stake," second-year USC Coach Michael Cooper said.

Stanford, ranked second nationally, is 27-2 overall and was 18-0 in conference play for the second consecutive season. The Cardinal has won 55 consecutive games against Pac-10 opponents.

Senior guard Jeanette Pohlen, a former Brea Olinda High standout, combines with senior forward Kayla Pedersen, junior forward Nnemkadi Ogwumike and freshman forward Chiney Ogwumike to give Stanford a star-studded quartet.

Ninth-ranked UCLA (26-3, 16-2) is bound for the NCAA tournament but could use the momentum an upset over the Cardinal would provide.

USC has reached the championship game only once. In 2009, the sixth-seeded Trojans lost to Stanford.

This year, USC would need to defeat Washington State and either Arizona or Oregon to reach the semifinals, where it would face Stanford.

USC is led by junior guard Briana Gilbreath, who averages 15.2 points and 7.6 rebounds a game. The Trojans, however, will be without junior guard Ashley Corral (12.2 points a game) against Washington State. The junior is serving the final game of a two-game suspension for violating unspecified team rules, Cooper said.

The Trojans swept Washington State during conference play, winning 72-57 in December at Pullman, Wash., and 74-67 last week at the Galen Center.

gary.klein@latimes.com

twitter.com/latimesklein

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