Women’s hoops faces a similar USC squad

Buckling down: ASU coach Charli Turner Thorne gives out directions during the Feb. 3 game against Stanford while freshman guard Adrienne Thomas waits in the background. The Sun Devils are tied for third in the conference with USC, whom they face on Thursday. (Photo by Michael Arellano)

The last time the ASU women’s basketball team faced USC, they left Los Angeles with a win and a tie for third in the Pac-10 with the Women of Troy.

Not much has changed.

Since facing off on Jan. 19, both teams have lost to their biggest rivals and posted 3-2 records.

For the Sun Devils (16-8, 8-6 Pac-10), Thursday’s game against USC (16-9, 8-6) will be just as important as when No. 11 UCLA comes to town on Saturday.

“We know what we have to do to go out there and get the victory,” ASU redshirt junior Kimberly Brandon said. “Hopefully we just stick with our game plan against USC, and then worry about UCLA on Saturday.”

The last time the two teams met, the Sun Devils appeared to be cruising to an easy victory with eight minutes left.

A second-half offensive spurt by the Women of Troy coupled with the loss of ASU redshirt senior guard Dymond Simon due to concussion gave USC a three-point lead with five minutes left against a team without its leading scorer.

But in one of the grittier performances of the year, ASU pulled out a 62-61 victory on the road.

The Sun Devils expect USC to be just as tough this time around, Simon said.

“USC is a very aggressive team,” Simon said. “They have very good shooters. Briana Gilbreath is having an amazing year. That’s their top player who we have to shut down. And Ashley Corral, Jacki Gemelos, they’re both great shooters. We can’t let them get shots off or be open at any time.”

USC’s Gilbreath, a junior guard, is ranked eighth in the Pac-10 in both shooting and rebounding, and both Corral, a junior guard, and Gemelos, a redshirt senior guard, are averaging more than 10 points a game.

Much of the game will be decided on who takes over on the offensive end for ASU. Last Thursday against Washington, Becca Tobin erupted for 21 points and 10 rebounds, and against Washington State on Saturday, Brandon had the big game, with 21 points and 15 boards.

In order to have a chance at repeating Saturday’s performance, Brandon said she just needs to focus on bringing that same level of intensity.

“I just really need to keep that mindset for the rest of the year,” Brandon said. “I think that will help our team be successful later on down the road. I’m going to try to be consistent.”

And now the Sun Devils have their leading scorer back to full strength in Simon.

Part of the team’s success last weekend was due to the team’s strong presence on the boards, and Brandon said that needs to continue against the Women of Troy.

“I think really big for us is going to be rebounding because they’re big, and their guards are big,” Brandon said. “And then just playing as a team and keeping our turnovers down. We did that last game, which was really good.”

Finally, one of the most important things the Sun Devils will have to do is show the kind of mental fortitude they showed on the road in Washington, ASU coach Charli Turner Thorne said.

“This time of year it’s about being tough,” Turner Thorne said. “I really like the toughness that we showed last week, and I’m just really excited for this team to build on that.”

Reach the reporter at egrasser@asu.edu

Thursday’s game

Women of Troy at Sun Devils

When: 6:30 p.m.

Where: Wells Fargo Arena

USC update: The Women of Troy have been stuck with the Sun Devils at third in the Pac-10 since Jan. 19, which was a narrow one-point ASU victory.