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Women's basketball: USC prepares for WNIT semifinal against Illinois State

Ball_600 The NCAA tournament is the desired reward, the NIT and WNIT the consolation prizes for Division I college basketball teams.

After passing up a WNIT invitation last year, USC women’s Coach Michael Cooper accepted this time around.

It turned out to be a good decision.

“There aren’t many teams that are still playing right now,” USC guard Jacki Gemelos said.

After winning four games, three in a row on the road, USC plays Illinois State in the Women's National Invitation Tournament semifinals Wednesday night in Normal, Ill. The winner will play either Charlotte or Toledo on Saturday in the final.

USC (23-12) finished the regular season with 19 victories for the second year in a row and again was passed over for the NCAA tournament. The Trojans defeated UC Santa Barbara, Nevada, Brigham Young and Colorado en route to the WNIT semifinals.

In a phone interview from Illinois, Gemelos said, “I think Coach Cooper said it best: ‘Better late than never.’ The chemistry has just clicked for us.”

The Trojans also have recently found their shooting touch, especially from long range.

Guard Ashley Corral made seven of eight three-point shots and finished with 32 points in Sunday’s 87-70 victory over Colorado. She is averaging 19.3 points a game in the tournament.

“Everything we were trying to get them to learn at the beginning of the season is starting to catch on,” Cooper said. “They’re starting to pick up the little things.”

Cooper is hoping that the tournament experience will help the Trojans next season as they attempt to earn an elusive NCAA berth.

Cooper referenced Stanford and Tennessee, elite programs that are accustomed to playing their best in the postseason.

“As a program, that’s what we’re trying to do,” he said. “All this is getting us ready for next year.”

ALSO:

Trojans search for replacement for Nikola Vucevic

UCLA's Malcolm Lee to declare for NBA draft

-- Gary Klein

Photo: USC's Jacki Gemelos, right, and Colorado's Ashley Wilson chase the ball during a game on March 27. Credit: Cliff Grassmick / Associated Press.

 
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