The Galen Center is not normally where I head to start my college basketball season but I couldn’t resist seeing the Xavier Musketeers head to California, especially after all the preseason hype of their front line-up of Amber Harris and Ta’Shia Phillips. And they did not disappoint coming with an 81-71 victory over USC in the season opener.
After all the injuries the Ladies of Troy have undergone, I thought they would be hard-pressed to keep up with the size of the Musketeers, and they did for most of the first half. USC had more turnovers and were outrebounded. I also wanted to see how Michael Cooper, the new coach, would do in his first outing. The team did not seem cohesive at first, looking confused on plays. They were also having trouble scoring and turning the ball over.
In the second half, USC came out firing and three things were key in my opinion; USC stopped turning the ball over, they were boxing out and rebounding, and Phillips got in foul trouble which reduced the Muskateers second chance opportunities. The Ladies of Troy were able to grab the lead on a floater from Heather Oliver but were not able to pull away to take the game in regulation.
In overtime, the Musketeers completely took over and Phillips went to work on the glass alongside of Harris who was isolated on many plays to take advantage of her size.
My impression of Xavier as a whole is that they have a lot of good athletes that can go off the bounce and the point guard, Special Jennings, is solid. Harris is the real deal and can shoot the three or post up. Ta’Shia Phillips is big and strong and can probably battle with any big-time center in the women’s game. The Musketeers also can go to their bench a bit more than I expected with lots of athletic versatile players.
USC looked impressive in the second half, but at the end, it seems that the lack of size and lack of depth was their undoing. Christina Marinacci made her debut and she was impressive showing that she could slash to the basket or pull up for the three. Ashley Corral was the key to the second half as she led the team back from the deficit. She, along with Gilbreath, will most likely be the main offensive threats this season. The team will have big competition in the next few weeks going against Gonzaga, Rutgers, Texas and Mississippi State, so we will know soon enough if they can break through against top competition.
– Daniel Uribe