MEGHAN CONLIN/Herald photoApparently eight is not enough.The last time the UW women’s basketball team played against Penn State, head coach Lisa Stone only had eight available players, and her quote before the game was, “Eight is enough.”However, the Badgers were not able to rally around Stone’s saying and suffered a 69-54 defeat.This time around, however, it was the Lady Lions who only had eight available players as junior starter Charity Renfro did not travel with the team due to a concussion.Just like Wisconsin, Penn State was not able to achieve victory with a shorthanded roster, as the Badgers cruised to a 66-56 win behind a strong second half.The game was neck-and-neck through much of the first half, but a Rashida Mark put-back bucket at the buzzer gave Penn State a two-point lead at intermission. Following the play, Stone was clearly upset with her team’s mediocre play.”When we play the way we did in the first half — you know, spotty and just not finishing and kind of playing like there’s a snowstorm outside — you need to get upset a little bit,” Stone said. “And they answered and played very well in the second half.”Wisconsin began to break away in the second half behind the hot shooting of senior Ashley Josephson, as she was a perfect three-for-three from beyond the arc after half-time.”I tried to forget about what happened in the first half, and then it’s a new 20 minutes,” Josephson said. “So I had to go out there with a fresh mind and just stroke the ball.”While Josephson’s shooting in the second half helped propel Wisconsin to its first Big Ten home victory since New Year’s, Penn State head coach Rene Portland felt that it was Danielle Ward’s presence inside that made the difference.”The effectiveness of Ward (was the key),” Portland said. “They got the ball inside. She was able to stand and get position for a long time in there, and our kids didn’t handle that.”Ward’s improved play has been evident as of late, as she has gained more and more experience in just her sophomore year.The secret to her recent big games — most notably the Michigan State loss this past weekend, when she posted a 10-point, nine-rebound and six-block performance — is actually quite simple.”I just play,” Ward said. “There’s nothing about confidence or anything specific. Sometimes I just go into a zone and I’m just playing where I’m not worrying about anything — not worried about a turnover, not worried about a foul, not worried about the other team scoring or anything.”In Thursday night’s victory, Ward was all over the place with her physical style of play, scoring a game-high 16 points on 7-of-14 shooting with six rebounds and three blocks.She was simply too much for the Lady Lions.”I don’t think our kids handled the physical play, to be honest,” Portland said. “I obviously took a technical foul. … The frustration from that carried into how bad they played.”But it wasn’t just Ward or Josephson that made the difference; Wisconsin led a balanced scoring attack all around, with each starter scoring in double figures.With the win, Wisconsin started its three-game home stand to finish the season on a high note, and, with only two games and the Big Ten tournament remaining on the schedule, the question of what the team is capable of remains.”Anybody’s capable of anything,” Josephson said. “You see upsets all the time, so if we come out and play the basketball, anything can happen for us, so we just got to stay confident and keep playing the way we are and we’ll see what happens.”
Starting right where they left off last year, the women’s tennis team will open their season this weekend with hopes of not only keeping their No. 9 ranking, but repeating as Pac-10 conference champions.Start · Junior Christy Andrews and USC open their season today. – Amaresh Sunduran Kuppuswamy Daily TrojanFour USC players also earned individual singles rankings. Junior Maria Sanchez leads the way by matching her highest career singles ranking at No. 8 in the nation. Freshmen Danielle Lao and Valeria Pulido are ranked No. 18 and 37, respectively, while sophomore Alison Ramos is ranked at No. 39. In the doubles mix, Ramos is paired with Pulido as the No. 19-ranked doubles team.Last year, the team finished 21-3 overall after a run to the NCAA second round, placing them ninth in the nation. They also went undefeated in Pac-10 play, claiming the 2009 conference title, snapping a 23-year losing streak to Stanford along the way. This helped secure coach Richard Gallien’s selection as the Pac-10 Coach of the Year. Starting his 15th season this year, this was the third time Gallien was selected for this award.After winning its first ever Pac-10 Championship, the team hopes to repeat its success.The Pac-10 is one of the toughest conferences in the nation. Although UCLA continues to be the Women of Troy’s biggest rival every year, the conference is especially deep this season.“Cal and Stanford are also some of our toughest competitors this year,” Lao said.Cal, ranked No. 3, is the only other Pac-10 team to be ranked in the top 10, followed by UCLA at No. 12 and Stanford at No. 13.“Our ultimate goal is to win a national title, but, before that, we’re going for another Pac-10 title,” Sanchez said. “If we just keep working hard and keep up our team unity, I think we can do just that.”USC will kick off its 2010 season today, split between two tournaments from Jan. 14-17. One tourney will be played in Palm Springs, Calif. and the other in Las Vegas. USC’s first dual match play opens at home on Jan. 21 against Long Beach State at Marks Stadium.To hear Daily Trojan reporter Lindsey Mathias interview Danielle Lao, click here.
USC football kicked off spring practice on Tuesday, and for the first time in three years, the Trojans will be hosting a quarterback competition that is expected to turn some heads not only going into the summer, but also potentially into the fall.Replacing Cody · With Cody Kessler moving on, the Trojans must pick between redshirt junior Max Browne and redshirt freshman Sam Darnold — both of whom are more mobile than Kessler — for their next quarterback. Nick Entin | Daily TrojanWith the departure of Cody Kessler, it appears that head football coach Clay Helton, who is entering his first full season at the helm, will have to tap either fourth-year junior Max Browne or redshirt freshman Sam Darnold to start the team’s season opener against defending national champion Alabama at Jerry’s World come Sept. 3.Whether Helton elects to go with Browne or Darnold, the USC offense is going to be in good hands — perhaps even better off than it was when Kessler was under center. Kessler ended his career as one of the most statistically decorated quarterbacks in USC history and led the Trojans to its first Pac-12 South title in 2015 but was always limited by his arm strength, which also restricted the play-calling ability for Helton, who served as the team’s offensive coordinator last season.Fans always criticized former head coach and now-Alabama offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin for calling a plethora of bubble screens in Kessler’s first season behind center, which seemed to be a contributing factor to his ultimate firing. The past two seasons, we’ve seen less of it, but it has still been a go-to play call for the USC offense, especially with one of the most dangerous playmakers in college football — junior wide receiver Adoree’ Jackson — on the edge.That’s when USC would become predictable, however, and in the process, it allowed opposing defensive coordinators to simply game plan for Kessler and his offense by taking away those plays, forcing him to test his arm down the field.Take a look at the team’s loss to Washington. Against the Huskies, Kessler completed only 16 of 29 passes for 156 yards to go along with two interceptions — good enough for a dismal quarterback rating of 9.4. Granted, Washington had the best overall defense in the Pac-12 last season, but if they want to be elite in 2016, new offensive coordinator Tee Martin and the Trojans are going to need a quarterback that is able to exploit any defense on any given day or night in the fall.Fortunately for USC fans, Browne and Darnold are basically opposites of Kessler. With Browne listed at 6-foot-5, 220 pounds and Darnold at 6-foot-4, 215 pounds, each of them certainly looks the part. Both of them also have rocket arms and are considerably more mobile and athletic, especially Darnold.Thus, the quarterback transition that is now taking place is actually a positive thing moving forward for the Trojans, as they move into what could be considered a new era of USC football under Helton. Call it an upgrade, if you will.Of course, the jury is still out on the intangibles that both Browne and Darnold have to offer, including how to read coverage and handle pressure in the pocket, in addition to leading and dealing with adversity, certainly in a hostile environment with limited experience at the Division I level. USC’s array of explosive weapons returning on offense, however, will surely diminish the growing pains in both the passing and the running games.Players like Jackson, Biletnikoff Award candidate and junior wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster, and the two-headed rushing attack of senior Justin Davis and sophomore Ronald Jones II made Kessler look really efficient at times, and they are expected to do the same for their new starting quarterback.It’s already a tall order to ask a brand-new starting quarterback to learn a system with a new coaching staff and be expected to give it their best shot at the defending national champs, but it’s a test that will benefit them in the long run.Since Browne is more experienced, with Darnold redshirting last year, it’s definitely his “job to lose” — his words exactly at the team’s first practice on Tuesday.The competition will be healthy for both Browne and Darnold, but it’s also important that Helton handles it in an appropriate manner by not letting it drag on too long. As a lot of us found out the hard way a few years ago with Kiffin, a quarterback competition that extends into the early part of the regular isn’t the best of ideas.Typically, the sooner the better is the preferred practice not only for the quarterbacks, but also the team as a whole, and there’s no doubt that Helton’s final decision will define him and USC football at least for the next couple of years to come.Darian Nourian is a senior majoring in print and digital journalism. His column, “Persian Persuasion,” runs Thursdays.