No. 2 Stanford 77, Southern Cal 39
STANFORD, Calif. (AP)
Jacki Gemelos watched old AAU teammate Jayne Appel dominate for second-ranked Stanford.
Gemelos might have been on the losing end of a blowout by the Cardinal, yet the Southern California guard still had plenty to celebrate Sunday: She is back on the court at long last.
Gemelos continued her inspirational comeback tale by scoring 13 points to lead the Women of Troy in their 77-39 loss to Stanford - on a day Appel passed Nicole Powell to become the Cardinal's career rebounding leader with 1,153.
Gemelos made her collegiate debut Thursday, as a redshirt junior and academic senior, and played 28 minutes in her first game action following four anterior cruciate ligament injuries in her knees that required five surgeries. She was the No. 1 prep player in the country in 2006 when she first got hurt as a senior at Saint Mary's High School in Stockton, where she was averaging 39.2 points per game at the time.
She had eight points, five assists and five rebounds in a 61-55 loss at California on Thursday night.
There were times she thought she'd never play again, but tried to keep such negative thoughts from her mind.
``There have been multiple times I've woken up and thought that,'' she said. ``It seems the next day I've woken up and thought something different. It's been unbelievable. I feel like getting out on the court I didn't miss very much. I know it's been a long four years but I'm comfortable out there still. ... My first step's a little slow right now and my moves to the basket. My outside shooting's improved since I got to shoot for four years on the sidelines.''
Appel, who finished with 15 points and 13 boards, pulled down her fourth rebound of the game and 1,144th of her career at the 7:34 mark of the first half to move past Powell. Kayla Pedersen had 18 points and 14 boards in Stanford's 42nd straight home win at Maples Pavilion.
``It's an honor to be up there, but I want a national championship,'' Appel said.
Nnemkadi Ogwumike added 16 points and 13 rebounds for the Cardinal (21-1, 11-0 Pac-10) in their 12th straight win since the team's lone loss at top-ranked Connecticut on Dec. 23, fifth straight victory in the series and 15th in 16 overall against USC.
Cold-shooting USC (13-9, 7-4) couldn't overcome the lowest scoring half in program history and lost its third straight following a five-game winning streak. The Women of Troy scored only 10 points in the first half - surpassing the school's previous-low of 15 on Jan. 27, 1990.
Gemelos, who checked in at the 14:32 mark of the first half to mild cheers from those who knew her story, missed her first five field-goal tries before making a driving layin with 15:06 remaining. Briana Gilbreath added 11 points for USC, which shot 18.2 percent (12 of 66).
Gemelos will start a master's program in education this fall.
While she could play at least two more college seasons, USC coach Michael Cooper figures she'll stay for one more before bolting to the WNBA.
``The WNBA is waiting for her,'' Cooper said. ``Other than the loss, it's a very happy moment for me personally and her family that she's out on the court doing what she loves. She's better than a lot of people in this league. We only have a limited time left together and we're going to try to make the most of it. She's truly a Magic Johnson-type of player.''
Gemelos is still close friends with Appel and they had a chance to catch up during this trip.
``I remember when she tore it the first time, I sent her a blanket I made,'' Appel said. ``It was four years ago and five days to the day. Looking over and seeing her parents, who are supporters of me also, and see them smiling that Jacki was going to play today was awesome. It takes more than people ever know to come back, and I thought she looked fabulous today.''
Appel was happy to be playing at all Sunday against her old pal. Her status was briefly in doubt following her ejection and flagrant foul Thursday night.
The 6-foot-4 All-America center and reigning Pac-10 Player of the Year was tossed from a 74-53 win over UCLA with 7:41 left for throwing an elbow that hit UCLA star Jasmine Dixon in the face. The Pac-10 reviewed the play shortly after the game and decided not to suspend Appel for Sunday's contest.
It was the first ejection 24th-year coach Tara VanDerveer can recall for one of her players.
Rosalyn Gold-Onwude scored seven straight points to start the second half and finished with 11 for Stanford, which didn't allow a jump shot until Heather Oliver's 3-pointer with 17:08 left.
Pedersen had 10 rebounds herself late in the first half when USC had managed only eight total. USC shot 3-for-31 in the first half and went 10 minutes between field goals by Gilbreath. All of the team's baskets came on layins and USC was 0-for-8 from long range.
Stanford began the game 1 for 9 with four turnovers in the opening four minutes but then made four of its next five during a 9-0 run. The Cardinal also closed the half on a 14-0 run for a 29-10 lead at intermission.
Stanford's 1990 national championship team was honored after the game on the 20th anniversary of the school's first NCAA title - a team featuring Jennifer Azzi, Sonja Henning and Katy Steding.
``It's been the most fun to see the players again because a lot of us haven't seen each other in years,'' Azzi said. ``But once a teammate, always a teammate.''
VanDerveer said her current team embraced the '90 players' message during a banquet Saturday.
``They really pointed out that nothing's the same as a national championship,'' Pedersen said. ``That really hit home to all of us that that's the only thing we're missing.''