One of the things that I love about the Big Monday stretch of the college basketball season is the third game of the night's triple-header, which has been tabbed the last few years as the 12 a.m. ET/9 p.m. PT West Coast Conference game.
But this week's matchup was particularly intriguing -- even with the time difference out on the East Coast -- in seeing No. 25 Saint Mary's (CA) welcome seven-time West Coast Conference champ Gonzaga to McKeon Pavilion.
And in what was an absolute back-and-forth thriller, it was the host Gaels outlasting Mark Few's Zags in overtime to come away with a 89-85 win and share the lead with the Bulldogs in the conference standings.
The Associated Press reported late Wednesday that the former Oklahoma State coach has decided to come out of retirement to take over San Francisco on an interim basis after Jessie Evans announced he was taking a leave of absence earlier in the day.
This week's Top 25 just got released earlier today, and while it may be a surprise to some to see Saint Mary's holding down the No. 24 spot, it's the first time that the Gaels have cracked the field since the 1988-89 season.
But the Moraga, Calif., school has certainly been worthy of the national pub, as the Gaels have run out to a 7-0 start after securing a big 99-87 victory over Oregon on Nov. 20, a 85-70 decision over Seton Hall on Dec. 1 and another quality win over San Diego State last Saturday in Anaheim at the Wooden Classic.
So with Gonzaga sitting at No. 19 and Saint Mary's coming in at No. 24, it's the first time two teams in the West Coast Conference are ranked since the beginning of the 1973-74 season. At that time, it was San Francisco and former conference member UNLV who dominated the league, as the Dons came into the season at No. 11 while the Rebels followed at No. 19.
Two weeks ago in Spokane, Gonzaga took then-No. 8 Memphis to overtime, falling 88-87. This was just the Bulldogs' third game without Josh Heytvelt, who had been suspended after drug possession charges. The loss marked the 10th for Gonzaga, a first since the 1997-98 season. But it might have been the best thing that happened to them.
Zaga wins 77-68. Bulldogs are going dancing AGAIN. All this despite a mess with a former starter and some players not being a full strength. Now it's time for all the trophy presentation.
Seriously, I'm losing my hearing.
Raivio was just named MVP and everyone is chanting his name.
There are suddenly a lot of little Zags -- all the coaches' kids have come on the floor and are standing around clapping and high-fiving players. All this while hanging onto their respective dads' leg with the other hand.
Kaempf just got called for an intentional. A fairly weak call, I'd say. Gonzaga had the ball out under SC's basket and Pargo got loose deep. Bouldin threw it long and Pargo took off ... Kaempf fouled him, but it no way did he not make a play on the ball.
Maybe I spoke too soon about Gonzaga winning this one -- Pendergraft hit just one of two FTs and Kaempf responded to the bad call by knocking down a deep 3. I'm thinking he has unlimited range. 73-68 Bulldog lead, exactly one minute to go.
Yikes, the Zags almost just lost it out of bounds but they regained possession. It was hard to see from here but Raivio went down. SC was arguing for the ball to them, but they're probably lucky no foul was called. Just like Gonzaga's lucky to have the ball back.
Gonzaga is going to win this. They are absolutely in total control. Even after a Santa Clara score, the Bulldogs look confident and are doing a good job running their offense.
One thing I have to say I'm surprised to have seen -- or not seen: Not much pressing this game. Gonzaga has a great half court trapping press (or maybe they just all read when to trap extremely well) but they haven't used it much.
I think Gonzaga will be going dancing again pretty soon. Bulldogs lead 65-57 with 2:19 to go. However, if they want to do any damage in the NCAA tourney Abdullahi Kuso HAS TO STOP FOULING OUT. Second game in a row ... yesterday he left with about seven minutes to go, today with two minutes to go. If the kid would just stay on his feet instead of trying to block everything it would really help him.
And Santa Clara has started the fouling. Ugh. I HATE this part of the games -- this is where the last two minutes take 10 minutes to play.
We (the esteemed members of the media) got our ballots for all tourney a few minutes ago. Now these things always suck because they have to pick up your ballot before the game is over. Nonetheless, here is my team:
Ross DeRogatis, San Diego
Scott Dougherty, Santa Clara
Danny Pariseau, Santa Clara
Micah Downs, Gonzaga
MVP: Derek Raivio, Gonzaga
Dougherty has played his butt off and has been doing a little bit of everything for Santa Clara (including grabbing onto Downs' jersey as of late). Downs has been phenomenal, especially when you consider he's coming off the bench. And need I say anything about Raivio?
Zaga leads 61-52 after big block from Kuso and even bigger 3 from Pendergraft. 4:28 to play.
Things are starting to get heated here. Gonzaga fans are going crazy whenever something is called against them and the coaching staff is starting to take that approach as well.
Bouldin is playing great. After his nifty move inside he just scored after getting his own rebound twice (talk about padding your stats). Broncos are only down six, but they can't seem to crack that five-point barrier.
Hmm .. intersting call. Raivio overthrows a pass to Bouldin inside and SCU's Mitch Henke fell down ... and got called for the foul. One fan behind me yelled, "He's just a freshman! You can't be giving him calls!"
A semi-fair point. But he is a damn good freshman.
Most telling stat of the first half: Santa Clara had 10 turnovers. Gonzaga had four.
I was close about SCU's 3-point percentage: 54.5. Raivio racked up 14 first-half points on 4-for-6 shooting. Dougherty for Santa Clara had 10. I'm thinking Dougherty is right at home here at UP. Besides having played here during the regular season, the Portland native saw this floor a lot in high school. The boys and girls high school state championships used to be held at the Chiles center (girls is still here, boys is now at Mac Court in Eugene) and Dougherty played for Jesuit, which went to the state tourney three times in his high school career.
Zags lead 44-37 after Bouldin went over his shoulder inside (after dribbling once to the middle -- finally, someone that gets it!). 17:43 to play and Bouldin just picked up his third.
Zags lead 40-35. Raivio made a great steal on the baseline then took it the length of the floor and pulled up for a 3. The kid is skinny and little but man, he is tough to guard.
I'll be back with stastical analysis as soon as I get them ... Santa Clara, I'm guessing, is shooting around 60 percent from beyond the arc, which is the only reason they're in the game right now. They've cooled as of late, but don't expect them to go anywhere.
Few's as animated as I've ever seen him. After Downs hit a 3 to bring Zaga within a few, Few is on the sideline yelling at his guys and jumping up when they've made a good play. The crowd is starting to get to Santa Clara -- after Downs' 3 everyone got on their feet, and the Broncos traveled on their next possession.
They've also been called for three player control fouls in the last two minutes. We're tied at 33 after the Zags' little run. 3:17 to go. I can barely hear myself think. You know, if this is what it's like here in Portland, can you imagine how loud it gets at the Bulldogs' place?
I'm reading for asprin just thinking of the headache you'd get in there.
That's the sign a Santa Clara student is holding up. I was just talking with the guys next to me (Pencil Man) and someone from Gonzaga and we agreed the only people in this gym that think Santa Clara is going to win is probably the people in maroon jerseys on the bench.
Uh, Gonzaga might be thinking that now too. At the very least, they're probably thinking they need to play some better defense.
Someone needs to play some defense on Kaempf -- kid is HOT. Just hit two deep 3's and Broncos lead 27-21.
Raivio, for the record, has one of the best step-back 3's I've ever seen. Especially for someone that isn't oozing athleticism and quickness.
Pendergraft might be on his way to tournament MVP honors. After a screen gone awry with Raivio, Pendergraft composed himself, got up from a scramble and knocked down a 3. It wasn't very pretty (he leans to the left a little when he shoots from long-range) but it went in, and that's all that matters, right?
Broncos lead 16-14. Gonzaga is getting some good looks but isn't knocking them down. And Santa Clara is doing a great job of moving without the ball -- something you don't always see in guys basketball -- and catching the Zags off guard every now and them.
And Joey Kaempf just hit a 3 off an offensive board. We're not even halfway through the first half and it's already a great game.
I don't I've mentioned it before, so I have to say that the Zags play some of the best off-ball defense I've seen. They double down in the post really well and their guards (Pargo just did this) drop and dig really well, and that results in steals. Now Pargo didn't convert on the other end, but the Bulldogs' defensive rotation is a huge asset.
Okay I know most people in this gym are here cheering for Gonzaga, but is it really necessary to boo the SCU cheerleaders? That's a little harsh if you ask me. Then again, maybe they were booing them because a good number of them are surprisingly un-tan, considering they are from the sunny state of California.
Just walked into the Chiles Center, right next to the Gonzaga guys. ESPN was following them with the cameras as the walked in and practically tripped over themselves getting thisclose to Derek Raivio. He is a stud, but give the kid some breathing room!
Both teams are warming up, but the Zags' is much more laidback right now. SC is going through actual drills and running all over the place. Right now the Bulldogs are just shooting and their own leisure.
Now, this could be interpreted one of two ways: either Gonzaga is taking this part of warm-ups lightly, or they're so confident they know they can warm up at their own pace right now and get into drills when the official 20 minute warm-up time starts. My money's on the second one.
Does it count as flipping someone off if you do it sideways?
A certain SMC player (we'll leave him nameless so his mom doesn't read this and get angry at him) just aired a 3 on the previous play and the next time down the floor when he was on our side a fan yelled "shoot it again!" and said player flipped him off. Kinda. And it was right in front of the ref!
SMC just can't buy a basket. I know it's only an eight point game (49-41) but it feels like 15.
7:32 to play. And we have a shirtless man with painted handprints all over him "bowling" a basketball for prizes. But the refs are in the way. Aren't they ALWAYS in the way?
Pencil man is back ... without his pencils. I bet they're in a protective case. With a security system.
Brett Collins just hit a 22-footer (approximately ... I was never so good at measurement approximations in math) to bring SMC within four, 41-37.
Omar Samhan, the Gaels' big guy, is doing a good job getting position down low, but he's not snapping his wrist totally, and he's short a few shots because of it. However, Wayne Hunter just made a nice move inside because he went to his left FIRST, then came back over his right shoulder. That move is open SO much in men's college ball because defenders overplay one side, but not many posts recongize it.
11:34 to go, and SMC is making a little comeback, 41-39. Do we sense an upset?
Bennett was just telling the ref, "that's a huge play!" after SMC's Tron Smith was called for an offensive foul with 24 seconds left on the clock.
Bennett's right because had SMC been able to score, it obviously would have been a huge momentum swing. The Gaels did manage to force a turnover but couldn't score. So w'ere at halftime with the Broncos leading 33-28.
Okay the Santa Clara dance team is not impressive. Lame lame lame. Meanwhile, the SMC dance team had sparkly outfits. Oooh.
You're probably thinking I'm obsessed with dance teams. Well you're right ... why? Because I have no rhythm. These girls do and therefore, I am jealous.
Well it seems some young whipper snappers in the SMC cheering section think it would be just fine to chant A-A-R-P to Santa Clara coach Dick Davey. This despite the fact that he has more hair than SMC coach Randy Bennett.
SMC looks good and ready to win this game. However, we're not even 20 minutes into it, so what do I know? I thought SDU/Gonzaga would be an awful lot closer.
Gaels lead 27-24 with 3:30 to go. Pencil man is gone. I miss him.
An interesting stat from the first game: Brandon Johnson, the USD point guard, had five turnovers. In the two games combined prior to that, he had four (maybe three). I still think he's a damn good point guard, though.
The crowd has depleted quite a bit. Specifically in the high baseline bleachers, you can see a lot of open seats.
Oh, and I must give a shoutout to a good friend of Mark Few's, Clif Wegner, the coach of the Clackamas Comm. College Cougars, who just won an NWAACC Championship. Few and Wagner have always had nice things to say about one another.
Okay there was a long line in the bathroom, coupled with late press conferences. Sorry for the delay! You're all probably watching this on ESPN2 anyway. I see how it is -- abandoning me for cooler technology.
The Santa Clara point guard weighs less than Derek Raivio I think.
Now, as you've probably heard, Santa Clara is big inside (and it's no lie) but so far SMC is holding its own. It's 19 each and we've got 7:55 remaining in the first.
Okay it's time to talk about the timeout entertainment. They do a variety of things, but by far the most entertaining is the bungee cord basket something, when two guys are connected to the same bungee cord and run in opposite directions. First one to make three baskets wins. As you can imagine, this can provide some laughs.
You would think with the way the crowd just went crazy it was a close game. Not so much. Gonzaga wins 88-70. Few is taking some time right now to talk with DeRogatis, who wraps up a great career at SDU.
Off to the post game press conference ... and then to find some candy, because the media hospitality room is lame today.
Okay this game is over. Zaga leads 80-62 with 3:25 and Bouldin is going to the line for two. The second USD starter just fouled out.
So, in other news, the guy sitting to the left of me has four pencils. Why do you need so many, I wonder? He also seems to have some sort of rotation worked out so none of them gets too dull. Three of them are Dixon Ticonderogas, which everyone knows is the greatest pencil on the face of the earth. My high school calculus teacher would like this guy.
How bad of a person would I be if I stole one of these pencils just to see if the guy freaks out?
He's got a pretty good grip on all four of them though, so I don't think my odds of getting away with one are any good.
This one was by Gonzaga. And just like that, SDU finds itself down 71-53 with 7:17 to play. The old woman loved the run. Ray Murdock aired a 3 on the Toreros' last possession, which didn't help things.
But an interesting turn of events: Kuso just picked up his fifth person and will now retire to the bench. Mallon is on his way back in, but it will be interesting to see what happens.
Hmm, I just used "interesting" twice in the same paragraph. Am I chanelling Darren Cooper's personality here? His word is definitely and my word is interesting. Great.
"Miss it!" yells the old woman again. No dice. USD can't hit crap from the field, but they're shooting about 90 percent from the line.
After a DeRogatis 3 and assist in the last minute, the Toreros have cut it to 11, 64-53. This despite the fact that Cohen took an awful 3-pointer in their last offensive set. And I would guarentee you SDU coach Brad Holland didn't like it and that's why Cohen is now on the bench.
Bouldin just hit two FTs to give the Zags some more breathing room, right after Few called a timeout to talk about the little run SDU was on.
Okay, first De'Jon Jackson got called for an personal foul, then words were exchanged and he and Gonzaga's Micah Downs were hit with double technicals. So in a span of about 40 seconds, Jackson picked his third and fourth fouls.
Bulldogs lead 58-44 and pretty much nothing is going right for San Diego.
Despite that though, the little old woman behind us is screaming "defense!" in her raspy voice and letting the refs know she disagrees with every call that goes against her beloved Bulldogs.
And since I typed the score Gonzaga has hit two 3's. It's defeaning. 10:16 to go, Gonzaga leads 64-46. Yikes. Is it going to be another 40-point blowout?
Gonzaga leads 40-26, despite shooting badly from the FT line and probably less than 40 percent from the field. USD didn't score on its last posession despite an offensive rebound and two good looks from the field. The worst thing for the Toreros right now is that they're not taking shots within their offense. PG Johnson is doing a good job getitng the ball in the middle of the floor but it's kind of all falling apart after that.
The Bulldogs also continue to run fresh legs at USD and it's most evident on rebounds: the Zags can jump a lot higher and grab them, while the Toreros are standing flat-footed, probably trying to catch their breath.
Not wanting to be upstaged, the USD dance team (remember them? they had cool outfits) was dropping it like it's hot while the Gonzaga cheerleaders were doing their halftime performance. Do I sense a rumble?
(If you got my "Bring It On" reference right there, we can be best friends.)
I'm going to go find a stat sheet since they aren't delivering today.
Okay I'm sitting next to the guy who writes for the Santa Clara student paper and we were just trying to figure out who #45 for Gonzaga is. He's not on the roster and he looks young. Then it dawned on us: he's probably a redshirt that Few decided to use after the Heytvelt disaster. Turns out his name is Will Foster. We don't know much about him besides the fact that he's 7'4 (!) and just scored what might be the first points of his career as a Bulldog. Heck of a time to get your first minutes, in the WCC semifinal.
We were just tied at 19 ... and now it's 29-19, Gonzaga. USD is tired and it's starting to show a little bit, more in their poor shot selection than anything. Then the Zags threw a sick pass off the break that resulted in a sweet layup from Pendergraft. Bouldin grabbed a steal next and handed off to Raivio for a layup.
If the Toreros want a chance, they can't go into the locker room down more than six.
We're tied at 19 with 7:55 to play and some just threw a giant inflatable chair in my general direction. Why I'm not sure, but I'd gladly sit in it. I won one of those things in the third grade after I sold the most Girl Scout cookies in my group and it was pretty comfy.
Mallon already has two fouls and is on the bench and USD should take advantage and pound the ball inside. Nir Cohen is on the bench though, so the Toreors really only have Pomare inside. But with the way he's been playing, I'd be giving him the ball on the block and letting him go to work.
Gonzaga is shooting pretty poorly from the field, but their offensive boards inside are giving them an edge.
Okay San Diego isn't exactly playing well, but they're only down one, 12-11. And DeRogatis subbed in a minute ago to guard Raivio and Zaga responded by pulling the ball out and using screens and Mallon curled for a layup.
Danny Brown, who came in for USD yesterday and hit two clutch 3's off the bench, is in too and right now he's at the line. Made 'em both.
Gonzaga continues to pound the ball inside and Kuso is taking advantage of it, getting and 1's over and over.
Also, USD isn't having much trouble breaking this press tonight. Why? That's right, they are doing a great job of getting the ball to the middle again.
The Chiles Center holds around 4,700 I've been told, and I'm thinking it's pretty close to capacity. And most of them are rooting for the Bulldogs.
Seriously, it's ridiculous.
Raivio, the smallest guy on the court, just grabbed a rebound inside in traffic. Talk about reading the ball well. Zags are on top 6-4 and it is a very fast-paced game. Johnson (who right now is my pick for MVP of the tourney) just hit a 3.
Okay I have to stop typing so I can actually watch this game or I'll miss something.
What's left of the Portland student section is chanting "We want seniors!" I don't blame them -- the Pilots aren't coming back from this 75-41 butt-kicking, so why not put in your guys whose careers are about to end?
This is the first game of the tourney that hasn't been fun to watch. And in some ways, it still is fun because St. Mary's is throwing down some sweet dunks and making some nifty thread-the-needle passes. UP just can't compete with a team of this caliber.
Fans are starting to file out and it's not wonder why: the Gaels are up 60-35 with 10:15 to go. Ho-hum. Portland just can't compete with SMC's size. And it's not just their size; the Gaels have some sick moves on the block.
They're also getting every and 1 that's possible. That's not really helping UP's cause.
The guy next to me stole my stat sheet. *Shakes fist in anger.*
Taishi Ito, the UP frosh point guard, isn't playing right now because his back spasms have flared up, according to the UP SID. This isn't good for the Pilots (Ito led them in scoring last night) but they've pulled within 15, 48-33 with 14:51 to go. If they want a chance they have to be within eight with eight to go. I think most coaches would agree with me on that. But when I say that they can't just be trading baskets with SMC.
The UP band was just playing so loudly that it was shaking the floor and my bottle of Diet Pepsi was vibrating.
By the way, have I mentioned how happy I am that they serve Pepsi products here and not Coke, which in my opinion is like drinking a giant carbonation bubble.
However, if CSTV is in anyway associated or sponsored by Coke, I take back my previous sentence.
Okay ever since 2001 when Duke came back from being down 10 at Maryland in 57 seconds in ACC regular season play (does everyone remember the Miracle Minute at Cole Fieldhouse?) I am a big believer in anything being possible and that the game isn't over until the clock hits zero.
But if Portland, which is currently down 44-23 at half, wants to pull off a comeback they have to take better shots!
St. Mary's is winning right now partially because they see the second and third pass a second before the defense opens up. They are also crashing the offensive boards like nobody's business. They have 20 rebounds to UP's nine and eight of those are offensive on SMU's end.
Brett Collins is leading the Gaels off the bench with 13 points in 11 minutes. Wayne Hunter also has 10 points, going 3-5 from 3-point land. Jamie Jones is leading UP with 13 points on 5-for-8 shooting.
Okay I need to go scope out the souvenior stand (did I spell that correctly? My money is on no.) SMU just came out of the locker room with 5:18 to go in the break.
Portland just got called for an intentional foul (and despite the crowd's chanting of certain eight-letter words, it most definitely WAS intentional). SMC got both FTs and then hit a short jumper. The Gaels are up 32-18 with 5:06 left. It's not that UP is shooting horrible from the field like last night necessarily, St. Mary's has just had a lot more good offensive opportunities. (This goes back to them being the better team, again.)
The Pilots can be down more than 12 at halftime if they want to have a chance.
You know I've always hated people who make jokes about the Sixth Sense.
There's a great crowd here and most of them are clad in purple. Particularly in the student section, which is fairly close to full. The St. Mary's cheering section, in contrast, is considerably smaller.
I'll tell you this much: I haven't seen UP much this year, but they're playing outside themselves right now -- and I mean that in a good way. They're totally feeding off the crowd's energy. They're also taking some courageous drives to the basket (St. Mary's is pretty good-sized inside) and I think that can be attributed to playing with so much emotion. The Gaels are by far the more talented team and lead by seven right now, 19-12, but if Portland keeps its cool, it could be a good game. 10:24 to go in the first.
Alright, ignore everything I said earlier about USD matching up with Santa Clara. It appears I need to have my eyes checked because they play the Zags, not Santa Clara. Whoops.
25-10. That was the rebounding margin in the second half for San Diego. After getting beat on the glass in the first, Holland must have said something to his guys at halftime because they did a brilliant job reading the ball off the rim in the second. USD scored 14 second chance points, compared with 6 for USF. And Pomare finished with 16 points and 15 rebounds -- 6 of which were offensive.
One of the best jobs I've seen with a team continually breaking a press with a simple box set with a man in the middle. Gonzaga will not have a cakewalk tomorrow by any means.
The Toreros shot 48 percent from the arc in the game, following a 52 clip yesterday. Pretty darm impressive, if you ask me.
A great game all around. There were eight lead changes and eight ties. Quezada led USF with 16 points. Wiggins scored just 11 and had a rough time inside, going 5-for-12 from the field and 0-2 from 3-point land.
DeRogatis led the Toreros with 17 points and Johnson chipped in with 11 and 7 assists and 7 rebounds (impressive for a little guy).
Alright, Portland and St. Mary's just started. SMC gets first bucket.
Okay, the ref was in my way, but from what I saw ... DeRogatis got called for an offensive foul on an inbound, giving USF the ball back with eight seconds left and a four-point deficit. USF worked inside for a layup but it didn't matter. San Diego pulls off the upset, 77-75. They move on to play Santa Clara tomorrow in the semis.
Pomare jumped a little late and his pin against the backboard was a goaltend, giving the Dons two points without really having to work for it. DeRogatis hit one of two free throws, USF just hit a shot and now it's a timeout. 25.13 seconds to go, 74-70 USD.
About 10 minutes ago, USD coach Brad Holland was yelling at senior Ross DeRogatis when he engaged in a little trash talk, telling him "that's not leadership."
DeRogatis must have been listening. After NIr Cohen drew San Francisco's Kellogg's fifth foul, DeRogatis gathered everyone and talked strategy and about keeping their cool in the last two minutes. Then he broke the Dons' press with a great break up the sideline.
Wiggins just hit one inside, and now USD lead 70-66 with 1:05 to play. USF will have to do this without Kellogg, but they're more than capable.
I'll be very interested to see what the rebounding totals are for this game. Early in the second, Gyno Pomare for USD tipped in a few misses and has now collected a couple big defensive rebounds. USF is also struggling to capitalize on the Toreros' mistakes. Example: USD's Johnson gets just his third turnover of the last two games and the Dons can't score despite a 2-on-1 fastbreak.
Johnson just hit one of two FTs to give USD a 7-60 lead with 3:19 to play.
Johnson did a behind-the-back dribble ... in the middle of the lane with two defenders right next to him! Impressive, I'd say. That kid is a hell of a point guard. He's making the second and third pass and reading the defense SO well.
Toreros lead 65-58 with 5:59 to go. Wiggins is making some great moves on the block for USF but he's not making many of them. If he can make a few he'll be able to draw two defenders and kick it back out pretty easily.
And now one of my favorite parts about any men's sports: trash talk is beginning. DeRogatis just hit a big 3 for the Toreros, putting them up five, 52-47. USF called a timeout to talk about it, and DeRogatis and Johnson started talking some smack to USF point Antonio Kellogg. Kellogg got them back though -- he set up a screen perfectly and got a slick layup right out of the timeout.
Media timeout with 11:02 to play. USF has extended its press to fullcourt and was thisclose to a steal. USD has done a good job of attacking with a two guard front all night, so now let's see if they can do it with an extended defense.
USD's Johnson just hit a 3 at the buzzer to bring the Toreros within seven, 36-29. (How long before I can type that mascot name without looking it up in the media guide you think?) Big for momentum going into the locker room.
USF is hitting a big shot every time they need to, though. So I expect them to come out for the second half with a few quick buckets.
Johnson leads USD with 8 points and Johnny Dukes has 11 for the Dons. USD is getting killed on the glass, 22-13. Santa Clara, which will play the winner of this game tomorrow, has just walked in to sit down.
I just ate the most delicious roast beef sandwich.
USF went man-to-man for one defensive series and it resulted in a steal almost immediately. They're playing a 2-3 zone and it's working right into USD's offense because the Toreros are just shooting 3's. However, on defense, USD isn't so hot. In their defense though (ha! do you like the pun?) it's not easy to guard first teamer Alan Wiggins, Jr. (Yes, he's related to Stanford stud, Candice. He's her older brother.)
Alright, time for musical basketball chairs! And all the contestants are from the USF cheering section. How lame. Can't they ask a member of the USD dance team?
Well the Toreros have already hit two 3's (they also air balled one) and aren't having much trouble with USF 1-2-2 press. But I wouldn't be surprised if Evans is taking this media timeout to tell his guys they need to wait until USD point Brandon Johnson crosses halfcourt to trap in the corner. That will generate some turnovers.
Because I forgot to mention it last night, Portland's first round win yesterday was the first WCC tourney win for the Pilots in 11 years. That is a long time (over half of my life!) to go without a win, so good for them.
We're six minutes from tip off of San Diego and San Francisco. A cool fact: SFU coach Jessie Evans worked under Arizona's Lute Olson for nine years and his daughter, Jayda, is now a big-time sports writer at The Seattle Times. I ran into her yesterday in the media hospitality room and I can see her from here cheering on her dad.
It will be interesting to see if San Diego's hot shooting can carry over to today. USF has seven fans decked out in green and yellow (including a girl in gold hot pants) and you know they're going to heckle the Toreros every chance they get.
"That's what March is all about: teams just battle. Scores are going to be low. I told my guys, 'You might score a lot during the season but when you get to the tournament it's about locking down and defending.'"
Portland advances, beating LMU 55-41. Not really a pretty game for either team, but UP got it done. And had some sweet dunks along the way. Good crowd for the Pilots. And it looks like crazy purple hair man will live to dance another day! Portland will play St. Mary's tomorrow in the nightcap.
So in case you didn't know, John Montgomery, the LMU point guard, is the son of Mike Montgomery, formerly of Stanford and the Golden State Warriors (and someone whom I have heard is rumored to be a replacement candidate for Ritchie McKay down in New Mexico).
I'm scanning the crowd trying to find Mike, but no dice thus far. If I find him, I'll see if I can get the scoop on NM, as well as ask him what he thinks of his son's play. And considering he just turned the ball over, he might not have the nicest things to say. Pilots lead 44-30 with 5:24 left.
(30 points in a Division-I men's college game?! Are you kidding me?!)
LMU's Jon Ziri just gave new meaning to the word "swatted." Phenomenal block on his part, but LMU couldn't get a score out of it. Pilots still in the lead 35-28 with 10:55 left.
I just ran out fo ra quick bathroom break and caught the LMU Lion mascot without his head (!) under the bleachers. He was sitting next to a sleeping bag and pillow ... come on, LMU, don't tell me you couldn't spring for an extra room for him! The Lion still hasn't returned and it's been a good five minutes. Maybe he's napping.
Alright, who uncrossed their fingers? (And while I'm getting after people, who turned on the AC in this building? I'm freezing here on press row!)
So, Portland has been stuck on 30 points for about three and a half minutes. It's now 30-26 after LMU hit a pair of free throws. And all that sweet-shooing UP had is ... turning into turnovers instead.
It is nice to see some half-court offense from both teams though (I'm not sure how it counts as "offense" if shots don't go in). Okay but for real, both teams are playing really hard. And Ito just hit a 3, so maybe I should be a little nicer.
LMU needs a timeout and they just called one. Portland has opened the second half with a 9-0 run in less than 2 minutes. And the crowd loves it. Fans are going crazy and more and more purple is appearing in the stands. After such an ugly first half from both teams, can we expect some great basketball in this 20 minutes?
And we're at halftime of a poor shooting game. Portland leads 21-20. The Pilots finally started to hit a few shots and had some great hustle plays in the last minute. Just like Pepperdine, they got a shot as time expired in the first but couldn't convert. Once I get some stats I'll update on that.
There is a huge contrast in the UP cheer team with the San Diego, Pepperdine and LMU cheer teams. Some of the Portland girls look like they haven't seen the sun since 1993. But hey, it makes me feel better about my lack of tan, too.
Crazy purple hair man has some competition: an LMU student with a neon blue wig is currently doing the robot in the band section.
There's no nice way to say that. This is ugly on the Pilots' end. We've played more than 10 minuts and they have just 7 points. Blah. They aren't getting much help from the refs, but still. Their PG is at the line right now though ... and he missed. Come on, Taishi Ito, give the home crowd something to cheer for!
Hey, it worked. He made the second one.
And now he hit a 3 and held his follow through for extra affect. Lions lead 14-13 with 7:27 to go.
Okay the first four minutes were not pretty. But after a timeout Adoyah Miller hit back-to-back 3's to put LMU up 10-5. And he hit the second one after sizing up his defender and pulling. Nothing screams confidence like that.
Speaking of screaming, you know how's it's commonplace for the crowd to chant "You! You! You! Oooonnnnnnnn you!" after an opposing player fouls? Well, the LMU crowd has changed it a bit to be "You! You! You! Youuuuuuuuuu suck!"
Anyone that's ever attended a basketball game at the Chiles Center knows exactly who I'm talking about in the title of my entry. I don't know how long he's been here (maybe I'll go ask) but the UP band director is a fairly normal-looking person, save for the crazy purple pom-pom-like wig he wears to every game that he dances around in. It's quite entertaining.
Alright, considering that UP's tournmanet passes sold out in three days, I expect to see a lot of fans this game. Quite a few have come in and you have to think the UP student section will be rocking. Right now though, the LMU band and student section is making considerably more noise. But maybe I'm just saying that because they're sitting right to my left.
Post game press conf. was pretty ho-hum. Stats for San Diego were impressive: four players scored in double figures, led by DeRogatis' 22. He shot 5-for-8 from 3-point land. Nir Cohen (whose name I absolutely butchered in the press conf ... sorry) had his way inside, coming off the bench to score 19 points in just 24 minutes of action.
San Diego shot 52.4 percent from the 3-point line for the game. Pepperdine, in comparison, shot just 28.
Alright, tipoff of LMU vs. Portland is about 10 seconds away.
Final is 95-82, San Diego. Lee hit a 3 at the buzzer for Pepperdine, but it obviously didn't matter much. Toreros move on to play San Francisco tomorrow and Waves finish their season 8-23, their first under head coach Vance Walberg.
Off to post game press conference, and to see if they've replenished the Snickerdoodle supply. They were out at halftime.
Ray Murdock, a guard for San Diego, just hit another 3. That is really the story of tonight's game and if Pepperdine can pull off an upset with San Diego hitting over 50 percent from the arc, I'll be impressed.
Nir Cohen for San Diego is having his way inside, using his thick frame and good footwork to score at his will close to the basket. But the Waves just won't go away. Marvin Lee scored on a drive and got fouled right before the media timeout, pulling the Waves within 10.
Pepperdine is shooting itself in the foot here. First the Waves play agressive D and almost force a turnover, then SD gets it inside and Pepperdine bails them out with a weak foul inside. San Diego is shooting pretty darn well from the 3-point line, though. They were 6-for-12 at the half and Ross DeRogatis just hit a baseline 3 to go up 62-50.
I have to hand it to the Toreros though -- they just aren't getting rattled despite tight defense and almost-turnovers on a couple of occasions. and Brandon Johnson, their PG, is doing a great job of being patient and getting the ball inside to his big guys. And just as I said that Nir Cohen made a sweet reverse layup. 64-54 with 12:41 to go. Pepperdine has to cut the lead to four with four minutes remaining if it wants a chance.
Alright, what do you think the halftime entertainment is? Anything particularly cool?
Nope, it's just the Pepperdine cheerleaders. Oooh, but they do have bandanas with them.
Pepperdine cut it to seven and now San Diego leads 48-41 after the first 20 minutes. Pepperdine got a HUGE block toward the end and then had the ball for the last shot. They missed a 3 but got an offensive board, but couldn't hit an 8-foot fadeaway. Nonethless, they ended the half well.
SD's 6-foot-7 Gyno Pomare leads all scorers with 12 points at break. Barlow has 10 for Pepperdine. After a rocky first few minutes, San Diego got its act together on the glass and is outrebounding Pepperdine 18-13. And both teams have under 10 turnovers (this is particularly impressive to me because I watch a lot of Oregon State basketball, and it's not pretty and they usually turn the ball over 8 times in the first five minutes).
Alright I'm going to check out the media hospitality room. I think I saw Snickerdoodles in there earlier ...
Okay San Diego is starting to pull away, but Pepperdine and coach Vance Walberg are starting to dissect SD's defense, sitting a high post at the free throw line and working the ball inside and out. Barlow is also finding the gaps and doing all he can to get the deficit to single digits before the end of the first.
At the first media timeout we're tied at 8. Here's the deal so far: Pepperdine still doesn't have much of a half-court offense (unless you think passing the ball around the perimeter counts as offense) BUT the Waves have realized if they can't get their full-court game going they'll have to rebound in the half, and that's working out well for them.
San Diego is obviously th emore talented team, but Pepperdine is just out-hustling them right now.
We're 7:26 away from the tip of the West Coast Conf. men's tourney here at University of Portland. First up is Pepperdine (3-11 WCC) vs. San Diego (6-8). San Diego won both the regular season games, 71-67 on the road and 97-85 at home.
I saw the Waves early this season against Washington and while they were fun to watch, their lack of half-court offense was pretty painful. It'll be intersting to see if things have got any better since then.
Starting lineups are being announced right now. And Pepperdine's mascot (a giant Wave) just walked by and high-fived me. He's pretty scary-looking in my opinion.
HARTFORD - UConn asserted its will in the second half to wrap up the 88-66win. Pepperdine's 3-point barrage petered out and the Huskies defense dominated, holding the Waves to 30 second-half points, while putting up 48 of their own.
HARTFORD - UConn is playing with a bit more focus through 4:07 of the second half and, as tonight’s special “Hang Time” analyst Seth Davis has pointed out, the Huskies appear to be trying to get Jerome Dyson more involved.
UConn now leads 46-38, after a 6-2 spurt to start the half.
Dyson had four points in the first half and already has four in four minutes of the second half. He did, however pick up his third foul of the game with 15:18 left.
HARTFORD - Just a truly wonderful halftime stat sheet if you like to see the bizarre:
Pepperdine shot better form 3-point land (8 of 15) than it did from the rest of the court (6 of 17). Overall, the Waves shot 43.8 percent form the field. UConn shot 54.5 percent from the field (just 2-of-8 form 3-point land).
The Huskies out-rebounded the Waves 22-15 and outscored Pepperdine 28-12 in the paint.
Still, we’re left with a 40-36 halftime score and whatever remnants from Jim Calhoun’s pneumonia that still exist, we’re guessing he’s sweating them out during the course of his halftime diatribe.
. . . The halftime entertainment at the HCC consisted of a bleach-blonde gentleman spinning around the floor in what appears to be a an oversized wheel rim. Known as “Wheelwork by Chris,” he hails from Cirque de Soleil and according to UConn super-assistant SID, Leigh Torbin, the contraption breaks down into five pieces for easy plane travel.
HARTFORD - A spirited latter half of the first stanza by Pepperdine has made a game out of it, trimming the Husky lead to six at halftime, 40-36.
Pepperdine’s Tomas Pranciliauskas has single-handedly kept the Waves in the game with 14 first-half points on 4 of 5 shooting from 3-point land. Hasheem Thabeet has 12 for UConn, which really fell apart on the defensive end during the last minutes of the half.
HARTFORD - Pepperdine continues to throw the ball away with regularity, but is able to keep the UConn lead to under 10 through its extensive use of the three-poin shot. Still, with under 8:00 to play, the Huskies maintain a 30-21 lead.
. . . AJ Price continues to shine for UConn with five points and at least one astonishing dime. We’ll ignore - for now - the 3-point air ball he heaved with 9:04 left in the half.
HARTFORD - Just a few minutes from tip and the HCC is filling in with Husky supporters.
. . . The Waves very rarely get to the Northeast, but they did play UConn’s Big East Brethren Syracuse during the 1996-97 season under then-coach Lorenzo Romar (a 77-64 loss). There have been just ten other Waves’ head coaches in the program’s history (since 1938). Included on the list is Jim Harrick, Jan Van Breda Kolf and Paul Westphal (who left after last season).
HARTFORD - We’re about 40 minutes from tip and both teams are currently on the floor, stretching and doing some light shooting. Both teams have blue warm-up jerseys, but the Huskies are wearing white shirts and shorts underneath, Pepperdine is in its road blues.
The PA system at the HCC is playing holiday music - the current selection is "Walking in a Winter Wonderland." Sadly, no snow is forecast for the Hartfrord-area - so we're all walking in a Winter Warmland, to be technical about things.
. . . Vance Walberg is considered a bit of an innovator for his wide-open offensive style. In fact, much of what Walberg runs on the offensive end is being used (and has been used) by Memphis coach, John Calipari. Calipari, when we visited with him in Memphis during the pre-season, raved about Walberg and the system. Calipari also likes it for what it does for him on the recruiting end - “Kids want to play like this, up and down,” he said.
Here’s how Walberg explains his system in his Pepperdine bio:
"Shoot, shoot and shoot some more. It's really very simple. What I do is I spread you out and we attack. I call it AASAA-Attack, Attack, Skip, Attack, Attack. Everybody gets a big plus out of it. It starts with the guards. The first thing I want them to do is come down and look to score. It's up to the guards to be able to break their man down. Once the breakdown process begins and whoever helps, that's where the kick goes. If we struggle, we reverse things and put it inside and it's time for the big guys to take over. It's very simple."
. . Senior guard Jason Walberg (Vance’s son) is lost for the remainder of the season after suffering a knee injury during practice on November 24. Walberg played in five games and averaged 14.0 points and 2.4 rebounds a contest.
. . . Pepperdine ranks fifth in the country in three point field goals made. The Waves have totaled 133 and are averaging 11.1 made three-pointers per game. Virginia Military Institute leads the nation with 14.7 three-pointers a game. The Wave has also forced a WCC-high 259 turnovers (21.6 turnovers a game) and has a league-best turnover margin of +4.9. Uconn averages just under 15 turnovers per game, something that has been a big focus for the Huskies who started the season turnover-prone. (Since the fifth game of the year against Albany when the Huskies turned it over 19 times, they have had games of 13, 14, 12 and 14 turns.
. . . UConn Sophomore point guard A.J. Price has totaled 22 assists and one turnover in the past three games and has 49 assists and 15 turns on the season
. . . UConn is 6-0 record against teams from the West Coast Conference under Jim Calhoun, 2-0 against Gonzaga, 3-0 vs. Pepperdine and 1-0 vs. St. Mary’s.
. . . We're told that tickets are still available for tonight's game, if you find yourself in the Hartford area in the next half hour or so.