WCCSports.com
BYU BYU BYU Pacific Pepperdine BYU BYU BYU BYU BYU
Blog

March 2015 Archives

#WCChoops Q&A - Tom Holmoe, BYU

| No TrackBacks
Throughout the course of the 2015 WCC Basketball Championships, #WCChoops Columnist John Crumpacker will be posting mini-profiles and features to go along with his daily "What We Learned" postings.

10855991.jpeg
By John Crumpacker
#WCChoops Columnist

LAS VEGAS - Tom Holmoe was not in the Orleans Arena on Tuesday watching his BYU men's and women's teams play for West Coast Conference basketball championships. He had more important things to do.

 The BYU athletic director is in his first full year as a member of the NCAA Men's Selection Committee and as such will be in Indianapolis with the other nine members as they prepare for and then select the 68 teams that will play for the Division I college basketball championship, otherwise known as March Madness.

Your WCC columnist has a long, yet at the same time sporadic, history with Holmoe. I covered him in his last few seasons as a defensive back with the San Francisco 49ers, I covered a game or two when he was the football coach at my alma mater, UC Berkeley, and I've had the occasion to pester him with a few questions in his role as AD at his alma mater.

We go back, Tom and me.

So Holmoe was good enough to give me a few minutes of his time on Monday for a question-and-answer session as the BYU women were at work upsetting top seed Gonzaga 61-55 to reach the championship game. He left on Tuesday morning for Indy, where the Selection Committee will grind away from Wednesday until Sunday putting the tournament field together.

Holmoe is filling out the final two years of a five-year term on the Selection Committee that former WCC Commissioner Jamie Zaninovich had to abandon when he went to the Pac-12 as chief operating officer.

Q: What was your reaction when Zaninovich asked you to take over as the WCC's representative on the Selection Committee?

A: At first I wasn't really sure about it because I'd heard how much time it takes. Jamie came to me and said this is a job you'd be good at.

Q: Now that you're on it, what's your understanding of your role?

A: I feel it's a service for our conference. A lot of people don't want to do it. It's a pretty crazy time commitment. It gets in your blood.

Q: What does your work on the Committee involve?

A: I started this the spring of last year, traveling to five locations for meetings. We have meetings all year long to do the business of the college basketball tournament. We chose (future) Final Four sites, regional sites, officials, ticket sales, media. That's the thing that surprised me the most, how many different things are involved in it.

Q: So I imagine you'll be a cheerleader on behalf of BYU and the WCC in Indy, huh?

A: No. I'm not allowed to go in when they're voting on BYU if they're in consideration. I can't be in the room. You can't advocate for your school or your conference. It makes sense. Everybody on the committee has a certain number of primary and secondary responsibilities.

Q: What is your area of responsibility on the committee?

A: I have the Missouri Valley Conference, Conference USA, MEAC and the Big Sky. The MEAC and Big Sky usually get just one bid, the Automatic Qualifier. Some conferences might only have one team. The difficulty comes when a favored team loses in its conference tournament. Like Murray State. Murray State was in the Top 25 and lost in their (Ohio Valley) tournament. Do they get in as an at-large now that they're not an AQ?

Q: With all the schools now in your bailiwick, do you have a favorite mascot?

A: St. Joe's. When I was a little kid, my older brother played football at UCLA. I used to go watch UCLA (basketball) in the late 60's under (John) Wooden. They played St. Joe's once and their hawk mascot flapped his wings the entire game.

Q: Not bad. But for my money, you can't beat the Banana Slugs of UC Santa Cruz or the Stormy Petrels of Oglethorpe University or the Anteaters of UC Irvine. But I digress. Since you spend so much time in hotels, do you have a favorite meal, a go-to fave?

A: Desserts, absolutely. I might even eat it first. I like bread pudding. I love ice cream sundaes. Pies. You name it. I don't turn away too many things.

Q: So how is it you don't weigh 400 pounds with all those desserts?

A: I work out a lot. That's the only reason I work out, so I can eat.

Q: What's your routine like? Cardio? Weights? Tire-flipping? Zumba? Brazilian butt-lift?

A: Walking. Long-distance walking. During the week I go for an hour and on the weekend I go for two or three hours. I love, love, love to be out on my own. That's when I do my best thinking. In Utah, you have rivers, mountains. It's beautiful.

Q: Do you have a favorite place to walk around the BYU campus?

A: The Provo River Trail. I can walk seven miles to the lake, 15 miles up the canyon. It's a 15-minute walk from my house to the river.

Q: What's the longest you've walked in one day?

A: Sixteen miles. I want to do 22 this spring.

Q: What have you done lately on the Selection Committee?

A: We had a mock selection three weeks to a month ago. I feel somewhat prepared. It was like a Readers Digest version, four hours as opposed to four or five days. I'm a little anxious. There's a lot riding on it. You want to be prepared. From the middle of the season I started watching games a little more seriously. Now I can size up teams.

Q: Are you prepared for the criticism you and your fellow committee members will receive, no matter how you seed the tournament or which teams you pick or which teams you leave out?

A: It happens every year. I look at the college football playoffs. I think that was a vast improvement over the BCS because of the selection committee.

 

 

 

 

 

#WCChoops Q&A - Tom Holmoe, BYU

| No TrackBacks
Throughout the course of the 2015 WCC Basketball Championships, #WCChoops Columnist John Crumpacker will be posting mini-profiles and features to go along with his daily "What We Learned" postings.

10855991.jpeg
By John Crumpacker
#WCChoops Columnist

LAS VEGAS - Tom Holmoe was not in the Orleans Arena on Tuesday watching his BYU men's and women's teams play for West Coast Conference basketball championships. He had more important things to do.

 The BYU athletic director is in his first full year as a member of the NCAA Men's Selection Committee and as such will be in Indianapolis with the other nine members as they prepare for and then select the 68 teams that will play for the Division I college basketball championship, otherwise known as March Madness.

Your WCC columnist has a long, yet at the same time sporadic, history with Holmoe. I covered him in his last few seasons as a defensive back with the San Francisco 49ers, I covered a game or two when he was the football coach at my alma mater, UC Berkeley, and I've had the occasion to pester him with a few questions in his role as AD at his alma mater.

We go back, Tom and me.

So Holmoe was good enough to give me a few minutes of his time on Monday for a question-and-answer session as the BYU women were at work upsetting top seed Gonzaga 61-55 to reach the championship game. He left on Tuesday morning for Indy, where the Selection Committee will grind away from Wednesday until Sunday putting the tournament field together.

Holmoe is filling out the final two years of a five-year term on the Selection Committee that former WCC Commissioner Jamie Zaninovich had to abandon when he went to the Pac-12 as chief operating officer.

Q: What was your reaction when Zaninovich asked you to take over as the WCC's representative on the Selection Committee?

A: At first I wasn't really sure about it because I'd heard how much time it takes. Jamie came to me and said this is a job you'd be good at.

Q: Now that you're on it, what's your understanding of your role?

A: I feel it's a service for our conference. A lot of people don't want to do it. It's a pretty crazy time commitment. It gets in your blood.

Q: What does your work on the Committee involve?

A: I started this the spring of last year, traveling to five locations for meetings. We have meetings all year long to do the business of the college basketball tournament. We chose (future) Final Four sites, regional sites, officials, ticket sales, media. That's the thing that surprised me the most, how many different things are involved in it.

Q: So I imagine you'll be a cheerleader on behalf of BYU and the WCC in Indy, huh?

A: No. I'm not allowed to go in when they're voting on BYU if they're in consideration. I can't be in the room. You can't advocate for your school or your conference. It makes sense. Everybody on the committee has a certain number of primary and secondary responsibilities.

Q: What is your area of responsibility on the committee?

A: I have the Missouri Valley Conference, Conference USA, MEAC and the Big Sky. The MEAC and Big Sky usually get just one bid, the Automatic Qualifier. Some conferences might only have one team. The difficulty comes when a favored team loses in its conference tournament. Like Murray State. Murray State was in the Top 25 and lost in their (Ohio Valley) tournament. Do they get in as an at-large now that they're not an AQ?

Q: With all the schools now in your bailiwick, do you have a favorite mascot?

A: St. Joe's. When I was a little kid, my older brother played football at UCLA. I used to go watch UCLA (basketball) in the late 60's under (John) Wooden. They played St. Joe's once and their hawk mascot flapped his wings the entire game.

Q: Not bad. But for my money, you can't beat the Banana Slugs of UC Santa Cruz or the Stormy Petrels of Oglethorpe University or the Anteaters of UC Irvine. But I digress. Since you spend so much time in hotels, do you have a favorite meal, a go-to fave?

A: Desserts, absolutely. I might even eat it first. I like bread pudding. I love ice cream sundaes. Pies. You name it. I don't turn away too many things.

Q: So how is it you don't weigh 400 pounds with all those desserts?

A: I work out a lot. That's the only reason I work out, so I can eat.

Q: What's your routine like? Cardio? Weights? Tire-flipping? Zumba? Brazilian butt-lift?

A: Walking. Long-distance walking. During the week I go for an hour and on the weekend I go for two or three hours. I love, love, love to be out on my own. That's when I do my best thinking. In Utah, you have rivers, mountains. It's beautiful.

Q: Do you have a favorite place to walk around the BYU campus?

A: The Provo River Trail. I can walk seven miles to the lake, 15 miles up the canyon. It's a 15-minute walk from my house to the river.

Q: What's the longest you've walked in one day?

A: Sixteen miles. I want to do 22 this spring.

Q: What have you done lately on the Selection Committee?

A: We had a mock selection three weeks to a month ago. I feel somewhat prepared. It was like a Readers Digest version, four hours as opposed to four or five days. I'm a little anxious. There's a lot riding on it. You want to be prepared. From the middle of the season I started watching games a little more seriously. Now I can size up teams.

Q: Are you prepared for the criticism you and your fellow committee members will receive, no matter how you seed the tournament or which teams you pick or which teams you leave out?

A: It happens every year. I look at the college football playoffs. I think that was a vast improvement over the BCS because of the selection committee.

 

 

 

 

 

#WCChoops Five Questions - Byron Wesley, Gonzaga

| No TrackBacks
Throughout the course of the 2015 WCC Basketball Championships, #WCChoops Columnist John Crumpacker will be posting mini-profiles and features to go along with his daily "What We Learned" postings.

10855991.jpeg
By John Crumpacker
#WCChoops Columnist

LAS VEGAS - A year ago, Byron Wesley was a member of the USC basketball team that lost to Colorado in the first round of the Pac-12 Tournament in Las Vegas. "One and done'' is rhyme no coach or athlete wants to have applied to their team.

Wesley is now an integral part of a Gonzaga team that will play BYU for the West Coast Conference men's championship Tuesday at 6 p.m. He was nice enough to give me a call during the season for an interview so I sought him out after the Zags dispatched Pepperdine 79-61 and asked him a few questions before he vanished into the night. More likely, he rejoined his teammates. In any event ...

Q: With such a short stay in the Pac-12 tournament a year ago, I don't imagine your Trojans team had any fun in Vegas, did you?

A: It's never fun to lose in the first round.

Q: How about now, Monday night's convincing win over Pepperdine in which you had 25 points? Big fun, yes?

A: This was easily the most energy we've had. Everyone was engaged. It's good we're starting to find ourselves again.

Q: What was your reaction to seeing, and hearing, all those Gonzaga fans in the Orleans Arena?

A: Coaches told me about it but I had no idea it would basically be a home game for us. That's a credit to our fans for being so faithful. They did a good job tonight.

Q: While the Pepperdine game was certainly fun for you and your team, have you managed to have a good time away from the court while you've been in Vegas?

A: Our coaches have us on a pretty tight regimen. We practiced yesterday on our off day. We know it's a business trip.

Q: How about a good meal? Anything to speak of, or does coach Few just give you guys bologna sandwiches on white bread and expect you to be grateful for them?

A: We went out to eat at a nice buffet at Mandalay Bay where we're staying.

Q: Highlights?

A: Crab legs for sure.

Q: Gonzaga just won its 31st game this season. Do you realize that matches the total number of victories you had in three years at USC?

A: I knew it was getting close. I definitely made the right decision.

#WCChoops Five Questions -

| No TrackBacks
Throughout the course of the 2015 WCC Basketball Championships, #WCChoops Columnist John Crumpacker will be posting mini-profiles and features to go along with his daily "What We Learned" postings.

10855991.jpeg
By John Crumpacker
#WCChoops Columnist

LAS VEGAS -  As a basketball player, Thomas van der Mars fell one inch short of 7 feet. As a college student, he fell one 'A' short of a perfect 4.0 grade 
Throughout the course of the 2015 WCC Basketball Championships, #WCChoops Columnist John Crumpacker will be posting mini-profiles and features to go along with his daily "What We Learned" postings.

10855991.jpeg
By John Crumpacker
#WCChoops Columnist

LAS VEGAS -  As a basketball player, Thomas van der Mars fell one inch short of 7 feet. As a college student, he fell one 'A' short of a perfect 4.0 grade point average. Nevertheless, he was still named an Academic All-American for 2015.

Following No. 6 Portland's stunning 69-52 upset of No. 3 Saint Mary's in Saturday's quarterfinal round, I stood eye-to-chest with van der Mars and tossed five questions up to the rarefied air he occupies.

Q: Congratulations of making Academic All-American. With a damn-near-perfect 3.95 GPA, where did you fail? That's fail as in failing to earn an 'A.'

A: That was undergrad. I got a 'B+' in Innovation. We had a tough teacher. I had a couple A-minuses in there, too.

Q: You're now working on your master's at Portland. What discipline are you delving into?

A: Science Operations and Technology Management.

Q: What the heck is that? When I went to college in a one-room schoolhouse with the schoolmarm in a gingham dress ringing a bell to call the pupils to class, we had one-word majors like English and History and Biology.

A: It's quantitatively based, focused on the operation of businesses. It's supply chain and inventory management. My goal is to play professionally first and afterward I'm looking to some consulting work where I help businesses improve.

Q: You're putting me to sleep here. Let's talk basketball. When you went out of the game with your fourth foul with 13:53 to play, Portland had a 39-32 lead. When you went back in at 2:22, the lead was 62-47. Essentially, your team didn't even need you. What was that like watching your team excel without you?

A: It's hard not to be able to be out there contributing. You've got to get over yourself. You're still a teammate. You have to give them energy. I was so proud of them. We just shut them down. My teammates came up with big plays.

Q: I see you are from a town called Gouda in The Netherlands. I imagine people there respond to someone's flatulence by saying, "Who cut the Gouda," huh?

A: We're famous for our cheese.

#WCChoops Five Questions - Rex Walters, San Francisco

| No TrackBacks
Throughout the course of the 2015 WCC Basketball Championships, #WCChoops Columnist John Crumpacker will be posting mini-profiles and features to go along with his daily "What We Learned" postings.

10855991.jpeg
By John Crumpacker
#WCChoops Columnist

LAS VEGAS - You never know what's going to happen when you ask someone a question a little left of center and out of context for the event that just happened.

So it was that I had a few minutes alone with San Francisco coach Rex Walters shortly after his Dons had dispatched Pacific 62-58 in an opening round game of the West Coast Conference Tournament. Enough time to pitch him five questions to see if he could get around on my heaters. Turns out, his bat speed is just fine.

Q: If you were here in Vegas on your own time, no team to coach, no game to prepare for, what would you do?

A: I would golf. I would spent a lot of time with my mom and dad. Hopefully, she'd make fried rice and gyozas. I'd get a massage, probably at Bellagio. Last year I got one at the Palms. That's what I'd do.

Q: Anything else?

A: The biggest thing is I'd be thinking how to make this program better. That never stops.

(During the interview, Hall of Fame coach Rick Adelman walked by and Walters introduced himself. Adelman will be inducted into the WCC Hall of Honor on Saturday for his playing career at Loyola Marymount.)

Q: I take it you enjoy meeting coaches who accomplished great things in their careers, yes?

A: I'm 44 years old. In coaching years I'm just a pup. I always try to figure out how to get better. I had a chance to meet coach (Gregg) Popovich (of the San Antonio Spurs). That was exciting. They were practicing at our place. We get quite a few (NBA) teams practicing at our place.

Q: Since NASCAR is in town, let's cut to the Chase: How do you feel about playing top-seed Gonzaga on Saturday?

A: We know there's going to be a pretty good contingent of Gonzaga fans, and that's OK. Pretty good team. Player of the Year (Kevin Pangos), Defensive Player of the Year (Gary Bell Jr.), Coach of the Year (Mark Few), Newcomer of the Year (Kyle Wiltjer). All that stuff doesn't mean a hill of beans. It's the team that plays better tomorrow night. It's a heck of a task. The thing is about being the aggressor, attacking offensively and defensively. I'm excited for our guys. It's a great opportunity. Our guys should feel confident.

Q: No disrespect, but why should your team feel confident? USF is 14-17, Gonzaga is 29-2 and ranked No. 7 in the country.

A: I don't care who we're playing, honestly. If we play the way we're capable, we can get anyone. We could be talking about how great these guys (the Dons) are. It's more about how we play than who we play.

Thanks, Rex. You've just made me hungry. There's no fried rice or gyozas in the press workroom.

 

#WCChoops Hosts Kids Day Block Party

| No TrackBacks
Throughout the course of the 2015 WCC Basketball Championships, #WCChoops Columnist John Crumpacker will be posting mini-profiles and features to go along with his daily "What We Learned" postings.

10855991.jpeg
By John Crumpacker
#WCChoops Columnist

B_dHnn9VEAAszNC.jpg-jpg

The lull between the last of six WCC women's tournament games and the start of the first two men's games on Friday afforded the conference a window of time for its 7th annual Kids Day Block Party just outside Orleans Arena on a street blocked off for the occasion.

The event, which drew nearly 650 children from the Las Vegas area, served as a benefit for the After-School All-Stars program in the Clark County School District. With conference members lending some of their players and cheerleaders for the occasion, kids practiced basketball skills like dribbling and shooting but seemed to take the most enjoyment out of dancing with the cheerleaders.

A point of emphasis for the Kids Day Block Party was staying active and eating healthy. Participating kids received an event T-shirt, gear bag and a nutritious meal before coming into the arena to watch the quarterfinal game between San Francisco and Pacific.

"I hope our Kids Day inspires the more than 780 participants to stay active and make smart food choices that will help them achieve a good future,'' WCC Commissioner Lynn Holzman said.

The press workroom could have used some of those smart food choices. Available for consumption by media members covering the event were chips, popcorn and pie in addition to regular meal service.

#WCChoops Women's Basketball Digest - Day Two

| No TrackBacks
| TheW.tv | WCC on Instagram | WCC on Facebook

INTERACTIVE SCHEDULE  |  JOIN THE CONVERSATION

2015 WCC BASKETBALL TOURNAMENT CENTRAL

WHAT WE'VE LEARNED - WCC WOMEN'S BASKETBALL CHAMPIONSHIP - DAY TWO

By John Crumpacker, WCC Columnist |  @CrumpackerOnWCC  | COMPLETE CRUMPACKER ARCHIVES

LAS VEGAS - After putting a healthy scare into No. 1 Gonzaga for the better part of 30 minutes, the last thing Loyola Marymount coach Charity Elliott wanted to think about was Monday's semifinal matchup between the Zags and No. 5 BYU.

She gave it a little thought anyway.

"There is not one team you can say, 'We got this.' It's going to be a dogfight,'' Elliott said. "I'm not picking on that game. It's going to be a great game and a great atmosphere.''

Seeing that Gonzaga draws far and away the most fans of any women's basketball team in the West Coast Conference, averaging 5,366 at home, the Orleans Arena should be conspicuous with Zags partisans. BYU fans travel in impressive numbers to follow their men's team, which plays its quarterfinal game on Monday night, and the women's team will likely benefit from that and make Gonzaga-BYU the best attended of the women's tournament to date.

Gonzaga advanced to the semis with a 70-50 victory over LMU in a game that was close for the first 28 minutes before the Zags asserted themselves and put the game away. Gonzaga's towering front court of 6-foot-5 Shelby Cheslek and 6-4 Sunny Greinacher combined for 28 points, 19 rebounds (14 by Cheslek), six assists, four blocks and three steals.

"I thought it was a good defensive effort in the second half when we broke it open,'' Gonzaga coach Lisa Fortier said. "It was because we got a couple turnovers. That was a nice run there.''

For a team that had won only seven games all season going into Friday's quarterfinals, LMU gave a good accounting of itself. As late as 12:28 remaining it was a one-point game, 39-38, in favor of the No. 1 Zags.

Less than four minutes later, it was 49-38 Gonzaga, a 10-0 run that made the difference in the game and sent the Lions home at 7-24. A telling stat in the negative for LMU was eight assists more than offset by 20 turnovers.

On the dais after the game, Elliott waxed emotional about her team, which endured two major injuries and a dispiriting stretch in which it lost 19 of 20 games.

"I really felt for 32 minutes we played inspired,'' Elliott said. "We played hard, we played smart. We had such an attacking mentality. Then they turned the pressure up and we had a hard time recovering. Against a team like Gonzaga, you can't give them a foot in the door. It felt like it went from a two-point game to a 12-point game in 10 seconds.''

The Lions lose two seniors to graduation, forward Emily Ben-Jumbo, who had 11 points against Gonzaga, and Taylor Anderson, who was injured and did not play.

"Emily is one of the best leaders I've ever coached,'' Elliott said. "I'm struggling thinking about coaching and not having Emily and Taylor in the gym with me. We won four of our last seven games. I'm beyond proud. There's not been a day these kids quit. This group's been a great team to coach. I'm proud of where we got with what we lost.''

San Diego 51, Santa Clara 42
It was the lowest-scoring game of the tournament to date and definitely not a work of art. The Broncos hung around for a while until the inevitability of talent took over and the Toreros emerged victorious. Most impressive for USD was the 10 rebounds apiece by forward Sophia Ederaine and guard Maya Wood; forward Katelyn McDaniel, who scored a team-high 16 points, also had eight rebounds. Overall San Diego had a 42-29 advantage on the glass.

"Great effort,'' USD coach Cindy Fisher said.

Asked about facing USF in the semis, Fisher said, "They played really, really well both times they played us. They have a talented group and have different people on their team who are a threat.''

The Toreros beat the Dons both times during the season but it wasn't easy, as scores of 56-55 and 74-69 indicate. The teams will have the weekend to rest, recover and prepare for Monday's 2:30 p.m. game.

"We have a lot of work to do when we leave here to get ready,'' Fisher said. "You lose, you go home, and nobody wants to go home.''

One who is going home, with sadness, is Santa Clara's Nici Gilday. The senior from San Jose played her last game for the Broncos and did all she could to help her team. She had 22 points, six rebounds and two steals and two red eyes after the game.

"I'm just grateful I got to play one season for coach (J.R.) Payne,'' Gilday said of her first-year coach. "This season has meant so much. I was proud to be a Bronco, especially this year.''

Gilday finished second in the conference in scoring during the regular season at 19.2 points per game, behind the 21.4 of BYU's Lexi Eaton.

"Thank God Nici Gilday is a senior. She is, right?'' Fisher said. "She's a great player.''

First of its kind
The Santa Clara-San Diego game saw the first backcourt violation of the tournament when the Toreros were whistled for the violation, one of their 15 turnovers.

John Crumpackerspent more than three decades working at the San Francisco Examiner and San Francisco Chronicle. During his career he has covered the full gamut of sports from prep to professionals. Most recently, Crumpacker served as the beat writer for Cal through the end of the 2013-14 season. In addition to covering 10 Olympic Games, Crumpacker served as the beat writer for the San Francisco 49ers. He is a two-time winner of the Track & Field Writers of America annual writing award and has several APSE Top 10 writing awards.

WCC Women's Basketball Championship - Day One Digest

| No TrackBacks
| TheW.tv | WCC on Instagram | WCC on Facebook

INTERACTIVE SCHEDULE | JOIN THE CONVERSATION

2015 WCC BASKETBALL TOURNAMENT CENTRAL

WHAT WE'VE LEARNED - WCC WOMEN'S BASKETBALL CHAMPIONSHIP - DAY ONE

By John Crumpacker, WCC Columnist |@CrumpackerOnWCC | COMPLETE CRUMPACKER ARCHIVES

LAS VEGAS - As one of the finest female basketball players in U.S. history, Jennifer Azzi knows the importance of good nutrition. The San Francisco coach makes sure her young women eat healthy, at home and on the road.

With one soon-to-be-realized exception.

For their 74-64 upset of No. 3 Pacific in the quarterfinals of the West Coast Conference Tournament, the No. 6 Dons will get to indulge themselves at a franchise chicken joint called Raising Cane's. There are eight locations in Las Vegas. The menu is basic comfort food: hand-battered chicken fingers, fries, coleslaw and Texas toast, along with the chain's signature Cane's sauce. Everything is made fresh daily, according to the Raising Cane's website.

"We made a little deal to go to Cane's for chicken fingers and garlic bread,'' USF guard Taj Winston said. "I've been hearing so much about it. I have two teammates from Las Vegas and they talk about it all the time.''

The deal was if the Dons upset Pacific, they get to go to Cane's and break their training table routine of kale and quinoa and other dreadfully healthy stuff.

"When we go on a road trip we try to bribe the coach,'' Winston said. "We don't get this all the time. It's healthy eating at all times. When we get the opportunity, we take advantage of it. It's one time out of the year we get something like that. We're a pretty healthy team.''

And theirs was a pretty healthy upset of the 21-8 Tigers. USF was humiliated at home by Pacific in the first conference game of the year, 92-54, but came back on the last day of the season and beat the Tigers in Stockton 91-79.

Thursday's spirited victory by the Dons earned them three full days off before they play the winner of Friday afternoon's Santa Clara-San Diego game in a Monday semifinal. The Dons earned this one. Their guards were quicker than Pacific's and they rebounded with enthusiasm. Winston had 7 boards, Zhane Dikes had 5, Aundrea Gordon 4 and Anna Seilund 2. As a team USF out-rebounded Pacific 43-33.

"It's pretty significant,'' Winston said of her team's rebound advantage. "Coach says when our guards are rebounding, we're able to push the ball up court. It's as important for our guards as our bigs.''

Winston led the Dons with 20 points, one more than forward Taylor Proctor. Dikes had 11 points to go with her 5 boards.

BYU 65, Saint Mary's 64
The day started with a one-point game (see below) and ended with a one-point game as the No. 5 Cougars edged the No. 4 Gaels on Lexi Eaton's 12-foot baseline jumper with two seconds left. BYU has three days off before it plays the Gonzaga-Loyola Marymount winner in a noon semifinal on Monday.

"It was a great nightcap game,'' Saint Mary's coach Paul Thomas said. "I'm sure that was exciting to watch. I thought our team did a super job. Unfortunately, someone has to go home as the non-winner. They made a play at the end.''

Carli Rosenthal's rebound-follow shot with 16 seconds to go gave the Gaels a very short-lived 64-63 lead until Eaton, who poured in 30 points, found the range from the right baseline.

"The (called) play was run for another player. It didn't work out,'' Eaton said. "I knew there were five seconds left. I had to make myself available. I knew the baseline would be open.''

BYU coach Jeff Judkins took no credit for the winning shot, saying, "The play Lexi made at the end, there's no way I could draw that up.''

Rosenthal did all she could to limit the offensive output of WCC Player of the Year Morgan Bailey. To that, she was successful as Morgan had only four points on 2 of 11 shooting.

"I've got to give a lot of the credit to Carli Rosenthal,'' Morgan said. "She pushed me off the block. She's hard to move. I'm happy Lexi hit that shot so I can redeem myself on Monday. She does it all the time in practice. I have all the confidence in the world in that girl.''

Loyola Marymount 68, Pepperdine 67
While the Dons earned a tasty reward for their win, all LMU got for their effort was a date with No. 1 Gonzaga on Friday at noon. That's fine with the Lions, who won only six games all season.

For all of you who had Emily Ben-Jumbo scoring the first points in the West Coast Conference women's basketball tournament in your office pools, congratulations. The Loyola Marymount forward got the scoring started with a tip-in at 17:59 of the first half at the Orleans Arena.

As it turned out, that basket was an important one. The Lions had to hold their breath as Pepperdine's Tessa Emerson missed on a 3-point shot with two seconds left in what was a one-point victory for LMU.

Thus did LMU earn the right to play the No. 1 team in the conference, Gonzaga, at noon on Friday. The Zags defeated the Lions twice during the regular season, by 14 and 23 points. What say you, LMU?

"They always say in March you survive and advance,'' LMU coach Charity Elliott said. "That's all we did today. Gonzaga is very talented and very deep. We're just going into it with a mindset of `Let er rip.' This is March Madness. Anything can happen. We're going to compete and play as hard as we possibly can.''

And if that doesn't work?

"We might throw the kitchen sink at them,'' said Elliott, who definitely had no charity in her heart with that statement. "The pressure's all on them. It's not on us.''

Three players scored the lion's share of the Lions points. Guard Sophie Taylor had 22 points, Ben-Jumbo had 17 and 8 rebounds and guard Leslie Lopez-Wood added 14 points, 4 rebounds, 5 assists and a steal.

Ben-Jumbo is a senior from the Portland suburb of Tualatin. Her parents are from Nigeria and there's a story behind her hyphenated surname. Her father's first name is Benonaih but he's known as Ben so his daughter welded Ben to his surname of Jumbo to come up Ben-Jumbo. In case you were wondering.

Another hyphenated player for LMU is Lopez-Wood. She gets the Wood from her father and the Lopez from her mother. With her pale complexion, she was known as "La guera,'' meaning white, growing up in North Hollywood. She's a scrappy player for the Lions, willing to do anything her team needs. That was reflected in her stat line.

"I feel that's everyone's role,'' she said. "We try to get the 50-50 balls. We try to fight for everything. Anything that I can contribute I want to do, every little thing. It doesn't matter about the points. I just want to help contribute to a win.''

The Lions will need all hands on deck against 23-6 Gonzaga. Maybe even a kitchen sink, too.

"It gives us a lot of confidence going into the game against Gonzaga,'' Taylor said. "It gives us the vision that we can win any game. I can't wait. I know our team matches up well with Gonzaga. Everyone is excited.''

Santa Clara 66, Portland 58
In a 7 (Broncos) vs. 10 (Pilots) contest, Santa Clara made it a clean sweep of Portland for 2014-15, adding Thursday's win to regular season victories by scores of 83-68 and 64-55.

John Crumpackerspent more than three decades working at the San Francisco Examiner and San Francisco Chronicle. During his career he has covered the full gamut of sports from prep to professionals. Most recently, Crumpacker served as the beat writer for Cal through the end of the 2013-14 season. In addition to covering 10 Olympic Games, Crumpacker served as the beat writer for the San Francisco 49ers. He is a two-time winner of the Track & Field Writers of America annual writing award and has several APSE Top 10 writing awards.

#WCChoops Five Questions - Jennifer Azzi, San Francisco

| No TrackBacks

By John Crumpacker
#WCChoops Columnist
COMPLETE ARCHIVES

Throughout the course of the 2015 WCC Basketball Championships, #WCChoops Columnist John Crumpacker will be posting mini-profiles and features to go along with his daily "What We Learned" postings.

Blog_Vision_Racing_Car.jpg

LAS VEGAS - After her San Francisco women's team earned a spot in Monday's semifinals with a 74-64 upset of No. 3 Pacific in Thursday's quarterfinals, we lobbed a few questions to Dons coach Jennifer Azzi. Five, in fact.

Q: So Jennifer, are you going to reward your team with some time off before the semis? Maybe a trip to a fancy day spa? Houseboat cruise on Lake Mead? Go-kart racing? Paintball?

A: We'll use the time to our advantage. They know me. I don't take them on tours. We'll be in the gym. There's a bag meal I owe them. (See main story.)

Q: Come on, aren't you a little tempted to pool all your travel money and go all-in with your favorite number on the roulette wheel?

A: We will not be gambling.

Q: What told you your team was ready to do something like this?

A: They had a look in their eye that said 'We are going to win this game.' They've continued to improve throughout the season. This was a huge team win.

Q: You used a zone defense much of the time. Was that to force Pacific to shoot long jumpers?

A: They're a 3-point shooting team. That's what they do. You've got to give up something. Pacific is an unbelievable team. They're a program we aspire to be like.''

Q: What are you feeling now on the dais after this big victory?

A: I am really, really proud of the team. Very, very proud of our team.

A Somber 25th Anniversary for the Lions

| No TrackBacks

By John Crumpacker
#WCChoops Columnist
COMPLETE ARCHIVES

Throughout the course of the 2015 WCC Basketball Championships, #WCChoops Columnist John Crumpacker will be posting mini-profiles and features to go along with his daily "What We Learned" postings.

Gathers 08.jpg

LAS VEGAS - The West Coast Conference observes a somber anniversary this week. It was 25 years ago March 4 that Loyola Marymount's Hank Gathers collapsed and died during a WCC Tournament game against Portland.

Bill Johnson, the radio voice of Portland basketball, remembers the events of that day at Gersten Pavilion on the campus of LMU as if it were yesterday instead of 1990.

"I remember his mother came down to the floor. She said, 'Somebody please help my boy!' That's exactly what she said,'' Johnson recalled. "It still sends chills down my spine 25 years later. They didn't have defibrillators then. They put him on a stretcher. I remember one of his arms was hanging off the stretcher. I knew in my heart Hank was gone. I just knew it.''

The conference's athletic directors got together and decided to cancel the Portland-LMU game and the rest of the tournament as well. The high-high-high-scoring team of Paul Westhead, the regular season winner, was declared the WCC tournament champion, overwhelmed with grief as the NCAA Tournament awaited. Bo Kimble shooting free throws with his left hand in honor of his fallen friend and teammate can still be found on YouTube.

"Every time I walk in Gersten Pavilion, I can't help myself, I look at the point on the floor where Hank went down,'' Johnson said. "All that floods back in my mind. That would be the all-time low point of my career as a broadcaster, to see a player die in front of you.''

Johnson happened to see Gathers several hours before the game started. Johnson and his brother went to the gym early to prepare and were alone until Gathers came in after running a brisk lap around the track just outside of Gersten.

"Hank Gathers went out to run a quick 440 to break a sweat,'' Johnson said. "He came in and grabbed a ball and started shooting. One of his shots banged off the front of the rim and rolled under the table where we were. I reached under the table and tossed it back to Hank. One-and-a-half hours later, he was dead.''

As Johnson recalled that March 4 game a quarter-century ago, Gathers had slammed home a thunderous alley-oop dunk off a pass from Terrell Lowry and was heading back on defense when he collapsed. Earlier in the season he had fainted in a game and was put on medication.

"He went down, like somebody had taken the wind out of him,'' Johnson said. "He just slumped to the floor. He went into a spasm. You could have heard a pin drop. It's a radio broadcast, you can't just stop talking.''

Johnson said he remembers one of Gathers' shoes hitting the court repeatedly while he was in the spasm on the floor, calling it "eerie.''

"I was told Hank took himself off the medication before the tournament because it made him feel lethargic,'' Johnson said.

The tragedy of Gathers' shocking death forced a change across all levels of sports with the inclusion of defibrillators at all events, such as the one by the scorer's table at the Orleans Arena for the 2015 WCC Tournament.

Editor's Note: Loyola Marymount's official website, LMULions.com has posted outstanding coverage of the anniversary of the passing of Gathers and the lasting impact it has had on the program and the university. Read the complete story HERE.