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Crumpacker: What We Learned - 1/11/16

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By John Crumpacker
#WCChoops Columnist 


There’s a reason the smart folks in the WCC home office in San Bruno made SAINT MARY’S at PEPPERDINE the Game of the Week for Jan. 9. It played out like the game of the week, upper case or lower.

I had a feeling the Waves would not just roll over (even though that’s what lower-case waves do not far from Firestone Fieldhouse) for the Gaels, who came into the game undefeated in conference play. Pepperdine’s 67-64 win was their first over the Gaels in Malibu since 2004. In fact, Pep has now won two in a row vs. Saint Mary’s.

 Let’s see if the Waves can build on their win over the Gaels and use it as a springboard for the rest of the season. At 3-2, Pepperdine is in fourth place in the WCC. Players such as Stacy Davis, Jett Raines and Lamond Murray Jr. have all had their moments this season. In the Saint Mary’s game, Raines had 20 of his career-high 24 points in the second half.

Coach Randy Bennett has a remarkably efficient team, as the Gaels lead the conference in a number of impressive team categories. Despite the loss to Pepperdine, Saint Mary’s is 14-2 overall and gaining traction as a probable NCAA Tournament team. ESPN’s Joe Lunardi has the Gaels as a No. 9 seed in his latest “Bracketology’’ prediction while Gonzaga, unbeaten in WCC play, is a No. 7.

It will be interesting to see where these two teams are in a month’s time, when they have their rematch on Feb. 11 in Moraga. Will the Gaels be battling Gonzaga and BYU for top spot in the conference? Will the Waves be closing in on the first 20-win season in coach Marty Wilson’s tenure at the school? The former seems a little more likely than the latter, since Pep would need to go 10-3 the rest of the way for 20 wins prior to the WCC Tournament.

As the season transitions from a toe in the water to knee deep and now waist deep (for those facilities with leaky roofs, including my own), this is What We Learned from last week’s games:

  1. PACIFIC continues to be the surprise team of the conference, currently tied for fifth place at 3-3 despite turmoil, suspensions and sanctions handed down earlier in the season. With no conference tournament for the Tigers in 2016, the team is making the most of each game this season. Good on ya, mates, as the Aussies on Saint Mary’s roster might say.
  2. If you’re going to play BYU, you better bring your offense. Two would be better. Three, better still. Normally, when SAN FRANCISCO scores 92 points, the Dons usually win the game. All that got them against BYU was a 10-point loss. The Cougars are averaging a conference-best 84.8 points per game behind the diverse offensive might of such players as Chase Fischer (18.1 ppg), Nick Emery (15.3), Kyle Collinsworth (14.9) and Kyle Davis (12.8). Coach Dave Rose has the luxury of bringing off the bench another big scorer in 6-foot-7 freshman guard Zac Seljaas, who hit 10 of 20 shots behind the arc and had 34 total points in wins over Santa Clara and USF.
  3. Speaking of USF, there’s a darned good reason the Dons are 3-3 in conference play – they are averaging 75.6 points per game while giving up … wait for it … 75.6 points per game. A little more defense, Dons.
  4. Hate to be, as former Vice President Spiro Agnew once famously said, a “nattering nabob of negativism,’’ but which team is more likely to notch its first conference win, 0-4 SAN DIEGO or 0-5 LOYOLA MARYMOUNT? The Toreros are struggling under first-year coach Lamont Smith and the Lions are having a tough go of it in coach Mike Dunlap’s second year with so much roster turnover. Both schools are coached by alums. Something figures to give on Jan. 23, when San Diego plays LMU at Gersten Pavilion, and again a week later when the schools meet in San Diego. 

The kid from Bountiful
That would be the aforementioned Seljaas, the Gatorade Player of the Year in Utah as a senior at Bountiful High School. Seljaas, whose older sister played basketball at BYU, leads the WCC in three-point field goal accuracy at .585, better than Saint Mary’s sharpshooters Emmett Naar and Stefan Gonzalez.

Stat line of the week
In a week of big games by a number of players around the conference, Domantas Sabonis stood out. In GONZAGA’S 85-74 win vs. Portland, he had 28 points, a career-high 17 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 steals and 3 blocks in what might have been the best individual game in the WCC this season on both ends of the court.

Quote of the week
“We talk to our players about the left column and the right column and we want to put wins in the left column, and we got another one today. We’re proving we can play with the best teams in the league.’’

That’s Pepperdine coach Marty Davis, whose Waves defeated Saint Mary’s 67-64 for their 10th entry in the left column (wins) this season vs. six in the right (losses) column.

Tweet of the week
Ronnie Boyce III
Man my ankle is killing me
Sometimes, the simplest message is the best, as this from the USF guard, reflecting on the aches and pains of the season.

Follow the three dots...
Portland’s Alec Wintering is averaging 27 points over the last four games. … Santa Clara’s Jared Brownridge (1,431) needs seven points to move past Bud Ogden (1,437) into 15th place on the school’s career scoring list. Call me crazy, but I think the prolific Brownridge, averaging 19.7 points per game, will make it before the end of the season. … BYU is working on a 14-game home winning streak at the Marriott Center. … Wondering why BYU’s Collinsworth has “BigRussia5’’ as his Twitter handle? He served his Mormon mission in that country, where I’m guessing many of his entreaties were met with “nyet.’’ The WCC, however, gave Collinsworth a big “da’’ by naming him its Player of the Week. He recorded his NCAA-record ninth triple-double against Santa Clara and in leading BYU to a sweep over the Broncos and USF Collinsworth averaged 17 points, 7.5 rebounds, 8 assists and 2.5 steals. Just a typical game for the WCC’s Swiss Army knife. … At .446, Saint Mary’s three-point field goal percentage is better than the overall shooting percentage of seven teams in the conference.  

John Crumpacker spent 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.