By John Crumpacker
It was a long day’s journey into night and into the early hours of the morning watching West Coast Conference teams compete in ESPN’s Tip-Off Marathon as Monday gave way to Tuesday.
The tripleheader featuring Princeton at BYU, San Diego State at Gonzaga and Wisconsin-Green Bay at Pacific required some stamina to get through six hours of hoops but in the end was instructive, from Nick Emery’s driving layup to give BYU an early lead in the first half of the first game to three straight 3-point shots by David Taylor in the second half of the third game to provide Pacific’s winning edge.
In defeating Princeton, BYU looks to be every bit as good as the team that won 26 games last season, powered by the Swiss Army Knife, Kyle Collinsworth. See below for one reason why that may be the case.
Gonzaga benefitted from playing at home before its adoring fans against a San Diego State team not yet at full strength. Nevertheless, there’s no reason to believe the Zags won’t be playing for the WCC tournament championship come March.
Pacific, meanwhile, came alive after midnight to put away Green Bay and give rookie coach Damon Stoudamire his first career win. At least in this game Stoudamire, who had a long and successful NBA career, seemed to be a quiet presence on the bench, giving an ever-so-slight smile when things began to turn his team’s way.
Here’s a brief snapshot of plays that resonated with this viewer as he got his first extended view of the conference in 2016-17:
#WCCHOOPS TIPOFF MARATHON TRIPLE-HEADER
Princeton-BYU – With 4:50 left in the first half, the Tigers clanged a dunk attempt off the heel of the rim. The rebound went to the Cougars and in short order Emery drove for a layup that gave his team a 37-28 lead. There may be no more offensive-minded player in the conference than Emery, who is always looking to go, go, go and score, score, score.
In a game that was still tight deep into the second half, BYU’s Eric Mika grabbed one of his nine offensive rebounds, scored on a put-back and was fouled. He converted the free throw to give his team a 70-64 lead with 5:54 to play.
San Diego State-Gonzaga – At 4:39 of the first half, Jordan Mathews’ 3-pointer pushed Gonzaga’s lead to 30-17 and signaled that the Aztecs would be no match for the home team. In the second half, Przemek Karnowski’s inside bucket made for a 51-31 margin as the big man plays himself back into basketball shape.
Green Bay-Pacific – The Tigers started off shooting 0-for-8 from the floor but eventually caught up and trailed only 27-26 at halftime. At 8:55 of the second half, Taylor’s second straight trey made it 54-43 in favor of Pacific, followed moments later by another three and a 57-43 lead on the way to a 76-58 victory at 1:15 a.m.
Followed moments later by lights out for me.
What We Learned
Stat line of the week
Italy obviously agreed with BYU’s Mika. In his first game since returning from his two-year mission, the 6-foot-10 sophomore dominated Princeton with 26 points on 7 of 14 shooting (12 of 13 from the free throw line), 18 rebounds (9 offensive), 3 assists, 2 blocks and 1 steal. The Cougars won 82-73.
It’s a wonder Mika did not pack on the weight after two years of Italian food. Instead, he returned strong and sturdy and capable of taking over a game. As the Italians say, “Tutto bene!”
The week ahead
As WCC teams immerse themselves in non-conference games, three stand out: UConn at Loyola Marymount on Thursday night, Saint Mary’s at Dayton on Saturday at 11 a.m. Pacific daylight time and Coastal Carolina at BYU on Saturday.
LMU is calling Thursday its All for One day of giving, with a goal of having 4,000 alumni, family and friends donate any amount to the school. If the goal is met, two donors will give $100,000 toward student scholarships. Last year, 3,500 people contributed $330,000. As well, it’s the first-ever meeting of LMU and UConn.
Saint Mary’s doesn’t often venture out of California for non-conference games, making the Dayton contest an interesting one. A few years ago, President Obama attended an NCAA Tournament play-in game at Dayton.
As for Coastal Carolina at BYU, I just love saying the name of CC’s mascot – Chanticleers, not to be confused with chandeliers. A chanticleer is a rooster bred for fighting, a practice that is illegal in most states.
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College basketball players can be a nomadic bunch, here one day, somewhere else the next. In 2014-15, David Jesperson was a sophomore forward at Pepperdine. Two years later, he’s a redshirt junior back in his native Wisconsin, playing for the Phoenix of Green Bay. Jesperson had two rebounds in Green Bay’s 76-58 loss at Pacific. … Then there’s BYU guard L.J. Rose, no relation to head coach Dave Rose. L.J. started off at Baylor, played two years at Houston, was injured in 2015-16 and is now a senior in Provo. His father, Lynden Sr., was a college teammate of Dave Rose’s on Houston’s Phi Slamma Jamma teams of the early 1980’s. … It’s always nice to see alums return to campus to watch their teams play. Taking in Gonzaga’s game against San Diego State were all-time great John Stockton (1980-84) and NBA vet Robert Sacre (2007-12). … Despite four players in double figures, Loyola Marymount still lost to Nevada 79-64. … As noted by broadcaster Roxy Bernstein, T.J. Wallace had a 10 a.m. class on Tuesday, less than nine hours after his Pacific Tigers defeated Green Bay at the Spanos Center in a game that ended at 1:15 a.m.
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.