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Crumpacker: What We Learned - 12/14/15

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By John Crumpacker
#WCChoops Columnist

What’s gotten into West Coast Conference’s women’s teams? Whatever it is, keep it up.

For the second week in a row, it is the women who turned in the most significant hoops results around the conference. With one week to go before the start of conference season on the 21st, six teams have won at least eight games and seven have winning records.

WCC women went 11-5 last week, with three of those five defeats to schools in the Power 5 conferences, all on the road. Of the victories, Saint Mary’s bested Washington State 75-71, BYU dispatched Utah 73-59 and Santa Clara, the Little Engine That Could, topped Texas Tech 75-70.

Meanwhile, San Diego is sailing along at 9-1 under coach Cindy Fisher, now in her 11th season in America’s Finest City. The Toreros have compiled four straight 20-win seasons and with their start in 2015-16 are almost halfway to a fifth.

Beneath San Diego in the standings, Saint Mary’s, San Francisco and Santa Clara are all 8-2, with BYU at 8-3, Gonzaga at 8-4 and Pacific at 5-4.

Fueling these teams are a trio of big-time scorers who look like they will wage a season-long contest for top scorer in the conference. USF’s Taylor Proctor is at the top of the list now at 23.9 points per game, followed by BYU’s Lexi Rydalch at 23.4 and San Diego’s Malina Hood at 22.3. Rydalch and Hood both roam the backcourt while Proctor is a forward.

In BYU’s next game, its WCC opener at San Diego on the 23rd, Rydalch should become her school’s fifth player, male and female, to hit 2,000 career points. At the moment she is at 1,994. Cougars to most recently crack 2,000 are men’s stalwarts Tyler Haws in 2015 and Jimmer Fredette in 2011. Rydalch needs 226 points the rest of season to become the conference’s career leading scorer among women.

On the men’s side of things, here’s What We Learned from last week’s non-conference games:

  1. Despite the rare occurrence of losing twice at home within a week’s time, or maybe because of just that, Gonzaga is the team most prepared for the start of conference season on the 21st, which is also the official start of winter. Coach Mark Few has built his program on a philosophy of anybody-anywhere-anytime and as a result is 6-3 after last week’s home defeats to Arizona and UCLA. The Zags face Tennessee, in Seattle at the aptly named Battle in Seattle, on Saturday in their last tune-up before they start WCC play by hosting Pepperdine two days later.
  2. Speaking of which, the Waves have a little momentum going after beating Ball State on the road for their fourth win in a row. In that game, sophomore guard Shawn Olden came off the bench to score a career-high 18 points. Coach Marty Wilson’s team might see Gonzaga as vulnerable now that 7-foot-1 Przemek Karnowski has missed four straight games with back problems.
  3. Although Saint Mary’s had its chances to defeat Cal at Haas Pavilion on Saturday, coach Randy Bennett has to take some solace in the fact his team competed hard and to the end. As well, leading scorer Emmett Naar had only three points in the Gaels’ 63-59 loss to the Bears. Cal clamped down on Naar offensively but he did manage to contribute eight assists and four rebounds.   

All-Kyle team
Those of you who read this humble offering on a regular basis know I am fixated on names, whether unusual or usual but humorously repetitive. In the latter case, it’s the first name Kyle. It seems like every team in the conference has a Kyle on its roster, but in reality only three do: Gonzaga, BYU and Saint Mary’s.

However, Gonzaga and BYU have two Kyles each. Saint Mary’s has one. At the end of the season, it’s quite possible that the WCC All-Conference team could have three Kyles on it. In that spirit, we present our All-Kyle team, heavy on forwards and bereft of a center, with their season stats to date.

F – Kyle Wiltjer, Gonzaga, 20.6 points per game, 7.4 rebounds per game, .903 from the free-throw line.

F – Kyle Davis, BYU, 12.4 ppg, 11.2 rpg, 1.1 blocks per game.

F – Kyle Clark, Saint Mary’s, 8.7 ppg.

G – Kyle Collinsworth, BYU, 14.8 ppg, 8.0 rpg, 7.0 assists per game, 1.8 steals per game.

G – Kyle Dranginis, Gonzaga, 4.3 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 3.9 assists, 1.1 steals.

Alas, there is not a single Kyle on any of the conference’s 10 coaching staffs to guide these fellows. Applications are currently being accepted.

Wrong Arkansas school
As I was looking at the week ahead for WCC men’s teams, I saw that Santa Clara hosts Arkansas-Pine Bluff on Tuesday at 7 p.m. at the Leavey Center. For a moment, my pulse quickened. In addition to being fixated on names, I am also mascot-obsessed, but in a good way. I only bother with the most unusual mascot names, like the Anteaters of UC Irvine, the Banana Slugs of UC Santa Cruz, the Stormy Petrels of Oglethorpe University and the Student Princes of Heidelberg, to name a few. To that list, add the Boll Weevils of … I thought it was Pine Bluff but I was wrong. The Boll Weevils belong to Arkansas-Monticello, the only school in the NCAA with a crop pest as a mascot. Oh, well. Play on.

Stat line of the week
In a 72-63 victory at Ball State, alma mater of David Letterman, Pepperdine’s Stacy Davis had 16 points, 12 rebounds, 5 assists and 1 blocked shot. In Pepperdine’s two wins last week (Long Beach State was the other) Davis averaged 15.0 points, 11.0 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 1.5 blocks and recorded the 23rd and 24th double-doubles of his career. For that, the senior forward was named WCC Player of the Week.

Tweet of the week
Here’s a member of Gonzaga’s Kennel Club, Samantha Romeo, posing an interesting assignment:
Someone needs to make a collage of all of @kwiltj's game faces #GonzagaProblems

Quote of the week
“The win is huge considering all the things we had to go through -- long trip, lose three hours, short day, quick turnaround, game’s at 1 o’clock. We talked about adversity at practice and our guys were mentally tough enough to fight through it.”  

That’s Pepperdine’s Davis, talking about his team’s trip to Muncie IN., to play, and beat, Ball State.

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.