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Crumpacker: What We Learned - 12/24/15

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By John Crumpacker  |  @CrumpackerOnWCC
#WCChoops Columnist


In the spirit of That’s Why They Play The Games, we present PACIFIC vs. SANTA CLARA in the WCC opener on Monday in Stockton. With their head coach suspended, two players ruled ineligible, scholarships reduced and the university’s decision to not participate in the conference tournament in March, it’s been established that this will be, and has already been, a difficult 2015-16 season for the Tigers.

Nevertheless, there were the Tigers with six seconds left in overtime, down 72-70 as T.J. Wallace brought the ball up court. He passed off to senior guard Alec Kobre, who fired up a three-point shot from the right side, well beyond what would have been NBA range. Kobre had just recently been reinstated after an NCAA investigation.

The ball beat the buzzer into the net and the Tigers had only their second win of the season and their first over a Division I opponent. Players rushed the court and formed a human pile of happiness.

“There was no way I was passing the ball. I knew I might have a shot,’’ Kobre said on TheW.tv’s post-game show. “For us, it was a gut-check game. We’ve had such a tough year. It shows a lot of character for our team. We fought until the end and got the ‘w.’ ‘’

It was Kobre’s only made three-point shot of the game after three earlier misses. He finished with 11 points. Jared Brownridge did all he could for Santa Clara as he poured in 36 points on 10-of-17 shooting, including 8 of 12 from beyond the arc.

“Brownridge is a fricking nightmare,’’ Kobre said. “He’s a great player.’’

Pacific might not get many more wins this season but the players will always remember the conference opener. That’s why they play the games, after all.

Here’s What We Learned from the first week of conference games:

  1. A number of teams around the WCC are benefitting either from players new to their programs or those who redshirted last season. Redshirt freshman center Evan Fitzner has provided a tremendous boost to SAINT MARY’S by scoring 10.4 points per game and shooting .487 from three-point range. Teammate Joe Rahon, a graduate transfer, is providing stability at point guard while scoring 10.7 and dishing 6.9 assists per game. Where would BYU be without the contributions of freshman guard Nick Emery and junior transfer Kyle Davis? Emery is averaging 15.7 points, 2.8 assists and 1.4 steals per game while Davis is second in the conference in rebounding at 10.8. Junior transfers Adom Jacko and Brandon Brown are both scoring 13.7 per game for LOYOLA MARYMOUNT.
  2. Redshirt freshman Bryan Alberts may have solidified GONZAGA’S fluctuating backcourt. The Zags have been looking for the right combination here all season and recent starter Alberts looks to be the right call to join Josh Perkins and Eric McClellan. Alberts is quite the marksman, too, hitting .557 on his three-point shots.
  3. Can’t wait until Jan. 21, and then again until Feb. 20. That’s when Gonzaga (10-3) plays Saint Mary’s (10-1), first at Moraga and then at home in what could be an important game for the Gaels, RPI-wise. Saint Mary’s looks to be a strong choice for No. 2 in the conference and could even challenge Gonzaga for the title. Three-point ace Emmett Naar might have to be at his best behind the arc in those games for the Gaels to have a chance at upsetting the Zags.

Genetics R Us
Many college athletes these days have a parent, sometimes both, who excelled in sports in their youth. However, it’s not often a college athlete has the pedigree of Santa Clara’s Nate Kratch, a 6-foot-8 forward.

The junior from Watertown, MN., has an older brother who played football for Toledo as a tight end and a younger sister who aspires to Division I hockey. We’re just getting started. Their father, Bob, was a guard for the New York Giants from 1989-93 and a Super Bowl winner. Their mother, Kristi, was a pretty good high jumper at Iowa, where they met. We’re not done yet.

Nate Kratch’s maternal grandmother played for a barnstorming women’s professional basketball team called the All-America Red Heads; she once scored 70 points in a high school game, a career best a little better than her grandson. Nate’s maternal grandfather played baseball at Long Island University and two of his uncles were college football players.

With that background, it’s not surprising that Kratch has emerged as the second-best player for the Broncos after the high-scoring Brownridge. Kratch is averaging 11.6 points and 9.2 rebounds per game.

Deeper meaning
Not sure what to make of the fact that the second halves of the Go Daddy football bowl game from Mobile, AL., and the Loyola Marymount-Gonzaga basketball game from Spokane, WA., on Wednesday started at virtually the same time. The Georgia Southern football team almost scored as many points, 57, as the LMU basketball team, 62.  

Quote of the week
“Coach for sure. He has the voice of an angel.’’

That’s Saint Mary’s forward Dane Pineau, asked by broadcaster Dan Belluomini who sings “Jingle Bells’’ better, he or coach Randy Bennett.

Tweet of the week
...special performance by Alec Wintering who scored 34 points on 15 shots. Even out-shined Bryce's 4/5 from 3. Time for a Merry Christmas!

That’s Portland coach Eric Reveno, chest puffing out over his little big man, Alec Wintering, scoring career-high 34 points vs. Pepperdine.

Stat line of the week
That would be Portland’s Wintering, who scored 34 points in 32 minutes as he hit on 11 of 15 shots and was 3-of-3 on 3’s. He also had 4 rebounds, 3 assists and 1 steal.

Follow the three dots...
Saint Mary’s officials had better check the roof at McKeon Pavilion. Against San Francisco, the game had to be halted three times to mop up wet spots on the court. … Not sure which is more impressive, the fact downtrodden Pacific had a 19-point lead in the first half over San Francisco on the road or that the Dons fought back to take the lead for the first time in the second half to win 89-76. Good for the Tigers for showing grit in what has been, and will continue to be, a tough season. Tim Derksen recorded his third double-double of the season for the Dons in that game. … Nice sight: Former Villanova star and NBA player Harold Pressley watching his son Bryce nail seven 3-point shots to finish with 25 points in Portland’s 87-60 home victory over Loyola Marymount. …  LMU has nine new players on its 15-man roster. … As good as Saint Mary’s is this season, the Gaels have no seniors on their roster after losing all five starters from 2014-15.

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.