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Crumpacker: What We Learned - 2/3/16

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By John Crumpacker
#WCChoops Columnist 


There are two big men’s games in the WCC this week, one on Thursday, the other on Saturday, along with the designated Game of the Week that could spell trouble for one of the teams playing in an earlier game. To explain:

SAINT MARY’S takes its conference-leading 9-1 record to BYU on Thursday against a Cougars team that is 10-0 at the Marriott Center. The Gaels are rolling but buoyed by those big home crowds, BYU has been unbeatable in Provo. Something will have to give and I think it’s going to be Saint Mary’s, playing its toughest road game since a December loss at nearby Cal.

Assuming GONZAGA defeats 3-8 LOYOLA MARYMOUNT in Los Angeles on Thursday, the other big game will be the Zags taking on PEPPERDINE at Firestone Fieldhouse on Saturday night. The Waves are in fourth place at the moment at 7-4 but what else they are is 9-0 in Malibu. A Pepperdine win on Saturday and a Saint Mary’s loss on Thursday would make the top of the conference standings a little tighter and a lot more interesting.

That takes us to the WCC’s Game of the Week, PACIFIC at BYU on Saturday afternoon. After the emotion of playing conference leader Saint Mary’s on Thursday, will the Cougars have enough left to handle a Pacific team that has been surprisingly competitive at times this season? More than likely, yes. There’s too much talent in Provo for coach Dave Rose’s team to stumble against a team playing for pride and nothing else in a tournament-less season for the Tigers.

As WCC teams move into the final month of the regular season, here’s What We Think: 

  1. With a robust finish to the regular season and a deep run in the conference tournament and beyond, BYU’s Lexi Rydalch has a good chance to pass the late Hank Gathers as the WCC’s all-time leading scorer. She is already the career leader in scoring among conference women at 2,272 points (and counting) and needs 219 points to nudge Gathers from first place. Gathers scored 2,490 in his glorious run at Loyola Marymount. With eight guaranteed games remaining for the Cougars (seven conference, one tournament), Rydalch would need to average 27.4 points to move into first. Rydalch is currently scoring at a brisk 24.3 pace.
  2. Life at the top of the women’s conference standings is even more competitive than the men’s. San Diego (20-2 overall) and BYU (18-4) are both 10-1, Saint Mary’s (17-4) is 8-2 and Santa Clara (17-5) is 8-3. Compare that to the men’s top four: Saint Mary’s (18-2/9-1), Gonzaga (17-5/9-2), BYU (16-7/7-3) and Pepperdine (14-8/7-4). These tight races should make for compelling theater down the stretch and into the WCC Tournament.
  3. It must be pretty nice to be a student at Saint Mary’s and BYU these days with the success of their men’s and women’s basketball teams. Putting the combined records of their men’s and women’s teams together, Saint Mary’s is 35-6 and BYU is 34-11. Gonzaga checks in at 31-14.
  4. Speaking of students, San Diego’s should be reveling in the last season that 5-foot-10 twins Malina and Maya Hood will be teammates as Toreros. Senior Malina is averaging 19.5 points and 6.3 rebounds as a guard while redshirt junior Maya is at 15.3 and 8.9 as a forward. And they both have more than 50 steals, Malina at 58 and Maya at 55. At 20-2, San Diego’s two losses were by a total of 11 points to Washington State (78-72) and Saint Mary’s (73-68).

How about that?
Thanks to the Salt Lake Tribune for pointing out this wonderful factoid:

The first names of the likely women’s newcomer of the year in the WCC and the football coach at BYU are the same: Kalani.

Kalani Sitake is preparing for his first season as BYU’s head coach while Kalani Purcell is having a terrific season as a junior college transfer for the Cougars. She is averaging 11.6 points and 12.8 rebounds and has recorded 12 double-doubles this season.

“She’s by far the most versatile player in the country, and it’s not even close,’’ BYU women’s coach Jeff Judkins told the Salt Lake Tribune. “She’s the best rebounder I’ve ever coached, probably the best passer I’ve ever coached and one of the best defenders I’ve ever coached. Her only weakness is she doesn’t look to score enough.’’

Purcell, from New Zealand, is a member of her country’s wonderfully-named national team, the Tall Ferns. She attended Hutchinson Community College in Kansas before transferring to BYU. Purcell was 72-2 in her time at Hutchinson.

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.