WHAT WE'VE LEARNED - WCC BASKETBALL - CONFERENCE WEEKEND NO. 2
As a reporter for more than half my life, I can say with assurance that you never know when or where a nugget of information may come from. Like Saturday night at the University of San Francisco. Specifically, the men's restroom at Memorial Gym.
It was there, at halftime of the Dons' game against BYU, that I happened to hear former USF coach, and current analyst, Dan Belluomini say to the fellow next to him that he thought Tyler Haws and Kyle Collinsworth of the visiting team were NBA-caliber players. Haws is a scorer who can create his own shot while Collinsworth is a 6-foot-5 point guard with a variety of skills.
The Cougars had an easy time of it on their swing through the Bay Area. They easily dispatched Santa Clara 81-46 and USF 99-68 and, as noted by my former colleague at the San Francisco Chronicle, Steve Kroner, trailed by a total of 23 seconds in those two games.
Haws and Collinsworth certainly pulled their weight as the Cougars solidified their status as the most able challenger to GONZAGA in the conference. With Haws scoring 22 points and Collinsworth 12 against USF, BYU improved to 13-4 overall and 3-1 in the WCC.
"The big thing is we played at our pace on this road trip,'' Collinsworth said. "To win the conference, you have to win on the road.''
BYU coach Dave Rose said, "When you talk about consistency and getting guys to play the right way, that's pretty good. That's three wins in a row where we've been on attack, shooting the ball and making passes. ... It's exciting to see our guys find their confidence.''
Thanks to its scoring output against Santa Clara and USF, BYU is now leading all Division I teams in scoring at 88.3 points per game.
A big part of that output falls to Haws, leading the WCC in scoring at 21.6 per game. He's starting to feel better after spraining his left ankle in mid-December.
"It's doing better. A lot better,'' he said. "It's been a challenge. I haven't had an ankle injury like this before. It felt really good tonight. I've had to be a little more cautious, which is not part of my game. I like to attack. I've had to be smarter.''
Meanwhile, all Collinsworth did was record his third triple-double of the season against the Dons with 12 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists from his point guard position. That's a WCC record for triple-doubles in a season and one shy of the NCAA record of four shared by four players, one of them being Cal's Jason Kidd in 1993-94.
"It's important because when I'm able to do that, we're usually in a good position,'' Collinsworth said. "If I get double-figure rebounds and assists, I'm doing my job.''
Elsewhere around the WCC, What We Learned is:
- The conference is beginning to fragment into groups, sort of like when the Earth's landmass broke into separate continents. In the leading group is SAINT MARY'S (4-0), GONZAGA (3-0) and BYU (3-1). The middle group is represented by PEPPERDINE (2-1), SANTA CLARA (2-2) and PORTLAND (1-2) while the third grouping is PACIFIC (1-3), SAN DIEGO (1-3), SAN FRANCISCO (1-3) and LOYOLA MARYMOUNT (0-3).
- If the Gaels manage to defeat Pacific in Stockton on Saturday and San Diego at home on Jan. 15, they would be 6-0 before facing BYU and Gonzaga for the first time. Is coach Randy Bennett's team a serious contender in the conference? We'll check back on Jan. 16th.
- Although the Pilots are 1-2 in conference play, coach Eric Reveno's team has a chance to put together some wins against Santa Clara, USF, LMU, Pepperdine and Pacific before a home game against Saint Mary's on Jan. 24.
- Portland earned respect across the conference by hanging in against Gonzaga before falling 87-75. The Pilots got 20 points from guard Alec Wintering and 17 from center Thomas van der Mar and outscored the Zags in the second half 47-44.
Whose aim is true(er)?
Looks like it will be an interesting season-long contest to see who the top free-throw shooter in the conference will be. At the moment five players are knocking them down at an .850 clip or better. San Diego's Johnny Dee leads at .894, followed by BYU's Haws at .878, Pepperdine's Atif Russell at .875, Gonzaga's Kevin Pangos at .864 and Santa Clara's Jared Brownridge at .850.
Quote of the week
"We lack some fight and some toughness. That's a reflection on me.''
That's USF coach Rex Walters, on his team's disappointing start to conference play.
Tweet of the week
KƠK@JitoKok Jan 3
Frankenstein entered a body building contest and realized he severely misunderstood the objective.
Stat line of the week
Why, it's by the same fellow as above, San Diego's Jito Kok, a 6-foot-9 junior from The Netherlands, one of the very few countries in the world, if not the only one, with the word "The'' preceding the name of the country itself.
In a 59-56 loss to Santa Clara, Kok had 10 points on 5-of-8 shooting, 4 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 blocks and 1 steal. That's called doing a little bit of everything. Kok was a close choice over Saint Mary's Aaron Bright, who had 24 points, 3 rebounds, 6 assists and only one turnover in a win over Pacific.
It only seemed that way
After his team heaved up 28 three-point shots against San Francisco and made 15, Collinsworth said, "I was even chucking up a few myself.''
Although he did a little bit of everything in the game, the official stats listed Collinsworth as attempting no treys. That's what happens when your team shoots 60 percent from the field and scores 99 points.
Follow the three dots...
It will be interesting to see how Gonzaga, a team with seemingly everything it could possibly need, incorporates guard Eric McClellan once he's eligible starting Tuesday. The 6-3 guard is a transfer from Vanderbilt. ... San Diego's Dee and BYU's Chase Fischer are tied for the most made 3-point shots per game at 3.1. ... Saint Mary's Brad Waldow has 10 double-doubles this season, no surprise since he's averaging 20.4 points and 10.4 rebounds per game. ... As evidence of its national following, Gonzaga averages 10,986 in attendance on the road compared to 6,634 at home. ... USF is no longer next-to-last in the nation in free throw percentage. The Dons were 350th; they are now "up" to 343rd at .577. ... On the flip side, BYU leads the nation in free throw attempts, 452, and makes, 347, and is sixth in Div. I in accuracy at .768.
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.