Crumpacker: What We Learned - 1/22/18
By John Crumpacker, #WCChoops Columnist
Saint Mary's did itself a whole lot of good by dealing Gonzaga a rare defeat at the McCarthey Center on Thursday night. With the 74-71 upset win, the Gaels vaulted into the Associated Press Top 25 to No. 16 after not being ranked previously.
"It's a huge win,'' Saint Mary's Tanner Krebs said. "It looks good on our resume and puts us on top of the conference.''
Ultimately, Saint Mary's across-the-board efficiency trumped Gonzaga's overall athletic superiority in a game in which there were 22 lead changes, 19 in the first half. The Zags led at the half 42-38 and built a 52-43 lead in the second before the Gaels went on a run and pulled into a 63-63 tie on a shot by center Jock Landale.
The game was tied at 68-68 and again at 70-70 until two buckets by Landale gave Saint Mary's a 74-71 lead that held up after Gonzaga missed a pair of 3-point shots in the final seconds of what was to this point the game of the year in the conference.
At 19-2 and 8-0 in the West Coast Conference, the Gaels are in position to win the regular season title as well as earn an invite to the NCAA Tournament in March. Saint Mary's has now won 14 in a row since losing to Washington State and Georgia (in overtime) at the Wooden Legacy tournament during Thanksgiving week.
Saint Mary's might not be seriously challenged until the rematch with Gonzaga on Feb. 10 in Moraga, although BYU (Jan. 25) is always a threat and San Diego (Feb. 3) has the best defense in the WCC. The Gaels are at home for the next three games before playing at San Diego and Loyola Marymount leading up to Gonzaga at McKeon Pavilion.
Reflecting on only his 18th loss at the McCarthey Center against 188 wins, Gonzaga coach Mark Few said, "That was two heavyweights going back and forth. We had a couple of empty possessions in the second half and they didn't.
"Hey, we get another shot at them.''
Landale, the favorite for WCC Player of the Year, had 26 points and 12 rebounds for the Gaels while star-in-the-making Rui Hachimura came off the bench to score 23 points for the Zags. The loss dropped Gonzaga two spots in the AP Top 25, to No. 15. Landale was named WCC Player of the Week for the fourth time this season as he averaged 29 points and 9.5 rebounds in wins over Gonzaga and Pacific.
What We Learned
- Most coaches strive for balance and depth on their teams. Few, as in Mark, has it. Gonzaga is the only Division I team, and there are 351 of them, that has six players averaging in double-figure scoring, all between 13.8 and 10.5 per game. In descending order, it's Johnathan Williams (13.8), Josh Perkins (13.4), Zach Norvell Jr. (12.3), Killian Tillie (11.8), Rui Hachimura (11.5) and Silas Melson (10.5).
- Whether coaches achieve balance and depth or not, they all preach defense, to some degree (with the exception of former Loyola Marymount head man Paul Westhead, who wanted teams to score so he could get the ball back and score seconds later). Nearly 30 years later, defense still matters. Five teams in the WCC are holding opponents below 70 points per game, and all have winning records. They are: San Diego (64.0/13-7), BYU (64.9/17-4), Saint Mary's (65.9/19-2), San Francisco (67.2/11-10) and Gonzaga (69.1/17-4).
- Pacific, under second-year coach Damon Stoudamire, is to be commended for sitting at 5-3 and in fourth place in the conference standings just before the halfway point in the season. However, the true measure of the Tigers won't be known for another month. Pacific faces a daunting schedule the rest of the way, including four consecutive road games (USF, BYU, Santa Clara, Pepperdine) and overall, six of its remaining 10 games away from the Spanos Center. The Tigers do not play at home again until Feb. 8 when - gulp! - Gonzaga comes to Stockton.
Stat Line of the Week
A big welcome back to Pepperdine's Kameron Edwards. Playing in his second game after missing a month due to a concussion, the 6-foot-6 sophomore forward in 23 minutes had 18 points on 6-of-9 shooting, 4 rebounds, 2 steals and 1 assist in an 80-73 loss to San Francisco. Other players around the conference had more points, rebounds, assists, steals and blocks, but how many other than Edwards were coming off a concussion?
Runner-up for SLOTW is Pacific's Jahlil Tripp, who had 21 points on 8-of-9 shooting, 8 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals and 1 block in his team's 92-78 win vs. Pepperdine.
Tweet of the Week
No matter what I'll always be a cougar. Loyalty for life. pic.twitter.com/dftJrrXXv8
-- EB (@Elijah_Bryant3) September 18, 2017
Not an up-to-the-moment tweet, to be sure, but the sentiment is strong. Be true to your school.
Quote of the Week
"His wrist mechanics are excellent.''
Now, how many times has anyone ever heard a sentence like that? Show of hands? ... Anyone? No one? Leave it to a Stanford man to make such a comment. That's former Cardinal player and TV analyst Casey Jacobsen analyzing the shooting form of Gonzaga's Hachimura in the Zags' 75-60 win over Santa Clara.
Follow the three dots...
In keeping with his approach of playing anyone, anywhere, anytime, Gonzaga's Few has scheduled a home-and-home series with none other than North Carolina, his opponent in last season's national championship game, in 2018-19 and 2019-20. That will be must-see TV. ... Not a bad showing for Santa Clara in its home loss to Gonzaga considering two key reserves, Jarvis Pugh and Shaquille Walters, were weakened by the flu. Pugh played eight minutes and Walters not at all. ... While we appreciate the inside info imparted by the various TV crews broadcasting WCC games, we are appalled by the poor grammar of some of the analysts. That does not play well in a conference in which the majority of student-athletes earn their degrees in four years, if not less. If you are being paid to speak English, speak it correctly! End of rant. ... Big props to LMU coach Mike Dunlap and his staff for wearing slacks and polo shirts during games. It's not the senior prom, after all. ... Dinosaurs like me appreciated the match-up in the pivot with 7-3 Mattias Markusson of LMU vs. 7-2 Philipp Hartwich of Portland. While it wasn't exactly Patrick Ewing vs. Hakeem Olajuwon, it was nice seeing two tall fellows battling in the post. ... USF's Frankie Ferrari leads the WCC in assists-to-turnovers ratio at 3.5, with Saint Mary's Emmett Naar just behind at 3.3. They are the only players in the conference at 3.0 or better in this key statistic. ... Around the conference, 10 players are converting at least 80 percent of their free throws, topped by BYU's Bryant at .902. ... From beyond the 3-point arc, 11 players are shooting at least 40 percent.
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. Crumpacker has been covering #WCChoops since the 2014-15 season.