WHAT WE'VE LEARNED - WCC BASKETBALL - NON-CONFERENCE WEEK FOUR
By John Crumpacker, WCC Columnist | @CrumpackerOnWCC
As last week's games involving West Coast Conference teams played out, What We Learned is that the conference can hang with the big boys. It couldn't quite beat them, but it earned respect nevertheless.
In games against Pac-12 teams last week, Gonzaga lost at Arizona by three points in overtime (66-63), Portland lost to Oregon State in OT by seven (65-58) and San Diego gave UCLA a game at Pauley Pavilion before losing by seven (75-68).
Those games will all serve as excellent preparation for the WCC teams as they gird for the start of conference season on Dec. 27.
WHAT WE'VE LEARNED
- In that overtime loss in Tucson, GONZAGA could have used another trey or two. The Bulldogs were 4 of 17 from behind the three-point arc. It looked like the No. 9 Zags were on course for an upset of the No. 3 Wildcats until the game slipped away from them late in regulation.
It was painful watching Byron Wesley miss three free throws in overtime, all the more so in a three-point loss. But that's competition for you - players all say they want a chance to win it with the game on the line.
Gonzaga has such depth this season that coach Mark Few, asked at halftime of the Arizona game about guard Kevin Pangos taking only four shots, said, "We're so balanced this year, we're trying to play off every mismatch we get.''
The loss won't hurt Gonzaga in terms of its RPI ranking when the NCAA Tournament field plays out in March. In fact, the Arizona game will be considered a "good loss'' for Few's team.
- SAN FRANCISCO may have a gem on its hands in freshman guard Devin Watson. In just 12 minutes, all in the second half against Houston Baptist, Watson had 14 points to lead the Dons in their 85-54 win. He made both of his three-point shots and was 8-for-8 from the free throw line.
While Matt Glover's three-point shot at the halftime buzzer gave USF a 10-point lead and momentum going into the halftime break, it was Watson's shooting and passing that enabled the Dons to post a 52-31 advantage in the second half.
"The kid can make some plays,'' USF coach Rex Walters said. "He's got a confidence about him. He was really good tonight. He's very talented. If we can get him to defend like we want, it's a heck of a weapon to have. It's not easy what we're doing.''
Walters went on to say he's emphasizing defense to Watson because of the caliber of guards in the WCC, such as Pangos at Gonzaga, Tyler Haws at BYU, Jared Brownridge at Santa Clara, Johnny Dee at San Diego and Aaron Bright at Saint Mary's.
"So I can't overlook defensive flaws,'' Walters said. "He's got to give concentrated, focused effort on what we're doing. It's so fragile. I like our team. I do. I probably don't tell them enough how much I like coaching them.''
- If anyone in the conference wants to beat BYU, they better be prepared to score some points. Or else keep the Cougars way, way down on the scoreboard. BYU leads the nation's 5,000 Division I teams (OK, 351) in scoring at a robust 94.6 per game. Conversely, Gonzaga leads the WCC in scoring defense, allowing 59.5 per game. When the two meet, Dec. 27 in Provo and Feb. 28 in Spokane, something's got to give.
- In something of a surprise considering how many players it lost from last season, PACIFIC IS quietly bouncing along at 6-3 after winning at Idaho State 68-63 on Saturday. Coach Ron Verlin's Tigers got 27 points from their bench players, including 13 from 5-foot-9 dynamo Dulani Robinson.
STAT LINE OF THE WEEK
In a 91-81 win at Utah State, BYU's Tyler Haws was 10 of 19 from the field, 3 of 8 from three-point range, 12 of 13 from the free throw line and also had 6 rebounds, 2 assists and a steal. He's leading the WCC in scoring at 24.4 per game.
INCREDIBLE BUT TRUE
The brother-in-law of the President of the United States did commentary on the TV broadcast of the Boise State at Saint Mary's game. Of course that's Craig Robinson, former coach at Oregon State. Also worth noting is the fact that Boise State plays its home games at Taco Bell Arena.
ALL OF A SUDDEN, I'M HUNGRY
It's a shame Boise State isn't in the WCC. That way, the conference could have arenas at cross-purposes with each other - Taco Bell vs. Jenny Craig Pavilion, home of the USD Toreros. If you're a Torero, it's vital to stay in fighting trim.
QUOTE OF THE WEEK (Also Segue of the week)
"I can only imagine how hungry he gets.''
That's Gonzaga's Wesley, talking about teammate Josh Perkins, whose broken jaw is wired shut, limiting him to shakes and soup.
TWEET OF THE WEEK
Eric Reveno @CoachReveno
Wish this food truck was outside my office all the time...serving "sweets" tonight at 7 pm Oregon State game.
FOLLOW THE THREE DOTS...
Gonzaga took the redshirt off of guard Silas Nelson due to the injury to fellow freshman Perkins. ... Nice week for BYU's Kyle Collinsworth in being named WCC player of the week. In victories at Utah State and at home against Hawaii the Cougars' do-everything guard averaged 19.5 points, 11.0 rebounds, 7.0 assists, 1.5 blocked shots and 2.0 steals while shooting 50 percent from the field. ... Rough week of shooting for San Diego's Christopher Anderson. He was 1-for-14 from the field as the Toreros lost competitive games to San Diego State (57-48) and UCLA (75-68). Anderson is the WCC's top assists man, dishing out 8.0 per game. ... Instead of a double-double, Portland's Thomas Van Der Mars earned a niner-niner that had nothing to do with that struggling pro football team in San Francisco. He had 9 points and 9 rebounds in a 65-58 overtime loss to Oregon State. ... In the 5 and Dime Dept., Pacific's Sami Eleraky had 5 points, 5 blocked shots and 10 points as the Tigers won at Idaho State 68-62. ... In a 61-60 victory at San Jose State, Santa Clara got 16 points from its bench. The Spartans got 15. Every point counts. ... San Diego's Jito Kok, as in block, leads the conference in rejections with 27, or 3.0 per game. He's a 6-9 center from The Netherlands.
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.