CIO… the West Coast ConferencePosted by CNguon on January 23rd, 2013
Michael Vernetti is the RTC correspondent for the West Coast Conference.
Buzzer Beaters – Last-second decisions stunned two WCC teams last week and left one elated.
- Wearing smiles as they departed Provo were the Saint Mary’s Gaels, who saw their leader, Matthew Dellavedova, execute one of the most efficient take-downs in college hoops this season. Trailing BYU 69-67 on a typically brilliant Tyler Haws leaner in the paint, with 2.5 seconds on the clock and no timeouts left, Delly didn’t hesitate. He sprinted down the right sideline, clapped his hands in case Beau Levesque might have thought about inbounding to someone else, took Levesque’s pass around midcourt, made a neat crossover dribble to avoid a BYU defender and let loose a 35-footer with 0.6 seconds left. Nothing but net, as the announcers say, and the Gaels had a small rush-the-court moment of their own in the cavernous Marriott Center. It was a strange celebration, with the Gaels and their coaches jumping in excitement and the 15,000 BYU fans standing in dazed silence.
- Two nights later in the venerable Hinkle Fieldhouse at Butler University, Gonzaga felt the sting of another incredible finish. The Zags were in even better shape against Butler than Saint Mary’s was against BYU: They not only held a 63-62 lead, but also had possession of the ball at midcourt after a seemingly-devastating blunder by Butler’s Alex Barlow. Barlow’s travelling violation trying to make a move similar to Dellavedova’s showed how delicate it is to position one’s body for a shot with time running out. All the Zags had to do was inbound the ball, take the inevitable foul and make some free throws to ice a memorable win. But David Stockton made a lazy, looping pass towards Kelly Olynyk and Butler’s Roosevelt Jones played it like an NFL cornerback. He swooped in front of Olynyk to snatch the pass and covered the rest of the court in time to launch a runner before 3.5 seconds ticked off. Jones’ shot was good, but Gonzaga’s night was ruined.
- Gonzaga (4-0, 17-2): As painful as it was to endure, Gonzaga’ loss to Butler didn’t affect its position atop the WCC. Coming after a routine dismantling of Portland by 71-49, the week’s efforts left the Zags as the conference’s only undefeated team.
- BYU (5-1, 15-5): Saint Mary’s spoiled BYU’s perfect conference record, but the Cougars bounced back against another undefeated team, San Diego, with an authoritative 74-57 win over the high-flying Toreros. It was Dave Rose’s 200th career win at BYU, and featured a 25-point effort by the unstoppable Haws, following his 23 points against Saint Mary’s.
- Saint Mary’s (4-1, 15-4): Having navigated the most difficult conference season so far, with road games against Gonzaga, BYU and Portland, the Gaels are feeling better about themselves. The opening minutes against BYU, in which they fell behind 20-4, following a horrific first half against Gonzaga, gives Randy Bennett plenty to worry about, however.
- San Diego (4-1, 11-9): San Diego started strong against the conference’s weaker teams, but got a wake-up call with the thrashing at BYU. Another tough road game this week against Saint Mary’s will help determine whether Bill Grier’s forces are for real.
- Santa Clara (3-3, 14-6): After three straight losses, Kerry Keating’s Broncos bounced back last week with wins at San Francisco, 85-54, and at Pepperdine, 83-76. Which Broncos are the real ones? Only time will tell.
- Pepperdine (1-4, 9-9): The Waves fought back valiantly against Santa Clara, inching within a bucket of tying the game with fewer than four minutes left, but couldn’t pull it off. With four of its next six games on the road, things aren’t getting any easier for Marty Wilson’s crew.
- Portland (1-4, 8-12): After scoring just 49 points against Gonzaga and 38 against Saint Mary’s, the Pilots are desperately in need of some offensive punch.
- Loyola Marymount (1-5, 8-11): It’s hard to see the Loyola Marymount squad of past years in this season’s lackluster edition. A dispirited 62-53 loss at San Francisco underlined the Lions’ woeful offense. With Ashley Hamilton shooting just 2-for-9 from the floor, including 0-3 on three-point attempts, it was left to Anthony Ireland to carry almost the entire offensive load. Even Ireland’s supercharged motor misfires sometimes, however, and he managed only 13 points against the Dons.
- San Francisco (1-5, 8-11): With images of Santa Clara’s 0-16 season of a year ago dancing in his head, Rex Walters wasn’t complaining about a less-than-stellar effort by LMU. The home win broke a zero-for-four conference losing streak and gave the Dons hopes for a rebound.
- All eyes will be on Spokane Thursday night when BYU travels to face Gonzaga in an early-season showdown. The Cougars split with Gonzaga last year, winning at home but losing on the Zags’ home court. Gonzaga might still be chafing over its heartbreaking loss to Butler, but don’t expect BYU to have any sympathy considering what Saint Mary’s and Dellavedova did to it.
- Saint Mary’s is at home for two games this week, facing San Diego on Thursday and Pepperdine on Saturday.
- San Francisco goes for two in a row at Portland on Thursday, then gets a reality check against Gonzaga on Saturday.
- Pepperdine gets a chance to get back on track with a short trip up the Pacific Coast Highway to LMU on Thursday, but takes a longer trip with a less promising prospect against Saint Mary’s in Moraga on Saturday.
- Other Saturday games feature BYU at Portland and Santa Clara at San Diego.