Pac-10 Live Blog: Quarters
Bringing you all four games from Staples Center.
Here we go, this is it, the last chance to qualify for the Big Dance.
By and large, it’s been a down year for every Pac-10 program out there. The beginning of the season brought plenty of optimism. Things changed fairly quickly though. Pessimism, unfortunately, prevailed for the once proud conference as its teams struggled from start to finish in an effort to keep up with the rest of the country.
All, however, is not lost, due in large part to the Pac-10 Conference Tournament. A pair of victories over the course of the next couple of days and a win in Saturday’s championship game assures an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. It will be interesting to see who takes advantage of the golden opportunity in front of them.
That said, let’s get things started. March Madness awaits.
And believe us, there will be plenty of action taking place.
No. 4 Arizona vs. No. 5 UCLA
Given both teams rich tradition, its hard to believe one of them won’t be making a postseason appearance. In fact, the Wildcats and Bruins are in danger of having their respective seasons end if they don’t win the tournament title. Go figure.
*** With Westwood about 20 minutes away from downtown, traffic permitting, everyone was expecting it to be a pro-Bruin crowd. Think again. The Arizona faithful is out in full force. The Wildcats’ fans are going wild already.
*** Behind the hot-shooting of three-point specialist Michael Roll, UCLA jumps out to a 7-2 lead at the first television timeout. There’s 15:51 left in the first quarter.
*** Arizona answers, Derrick Williams in particular. The Pac-10 Freshman of the Year hits a bucket inside to cut the deficit to 19-13 at 8:18.
*** Jerime Anderson goes hard to the hole, is fouled in the act, and makes a tough layup in traffic. A free-throw follows, completing the three-point play. UCLA is up 22-15 with 7:40 remaining in the first half.
*** Nic Wise is nice. He makes a pair of free-throws and a runner in the lane. Arizona is still down, 33-28, at 3:10.
*** Williams is putting in work. He finds Kevin Parrom cutting to the basket before the hafltime buzzer. The Wildcats are down, 37-33 at the break, but not out.
*** Reeves Nelson is getting after it. The Bruins’ big man has 12 points, 5 rebounds and 2 assists at the half. Lot of time left. Let’s see what he finishes with.
*** Things just got started in the second half. Jamelle Horne hits a three-pointer and the Wildcats are down, 39-38, at 18:50.
*** Tyler Honeycutt is in the right place at the right time, scoring back-to-back baskets for the Bruins, who lead 49-41 with 14:56 left. Arizona could be in trouble.
*** Williams is a beast. He scores on a pair of three-point plays, the ol’ fashioned way. The Wildcats trail by four points with 8:38 remaining in the game.
*** Nelson is athletic as they come. He makes a good play on the defensive end of the floor, gets out in transition, receives pass and finishes at the goal. UCLA is up, 68-61, with 2:30 left.
*** Arizona has no answer for Nelson down the stretch. He converts a pair of free-throws and manages to get free for a breakaway two-handed dunk to seal a 75-69 victory.
*** UCLA is still alive and kicking. Just barely, that is. “We’re not ready to go home,” Roll said during post-game interviews. His play was a good indication of that. The senior finished with 18 points, highlighted by three three-pointers.
*** Nelson was a beast. He ended up with 19 points, on 8-9 shooting from the field, to go along with 10 rebounds and 3 assists. “His numbers were outstanding,” UCLA coach Ben Howland said afterward at the press conference. “He’s our only solid inside presence.” Apparently, Nelson was enough, more than enough, of a presence against the Wildcats.
No. 1 Cal vs. No. 9 Oregon
The Golden Bears must be considered the odds-on favorite to win this whole thing. Think about it: They have three players, Jerome Randle, Theo Robertson and Patrick Christopher, that could end up in the NBA some day soon. As for the Ducks, they’ve got to be tired after defeating Washington State, 82-80, in overtime late last night. It will be interesting to see if Oregon has any legs left.
*** Randle has some serious handle. Oregon can’t stop him off the dribble. The senior point guard has a pair of layups and two three-pointers and the Golden Bears have a 15-9 lead with 15:13 left on the clock.
*** Christopher connects from way downtown, his third three-pointer thus far. Cal extends its advantage to 32-24 with 8:16 remaining in the first half.
*** Oregon better get a hand in Randle’s face. Guess the Ducks don’t care. He hits two free-throws, a short jumper and three-pointer to give the Golden Bears a 12-point lead with 6:24 before intermission.
*** It’s been all Jerome Randle in the first half. He’s a perfect 8-8 from the field, 4-4 from beyond the arc, and 2-2 from the stripe. All told, Randle has 22 points and Cal is up, 47-34, at the break. Not too shabby, not at all. Looks like we have an early front-runner for MVP of the Pac-10 Tournament.
*** Second half is underway here. Christopher throws down a one-handed dunk, Robertson knocks down a three-pointer and Amonde Amoke adds a two-handed slam. Cal is putting it on Oregon now, 60-42, at 16:30. The Beavers are done, at least, it appears that way.
*** After scoring 32 points last night, Tajuan Porter has 19 against Cal. Points have been few and far between otherwise. Oregon trails, 75-55, with 7:55 left in the game.
*** That’s a wrap. Cal wins, 90-74. Randle missed his first two shots after the break and headed to the sidelines shortly thereafter, well before the midway point of the second half. He didn’t return. No need to. The 22 points he finished with were plenty.
*** Afterward, someone made the mistake of asking Randle about the level of play in the Pac-10 this season and what was wrong with all the conference teams. His response: ”A lot of people are saying the Pac-10 is down. It’s not down. It’s just competitive. I’ll be representing the Pac-10 in the NCAA Tournament.” Fair enough. We’ll be watching.
*** FYI, the Wildcats had made the NCAA Tournament 25 straight times. That streak has come to an end.
No. 2 Arizona State vs. No. 7 Stanford
Not sure if the NCAA Tournament committee is going to take more than one Pac-10 team this year. Probably not. But if, by chance, the powers that be decide to do the conference a favor with an at-large bid, the Sun Devils could be the beneficiary. Maybe Washington. Regardless, Arizona St. is going to have to win a couple games to sway the vote its way. Stanford doesn’t pose much of a threat.
*** We’re about an hour away from tipoff between the Sun Devils and Cardinal. There’s just enough time to grab a bite to eat and return.
*** And away they go. Stanford came ready to play. Landry Fields scores five straight points for the Cardinal, who take a 9-5 lead at the 15:41 mark.
*** Not to be outdone, Rihards Kuksis makes 10 consecutive of his own. The Sun Devils are attempting to weather the storm and trail, 18-12, with 9:39 left.
*** Back-to-back baskets by Jeremy Green keep Stanford on top by three points with less than two minutes remaining in the first half.
*** Derek Glasser answers with a free-throw and a three-pointer to keep things close. Arizona St. trails, 29-28, at the break.
*** Behind six points from Green, Stanford goes on a 12-4 run to open the second half and increase its lead to 42-32 with 13:54 left.
*** It’s time to worry if you’re an Arizona St. fan. Fields scores 10 consecutive points, and believe it or not, Stanford manages to maintain a 10-point lead with 5:53 remaining in the game. Arizona St. has no momentum.
*** That should just about do it. Yep, it’s a final. Stanford wins, 64-49. No Big Dance for Arizona St. There’s a chance, albeit it slim, that the Sun Devils will receive the postseason nod. But make no mistake, this setback hurts their chances. Still can’t believe Arizona St. blew its opportunity to impress the NCAA’s head honchos. Hopefully, we can get some feedback from those in the Sun Devils’ camp.
No. 3 Washington vs. No. 6 Oregon State
The Huskies are in the same boat as Arizona St. Win and get in. See above. Our guess is, Washington fans are optimistic. And why not? Isaiah Thomas and Quincy Pondexter are the types of players that can take over a game at any point, or a tournament, for that matter. The Beavers counter with a well-rounded group, but we’re not sure they possess that one cat that has the killer instinct to finish off a close game.
*** Sorry, having some computer problems. Should be back and running momentarily. Hang in there.
*** We’re back. Time to catch everyone up. For the record, yall didn’t miss much. Jared Cunningham hits a jumper, adds a pair of free-throws and a three-pointer to give the Beavers a 16-11 lead at 12:33.
*** It’s been a while since Washington has scored. An Elston Turner three-pointer breaks the seven-plus minute drought. The Huskies appear flat, and as a result, trail by seven points with 8:39 before the break.
*** Oregon St., on the hand, can do no wrong. Calvin Haynes converts a layup with less than two minutes remaining and the Beavers head into intermission with 31-22 advantage. Washington is on upset alert.
*** The Huskies open the second half with a sense of urgency. Pondexter gets things going with a bucket. Then, he’s fouled in the act and completes the three-point play to cut the deficit to three points at 13:32.
*** Monkey see, monkey do. Thomas finds his stroke with a three. Turner knocks down one of his own from beyond the arc. Thomas again, another three-pointer. All of a sudden, the Huskies lead, 43-37, at 10:17.
*** Thomas is hot. He buries another shot from way downtown. Washington keeps its distance, 52-47, at 4:47.
*** A layup by Turner gives the Huskies what appears to be a more than comfortable lead, seven points. There’s less than a minute remaining in this one. All signs point to Washington advancing in Pac-10 tournament play.
*** Ballgame. The Huskies prevail, 59-52, due in large part to Pondexter, Turner and Thomas taking over in the second half. Stay tuned for some post-game quotes. We should have some good stuff soon enough.
*** After a slow start, Thomas finished with 15 points. And Washington needed everyone of them to avoid the upset. “In this league, anybody can beat anybody on any given day,” he said afterward.
*** In the end, Pondexter put nine points on the board. ”We cleaned stuff up and took care of business in the second half,” he said. “We were focused and turned up the intensity on the defensive end.”
Time to call it day. And what a day it ended up being.
Things got started at noon, Pacific Standard time, of course, and it’s approaching midnight. Good day’s worth of work, no doubt. We’ll be right back it tomorrow, or does it qualify as today yet? Whatever the case, SLAM online readers can expect plenty more action from the Pac-10 Tournament.
The opening tip for the semifinal showdown between No. 5 UCLA and No. 1 Cal is set for 6 p.m. out here on the West Coast. As for No. 7 Stanford, the Cinderella story thus far, the Cardinal take on No. 3 Washington at 8:30 p.m. Personally, I’m looking forward to doing it all over again.