Pac-10 Live Blog: Semifinals
March Madness, Staples Center style.
Cal and Washington are supposed to be here, in Saturday’s semifinals of the Pac-10 Conference Tournament at Staples Center. UCLA and Stanford, on the other hand, well let’s just say that many observers expected both programs to be on the outside looking in at this point, sitting at home and watching all the action from the comforts of their own living rooms.
But low and behold, the Bruins and Cardinal are still alive and kicking. Each team, no doubt, is hoping to move one step closer to Sunday’s championship game, where a victory would secure an all-important automatic berth in next week’s NCAA Tournament.
As for the Golden Bears, they’re almost certainly assured a spot in the Big Dance, regardless of whether or not they win the Pac-10 Tournament title. Adding hardware to the trophy case back in Berkley would only strengthen Cal’s case for a decent seed.
Finally, that brings us to Washington.
And before going any further, here’s hoping the Huskies sent thank you cards to Arizona State for losing in yesterday’s quarterfinals. The consensus seems to be that the Sun Devils’ setback did wonders for Washington’s chances of making a March Madness appearance.
No. 1 California vs. No. 5 UCLA
*** We’re about half an hour away from the opening tip. Slowly but surely, Staples Center is filling up, although we won’t be at full capacity tonight. Details to follow.
*** Aint no half steppin’, not for the Bruins. They appear determined to extend their season, at least, for one more game. Tyler Honeycutt blocks a shot and Malcolm Lee finishes at the other end of the floor on a layup to give UCLA a 7-4 lead at 15:52.
*** Down 10 points, Jerome Randle provides a much-needed spark. First, he converts a left-handed layup. Then, the senior point guard drives to the basket, Honeycutt hacks him, yet Randle manages to throw up a shot over his head that finds the bottom of the net. And 1. Wouldn’t be the least bit surprised to see that play on SportsCenter’s Top 10 later. Cal trails 20-15 at 10:12.
*** Michael Roll is lights out from long range. He’s made 5-6 shots from the field thus far, including a pair of three-pointers. As a result, UCLA leads by three with 4:32 left.
*** Jerime Anderson buries a three-pointer and a baseline jumper. On the ensuing trip down the floor, he draws a charge on Jorge Gutierrez. UCLA is up, 39-30, with 1:01 remaining. If the underachieving Anderson continues playing this way, Cal has no chance.
*** Correction: If Randle is on the floor, Cal does have a chance. He knocks down a three-pointer just before the buzzer sounds to cut the deficit to five points at the break.
*** Theo Robertson gets involved. A three-pointer falls for him, as does a basket inside. He buries another shot from way downtown. Patrick Christopher follows suit, scoring five points of his own for the Golden Bears, who take a 52-44 lead at 12:03.
*** Ben Howland calls timeout. Good decision coach.
*** Reeves Nelson goes hard to the rack, is fouled by Gutierrez, but manages to throw down a two-handed dunk anyway. UCLA still trails, by 10 points, with 9:13 left on the clock.
*** Out in transition, Christopher gets loose in the lane and makes a nice double-clutch layup. He adds a left-handed layup, and minutes later, sinks a pair of free-throws to give the Golden Bears a 71-62 lead at 4:20.
*** That should just about do it. A reverse layup from Robertson extends the Cal advantage to 10 points with 2:30 remaining. UCLA is running out of time. Fast. Tick tock. Tick tock.
*** And if Robertson’s layup didn’t do it before, his three-point play seconds ago, the conventional way, most certainly did do it. Golden Bears are up by nine points with 1:12 left. It’s official, this one’s over, Cal with a 85-72 victory.
*** Heading to the locker room for quotes. Be back shortly.
*** Randle played well in the first half, scoring 14 of his 24 points in the opening 20 minutes of play. His effort helped Cal stay close. “UCLA threw the first punch, but we didn’t back down,” he said. “We did what we needed to do to get the win. We won the Pac-10 title in the regular season, now we want to win the Pac-10 title in this tournament.” Randle & Co. are one victory away.
*** Randle wasn’t the only guy to have a good first half. By the time intermission rolled around, Roll had 16 points. When all was said and done, he finished with a career-high 27 points, highlighted by four three-pointers. The senior, however, was somber during the press conference, knowing full well that his career is over at UCLA. “I’m done, I don’t care about my career-high,” he said.
*** Had a feeling Robertson did his thing during the second half. And after taking a quick glance at the stat sheet, turns out he did, scoring 15 of his 20 points after the break. ”I remained patient, there was no need to try and manufacture anything,” Robertson said. Got to admit, he was one of the more well-spoken players to take the podium on Saturday. Very eloquent. Finally, he loosened up a little. And it was about time. “It’s win or go home,” Robertson said. “We’re not ready to go home.”
No. 7 Stanford vs. No. 3 Washington
*** It’s been a defensive struggle so far. For example, Stanford’s Jarrett Mann drove baseline, but his shot never had a chance. Matthew Bryan-Amaning came out of nowhere and swatted the ball into press row. At 12:30, the Huskies lead, 6-4.
*** Washington finds its rhythm. Finally. Quincy Pondexter scores eight points and Justin Holiday makes five straight to extend the advantage to six points with 7:48 remaining in the first half.
*** So much for being tactful. The Stanford fans sitting to the left of me are being pretty unruly towards the officiating crew. Security joins in on all the fun. Got to admit, it’s been the most entertaining part of the whole game up to this point.
*** Oh yeah, Washington is up, 20-10, with 5:48 before the break.
*** Emmanuel Igbinosa for three… It’s good. And the foul. Chance for a four-point play. Stanford could really use it. He misses the free-throw though. That would’ve been big. As it stands, the Cardinal trail by nine points at intermission.
*** Stanford’s band rules. They were just playing Fade to Black by Metallica during halftime. Brings back memories.
*** The Cardinal have been on borrowed time for a while now. You get the sense that the Huskies know that and will make a move in the second half.
*** Isaiah Thomas has been relatively quiet thus far. Wait, scratch that. He’s getting hot. Thomas nails a three-pointer and knocks down three free-throws to give Washington a 41-26 lead at 16:31.
*** Pondexter scores seven points of his own. The Huskies maintain an 11-point lead with 11:39 remaining in the game.
*** Bryan-Amaning with a big-time rejection. Again. This time, Jeremy Green is on the receiving end at 8:14. The ball, bye the way, ends up in the second row.
*** No he didn’t. Bryan-Amaning gets out in transition, fills the lane and throws down a thunderous dunk over Andrew Zimmerman to give the Huskies a 59-39 advantage with 7:37 left. Dude got posterized. If Bryan-Amaning’s finish isn’t the Slamadaday tomorrow, then there’s something seriously wrong.
*** For all intents and purposes, this thing is over. Washington is up comfortably, 69-50, and there’s only 3:42 remaining. Next time you hear from me, I’ll have quotes, hopefully something from Bryan-Amaning.
*** Final score: Washington 79, Stanford 64. Had the chance to catch up with Bryan-Amaning afterward. He was sitting next to Pondexter during the press conference, and when I asked him about the dunk, the two shared a good laugh. “I was trailing on the play, ready and in postion,” Bryan-Amaning said. With some more prodding, he talked about the role Zimmerman played in the sequence. “He stepped in my way and I finished,” Bryan-Amaning added. Fair enough. Seems pretty cut and dry. Wait till you guys see the dunk. It was sick. One of the best I’ve seen in a while.
*** It appears as if the Huskies have done enough to qualify for the Big Dance, regardless of whether they defeat Cal in the Pac-10 final. Of course, a victory assures an automatic berth. And honestly, that’s all Washington coach Lorenzo Romar is concerned with. He said: “We have a chance to win a championship, and if we do, we take things out of the hands of the NCAA Tournament committee. We’re going to do everything in power to make that happen.”
That’s a wrap. Another day in the books from the Pac-10 Tournament. The action during Thursday’s quarterfinals was great, don’t get me wrong. But the level of play on Friday was even better, lopsided outcomes aside. It’s reasonable to expect the bar being raised once again on Sunday.
We wouldn’t have it any other way.
The opening tip between No. 1 Cal and No. 3 Washington is set for 3 p.m., West Coast time. That said, it’s time to close up shop. We’ll be all up in the mix for the championship game, fully equipped and ready to provide SLAM online readers with news, notes and quotes via our blog.