The Waves and Toreros are playing the best basketball of their seasons and adding to the madness of March.
It’s not surprising that the seven and eight seeds are still alive in the West Coast Conference tournament as we head into the semifinals. What is surprising is how these teams have managed to survive the weekend.
Both opened in the tournament’s first round on Thursday, played again on Friday, and then absolutely demolished their opposition on Saturday night at Orleans Arena in Las Vegas.
No. 8 Pepperdine Waves 89, No. 4 San Francisco Dons 72
Nothing says “tired legs” like “highest point total since the start of conference play.” Right?
Playing in their third game in as many days, Pepperdine opened the game by making five of its first seven shots from the field and four of its first four from long range. That accuracy had to drop off a bit. And it did, but just a bit.
The Waves shot 50 percent from three (14-28) and 49 percent from the field (28-57). Yes, one-half of Pepperdine’s field goals came from beyond the arc. The Waves are now three made three pointers shy of setting a new record for most threes in WCC Tournament history.
It was a performance that drew regular ovations, oohs and aahs from a crowd composed largely of neutral Gonzaga and BYU fans.
On the other side was a San Francisco team that has gone from in the NCAA Tournament field as an at-large, according to bracketology, in late January to a team likely heading on the road for a first round NIT game. Star senior point guard Frankie Ferrari (five assists, six turnovers) and the Dons appear to have run out of gas. They were 14-3 after a mid-January tilt with Gonzaga, which ended up being a close, well-played and highly entertaining game that ultimately ending in defeat.
They’re 7-7 since and on a four game losing streak. Weird. And it only got weirder from there…
No. 7 San Diego Toreros 80, No. 3 BYU Cougars 57
San Diego must’ve watched how Pepperdine approached its quarterfinal game because the Toreros opened theirs in the exact same way.
Over the course of each team’s first six shots, BYU made none while San Diego made five. The Toreros led 13-0 behind 11 quick points from Isaiah Wright (15 points). But, Wright picked up two quick fouls and went to the bench.
The Cougars put together a couple quality possessions, mostly from Yoeli Childs (14 points). He threw down a monster slam with 9:51 to play and it felt like the tide was turning. Except, it wasn’t. San Diego still led by nine. Three minutes later, the lead was 20.
It ballooned to 44 points by midway through the second half.
In the end the game was decided by 23 points. I can honestly say it was the most lopsided 23 point victory I’ve ever seen. The Cougars put together a 21-5 run over the final 6:42 of their game. BYU proved to be the superior program during that stretch. The Cougars’ second unit, in the game after the white flag had been waved and acknowledged by all in attendance, was better than San Diego’s.
San Diego’s first unit, and the Toreros’ team as a whole, was far superior to the Cougars tonight. This is a senior-laden squad that suffered through injuries to starters for most of the season. They’re finally healthy and they’re playing to keep playing together.
WCC Semifinal Number One
No. 8 Pepperdine Waves vs. No. 1 Gonzaga Bulldogs
Monday, March 11 at 6:00 p.m. Pacific
WCC Semifinal Number Two
No. 7 San Diego Toreros vs. No. 2 Saint Mary’s Gaels
Monday, March 11 at 8:30 p.m. Pacific