March 11, 2009 in Sports

Cougars, Vandals study in contrasts

By The Spokesman-Review
 

The Washington State and Idaho women’s basketball teams head into their conference tournaments this week with contrasting story lines.

Idaho (13-14), seeded fourth, plays fifth-seeded Utah State (15-14) today at noon at the Western Athletic Conference tournament in Reno, Nev. The teams split in the regular season and the winner is likely to face regular-season champion Fresno State, which lost to Idaho twice.

The Vandals finished 10-6 in the WAC, which is one win shy of their total wins in their three previous seasons in the league. Idaho, which features three players in double figures in scoring and the league’s leading rebounder in Yinka Olorunnife (11.0, ninth nationally), swept four opponents this season after having three total the past three years.

Washington State is the eighth seed for the Pac-10 tournament that starts Thursday in Los Angeles and faces ninth-seeded Arizona. The Cougars (11-18) swept the season. If they get past the Wildcats (11-18) second-ranked and top-seeded Stanford (26-4) awaits, a team WSU has never beaten.

The Cougars beat the Wildcats 68-58 and 63-56. It should be noted that among the four losses in the last five games (by a total of 20 points), Arizona lost to 16th-ranked Arizona State by seven, 12th-ranked California by three and to Stanford by three.

Washington State has never won a game in the Pac-10 tournament since it was started in 2002.

The Cougars are led in scoring by Jazmine Perkins (13.9) and April Cook (13.7). They are the top two freshman scorers in league play, sitting seventh and ninth place in the league. They are fifth and eighth nationally among freshmen. Perkins has had 23 double-figure games and Cook 21.

Dancin’ days

The good news is Gonzaga is going dancing for the second time in school history. The bad news is that in all likelihood the Bulldogs will be in Seattle.

Not that any site in the NCAA tournament isn’t a good deal, and Seattle is a great location for fans.

However, playing on the Huskies’ home court doesn’t seem “special” since GU and Washington have resumed playing in the regular season.

Part of the reason it may seem somewhat anticlimactic is because the NCAA, in an effort to save money – or make more by drawing more fans – has 16 first-round sites instead of eight. Therefore, only four teams are at each site, meaning there is a two-game opening day, a day off, and then another game. There just isn’t that tournament feel.

That said, the latest projection – one of many – on ESPN.com has the Zags going to Seattle as a 12 seed, facing Arizona State. The other game would include Montana as a 13 seed if the Grizzlies win the Big Sky Conference tournament this weekend.

Gonzaga point guard Courtney Vandersloot is the first player since 2001 to earn both the West Coast Conference Player of the Year and tournament MVP.

Also dancin’

North Idaho heads for the national tournament in Salina, Kan., still in somewhat a state of shock after it rallied from 18 points down in the final 11 minutes to beat the College of Southern Idaho on Saturday.

“Holy cow, can you believe that?” Cardinals coach Chris Carlson said, still amazed three days after the fact. “I can’t say I’ve seen something of that magnitude against a team of that magnitude, a team that’s been there, been through games like that, been to nationals. They have so many great players. No, that’s got to be one of the greatest games I’ve ever been around in 20 years, that’s for sure.

The Cardinals find out their opponent today, but any team will do.

“Every now and then we just say, ‘We’re going to Kansas,’ ” the fifth-year coach said. “We’re jacked up. I don’t know if it has sunk yet. I think it has.”

More dancin’

Lewis-Clark State is headed to the NAIA national tournament in Jackson, Tenn., after pulling out a 79-78 win at No. 18 Westminster on Monday night to capture the Frontier Conference championship.

Kirsi Voshell, a freshman from Pullman, contributed six points to the win, which was the 200th at LCSC for coach Brian Orr.

The Warriors (23-7), who have a string of 17 straight 20-win seasons, are going to nationals for the seventh time in Orr’s eight years. Pairings are announced Sunday.

Voshell played in all 30 games for LCSC with four starts and averaged 5.4 points. Nichole Miller, a sophomore from Curlew, also played in 30 games, averaging 2.9 points.

Tip-ins

Eastern Washington closed the season with five straight losses and missed the Big Sky tournament for the third consecutive year, but the Eagles (10-19) are making steps. In their final three games the starters were three freshmen (Pauline Ferrall, Cameryn Calhoun and Chene Cooper) and two sophomores (Julie Piper and Kyla Evans) and 11 of 13 players were underclassmen. … The Portland State-Montana showdown for the Big Sky title drew more than 6,700 fans. The Griz won by 10, the same margin PSU won by in Portland, and host the Big Sky tournament for the 19th time in 26 years, starting Thursday. … Montana senior Mandy Morales was named BSC MVP for the second team, she also won as a junior. Portland State sophomore Kelli Valentine (Mead) earned honorable mention. … Weber State junior Tonya Schnibbe (U-Hi) obliterated the Wildcats’ single-season assist record by almost 30, finishing with 194. She also led Weber State in scoring at 12.9 points per game. … Tennessee sophomore Angie Bjorklund (U-Hi) was named to the SEC All-Tournament team, averaging 14 points in three games. Along the way she moved up to a tie for seventh on the Lady Vols’ career 3-point list with 128. … Concordia (Portland), with twins Rebecca and Angela Gimeno (St. George’s) comprising the starting backcourt, is making its first appearance in the NAIA Division II national tournament, which opens today at Sioux City, Iowa. Concordia (27-3) plays Iowa Wesleyan (22-9) Thursday afternoon as the third-seeded team in their eight-team part of the 32-team bracket.


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