February 17, 2011 in Sports

West Coast Conference teams jockey for top two seeds

By The Spokesman-Review
 
Jesse Tinsley photoBuy this photo

Center Robert Sacre said Gonzaga knows the importance of a high seed at the WCC tournament.
(Full-size photo)

West Coast Conference

Conference

All Games

W

L

PCT

W

L

PCT

Saint Mary’s

10

2

.833

22

5

.815

Gonzaga

7

3

.700

17

9

.654

San Francisco

7

3

.700

13

12

.520

Santa Clara

6

4

.600

16

11

.593

Portland

5

5

.500

18

8

.692

Pepperdine

5

7

.417

11

18

.379

Loyola Marymount

2

10

.167

10

17

.370

San Diego

2

10

.167

6

21

.222

Wednesday’s results

Pepperdine 82, Loyola Marymount 79

San Diego 74, Saint Mary’s 66

Today’s games

Santa Clara at Gonzaga, 6 p.m.

San Francisco at Portland, 6

Saturday’s games

Loyola at Portland State, 4 p.m.

San Francisco at Gonzaga, 5

Santa Clara at Portland, 5:30

Utah State at Saint Mary’s, 6

Dorr leads upset of Gaels

Mt. Spokane graduate Matt Dorr scored 15 of his season-high 17 points in the second half as San Diego stunned conference-leading Saint Mary’s in San Diego. Dorr hit three 3-pointers in the second half as San Diego rebounded from an 11-point deficit early in the second for the win. Chris Manresa added 17 points and Darian Norris had 15 for the Toreros, whose fans stormed the court at the buzzer. The Toreros shot 66.7 percent in the final 20 minutes while holding the Gaels to just 41.2 percent. Mitchell Young led Saint Mary’s with 24 points. … Drew Viney scored 21 points as Loyola Marymount pulled out a victory over Pepperdine in Los Angeles. The Lions led most of the game and were ahead by as many as 14 points late in the first half. The Waves caught up in the second half and took a brief lead with about four minutes left when Lorne Jackson hit a 3-pointer to make it 75-74. Viney, however, answered with a quick layup and the Lions never trailed again.

Mychel Thompson led Pepperdine with a game-high 29 points.

Since the West Coast Conference adopted its current tournament format in 2003, only once has a team seeded third or higher advanced to the championship.

That was No. 3 San Diego, which capitalized on home-court advantage to knock off No. 1 Gonzaga in the 2008 tournament. Outside of 2008, the last seven WCC tournaments have come and gone with the top seed defeating No. 2 five times, and the second seed topping No. 1 twice.

It’s hardly breaking news when top seeds advance in a tournament setting, but it underscores the importance of securing a No. 1 or No. 2 seed. Gonzaga’s chances of extending its record run of 10 consecutive regular-season titles received a big boost when San Diego upset Saint Mary’s (22-5, 10-2) on Wednesday. The Bulldogs (17-9, 7-3) can earn at least a share of the crown by winning their last four WCC games, including a contest with Saint Mary’s in Moraga, Calif., next week. GU is tied for second with San Francisco (13-12, 7-3) and those two teams collide at the McCarthey Athletic Center on Saturday.

The top two seeds earn byes into the tournament semifinals. The third and fourth seeds enter in the quarterfinals and need three wins to claim the title. The 5-8 seeds face the daunting task of winning four games in four days.

“We had to play three games for a long time,” said Gonzaga coach Mark Few, referencing the format in effect prior to 2003. “It’s nice probably not to have to play three. Some people say getting one under your belt helps, but I would think the fewer games the better. We’ve won three games numerous times and we’ve gone in and won two.”

Gonzaga has played in the WCC title game 13 straight years, going 9-4. Two of those losses were to San Diego on the Toreros’ home floor. One was to Saint Mary’s last year in Las Vegas. The other was to No. 5 San Francisco in the 1998 tournament at Santa Clara.

Under the current double-bye format, Gonzaga has won its last four semifinal games by an average of 27 points – and six of eight by at least 15 points – against opponents who had already played at least one tournament game.

“We talk about everything, but the league race doesn’t matter unless you take care of business in the game you’re playing,” Few said “You need to take care of the one in front of you, and then there’s a big picture at the end.”

The one in front of Gonzaga is Santa Clara, which visits the McCarthey Athletic Center tonight. The Broncos (16-11, 6-4), who defeated Gonzaga 85-71 last month, still have designs on second place.

“An extra game (at the tournament) makes a huge difference,” Bulldogs center Robert Sacre said. “The other teams in the conference know that and we’re all competing to get those spots. The race is still on.”

Santa Clara guard Kevin Foster erupted for 36 points and all five starters reached double figures in the first meeting. There were 49 fouls and 64 free throws in the contest. Gonzaga committed 19 turnovers.

“They took it to us,” Sacre said, “and they hit some big shots at the end to seal the deal.”

Foster hit many of those, draining four of his six 3-pointers in the last 5 minutes.

“Foster was on fire the last time, we need to do a better job there, but we need to do a better job against a couple of their other guys, too,” Few said. “They play really hard, really physical, a lot of flopping, a lot of stuff going on away from the ball. We just have to ignore the flopping and the antics and focus on basketball.”


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