The two big-money programs in the West Coast Conference, Gonzaga and BYU, had the night off on Saturday. S0 the four-game WCC slate had a decidedly mid-major flavor with a double-dose of bubble drama.
Here’s what happened:
The Dons (17-4, 5-2), who looked poised to run away with second place in the league, led by 14 late in the first half. But Sam Scholl’s veteran Toreros (15-7, 4-3) did not break under the pressure.
Coach Scholl made some savvy adjustments at halftime. In the first, his team was just 1-10 from three point range. In the second, they attempted just four shots from deep and consistently worked the ball around and inside for higher percentage looks. Over the final 12:30 of the game the Toreros made 10 of 12 shots from the field. Isaiah Pineiro scored 22 points and grabbed 13 rebounds to lead USD.
Frankie Ferrari was held scoreless until the game’s final minutes, when he spearheaded a too little, too late comeback attempt. It’s a brutal loss for San Francisco as it pushes them into a tie for second place in the league while also elevating San Diego into the race for second. Starting this season, the top-two seeds in the WCC Tournament get double-byes into the semifinals. It is a loss that will also, more than likely, push the Dons onto the wrong side of the bubble.
Pepperdine Waves 84, Saint Mary’s Gaels 77 (OT)
Pepperdine (10-11, 3-4) controlled the game throughout and led by as many as nine points midway through the second half. Colbey Ross scored a career-high 29 points to go along with nine assists. Kameron Edwards added 24 for the Waves.
The Gaels (13-9, 4-3), behind Jordan Ford (17 points) and Malik Fitts (27 points), made a strong comeback down the stretch but couldn’t put the game away in regulation. Fitts was called for an offensive foul driving to the basket for the game winning bucket with 0.6 seconds left. He picked up his fifth foul two minutes later. Without Fitts, Ford was forced to take over the game — not exactly uncommon for Saint Mary’s this season — but Ross matched him nearly shot for shot. Ross was especially effective drawing fouls and converting at the free throw line, where he went 15-16.
Saint Mary’s has now dropped back-to-back games and is plummeting down the WCC standings. ESPN Bracketologist Joe Lunardi had the Gaels as one of his “next four out” early in the week. That is surely no longer the case.
It was a tale of two halves in the South Bay as Santa Clara (11-11, 3-5) dominated the first before the Lions (15-6, 3-4) roared back in the second.
Santa Clara took a nine point lead into halftime after a strong showing from the floor in the first (54 percent). LMU made just 36 percent of its shots in the first half but finished at 47 percent for the game.
James Batemon (20 points) led all scorers for his first 20-plus performance since Dec. 19. Batemon was the catalyst behind the Lions’ 11-1 start to the season. Since then he had struggled as teams, particularly conference opponents who are more familiar with him, clamped down and forced the Lions to look for other options on the offensive end. Saturday, without starting guard Joe Quintana (sprained ankle), the Lions needed Batemon to return to his non-conference form and he did.
Pacific Tigers 74, Portland Pilots 70
The Pilots (7-15, 0-7) mounted a furious comeback on the road but came up short and remain winless in WCC play. Both meetings between these teams this season have been decided by single-digits. The Pilots’ five other conference games have been blowouts. Pacific (12-10, 2-5) scored 27 points at the free throw line, led by Roberto Gallinat’s 10-12 performance from the stripe. Portland’s Marcus Shaver was the star of the game, though, putting up a career high 30 point performance.