Pac-12 Tournament Notebook: Day 2

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - MARCH 01: Japreece Dean #24 of the UCLA Bruins dribbles down the court during the fourth quarter against the Utah Utes at Pauley Pavilion on March 01, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Katharine Lotze/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - MARCH 01: Japreece Dean #24 of the UCLA Bruins dribbles down the court during the fourth quarter against the Utah Utes at Pauley Pavilion on March 01, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Katharine Lotze/Getty Images) /

Pac-12’s top four in action on day two

LAS VEGAS—Running through observations, notes and quotes from day two of the Pac-12 women’s basketball conference tournament, starting with Arizona’s quarterfinal win over Cal:

No. 4 Arizona 86, No. 12 Cal 73

Cal started the game in a 7-0 hole. The Wildcats opened with one of their favorite sets to get Dominique McBride a back screen for a layup. Amari Carter flew in for a putback on the team’s second possession then drilled a 3-pointer after a Cal turnover.

Arizona led by 14 at the half even as Aari McDonald shot 3-for-12 from the field. Cal turned it over 10 times overall compared to Arizona’s three.

The Wildcats led comfortably the rest of the way. Cate Reese led the way with a career-high 3- points on 13-of-15 shooting. McDonald only logged about three minutes in the third but played the entire fourth and finished at 32 minutes.

“I just think my teammates found me,” Reese said postgame. “We knew the game plan. We knew we were kind of the quicker team, so they kept running the floor, my teammates found me…I made the shots I knew I could make.”

Arizona will face Oregon in the semifinals on Saturday (9 PM ET, Pac-12 Networks).

No. 1 Oregon 79, No. 8 Utah 59

Lynne Roberts was right. Her team wasn’t going to be intimidated in this third shot at Oregon. Utah led by three after the opening 10 minutes. The Ducks tied it up early in the second. Their next eight made field goals were all 3-pointers.

With Jaz Shelley and Taylor Chavez firing on all cylinders off the bench, the Ducks can put four and five shooters on the floor at once. Every lapse, mistake, offensive rebound or transition opportunity becomes even more dangerous. Opponents are constantly on the brink of seeing another 3-pointer go through the net.

Leading by 16 at the break, it was Oregon’s defense that helped slam the door shut in the third. They dialed up the aggression with their pick and roll coverages, eliminating driving lanes while daring Utah to beat them with longer passes under duress. That pressure helped force nine Utah turnovers in the period. 

Oregon will face Arizona in the semifinals on Saturday (9 PM ET, Pac-12 Networks).

No. 2 UCLA 73, No. 7 USC 66

Pac-12 Freshman of the Year Alissa Pili battled foul trouble all evening, picking up a second foul midway through the first and a third with 5:21 left in the first half. Endyia Rogers steadied the ship scoring 15 of the team’s 36 points in the first half.

UCLA started the game poorly, turning it over on three of their first four possessions. The Bruins watched their crosstown rivals get out to a 9-0 lead before Cori Close had to burn an early timeout. Michaela Onyenwere and Charisma Osborne were ice cold (2-13 FG, 0-6 3PT) early on, but Lindsey Corsaro and Natalie Chou combined for four 3-pointers in the second.

Pili picked up her fourth less than three minutes into the third quarter. The game hit an inflection point moments later as UCLA built its largest lead of the game. USC managed to buy Pili some time, at least easing the pressure on Mark Trakh as he considered when he’d bring her back. They closed the period on a 12-0 run to take a six-point lead into the fourth.

UCLA delivered the finishing blow late in the fourth. USC turned it over on four straight possessions, including three turnovers trying to inbound the ball in the backcourt. (Rogers fouled out after getting called for a push off as she attempted to free herself against UCLA’s pressure.) Osborne made two key buckets in the lane, and Onyenwere extended the lead to nine with one of her signature turnaround jumpers.

Cori Close credited her staff for the call to dial up that late pressure.

“I also want to give credit to my assistant coaches,” she said. “I am in front of the cameras, and they are doing a heck of a job behind the scenes to really equip us to make great adjustments. Shannon Perry made the adjustment. I think it was 60-60, and we were able to we press after a free throw to be able to trap that…There were some other ones that Tasha Brown and Tony Newnan did. So I’m grateful for an amazing staff that makes me look better than I am.”

UCLA will face Stanford in the semifinals on Saturday (11:30 PM ET, Pac-12 Networks).

No. 3 Stanford 68, No. 6 Oregon State 57

The Cardinal scored on six of their first seven possessions and jumped out to a 14-4 lead. OSU was stuck on four points for four and a half minutes of game time, and Stanford led by as many as 17 late in the first.

Rueck leaned more on Destiny Slocum, Aleah Goodman, Kat Tudor and Mikayla Pivec playing together, and the Beavers did give themselves chances to really make things interesting late. As OSU did more switching, the Cardinal didn’t quite make them pay enough on the glass or in the post to force a change.

“Give them credit defensively as well for making us uncomfortable,” Rueck said. “And then Kiana [Williams] seemed to make every play they needed to keep us at bay…They did a great job on the boards. We out-rebounded them the first two games, and they got us this game. We used our small lineup a lot. So that had something to do with that. I loved the fight and the tenacity that we played with to give ourselves a chance to get back in this game.”

OSU got within nine three different times in the third. Kiana Williams helped push the lead as high as 20 with two pull-up 3-pointers. The Beavers went scoreless on their next three trips trailing by eight under the 3:00 mark, and Stanford iced the game at the foul line.

Williams played all 40 minutes, poured in a game-high 23 points and shot 5-of-12 from deep.

“She’s a March basketball player,” Tara VanDerveer said of her point guard. “She kind of starts out, gets everybody involved, and then when it’s time, she asserts herself really well.”

“I don’t think anything has really changed beside me making shots,” Williams added. “I think early on in the season I wasn’t shooting the ball well. My teammates, they have confidence in me. My coaches have confidence in me. I have to find that confidence within myself, and we’re just playing hard for each other.”

Oregon State made just five 3-pointers combined on the heels of a 6-for-7 explosion from Kat Tudor in round one on Thursday. VanDerveer credited assistant coach Tempie Brown for the scouting report, although one of the top-line priorities wasn’t much of a mystery.

“We just try to really identify what teams’ strengths are and try to take away their strengths…My mother is 92, and she said, ‘Guard Tudor,'” VanDerveer said.

Stanford will face UCLA in the semifinals on Saturday (11:30 PM ET, Pac-12 Networks).

  • Our Pac-12 tournament day one notebook:
  • The previous edition of ‘Around the Pac-12′ on UCLA’s loss to UW and Oregon clinching a share of the title with a second win over Stanford:

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