Thursday, March 10, 2011

Four at the Galen

By Wally Mersereau

Wednesday was a beautiful day in Los Angeles with a high temperature of about 75 degrees under clear and sunny skies.

This was first day of the Pacific Life Pac-10 Women's Tournament at USC's Galen Center. This is the first year of tournament sponsorship by Pacific Life with its leaping whale. In recent years the tournament has been sponsored by State Farm. This year, for the first time, the men's and women's tournaments are being held together. All of the men's games are at the Staples Center. The first two days of the women's games are at the Galen Center and the last two days at Staples. Stanford's men lost today in their first game. The Stanford and UCLA women will not play until Friday.

The Los Angeles Times devoted about 78 column inches to the Pac-10 men's tournament, starting on the front page of the sports section. The Times gave 18 column inches to the Pac-10 women's tournament in one article on page 6 of the sports section, headlined "NCAA bid could be on the line for USC".

Wednesday's four games were between the bottom eight women's teams in the Pac-10. All higher seeds won, with one game being extremely close.

Game #1--Noon-- #3 seed Arizona State vs. #10 seed Oregon State. Attendance at tip-off was approximately 115, matched by the combined ASU and OSU bands, cheerleaders, dancing girls and mascots. Nine identifiable Stanford fans were present. By half-time, attendance had swelled to about 200. ASU led at the half 27-20 and increased its lead in the second half only to have OSU close to within 3 points with 3 minutes left. Oregon State is a frustrating team to watch. Its motto could be "So near and yet so far". ASU held on to win 50-44. Dymond Simon showed she deserved her All-Conference selection by scoring 15 points, some in an impressive manner.

Game #2--2:15 pm--#4 Arizona vs. #9 Oregon. Attendance at tip-off was about 200. Oregon got an early lead, but only briefly. At the half it was Arizona ahead 51-36. Oregon players were quick shooters throughout the game, taking lots of early shots. Oregon played remarkably better in the second half as its many shots started to fall. Oregon closed to within one point with 4 seconds left and with the ball to inbound. The inbound play failed and the final score was ASU 90, Oregon 89. Ify Ibekwe, Davellyn White and Soana Lucet were the leading players for the Wildcats, while Amanda Johnson and Ariel Thomas led the way for the Ducks.

On a wall in the Galen Center is a display of Sports Illustrated covers that show a USC player or team from 1955 to 2009. A cover for July, 1996 shows Tara and five members of the USA Olympic team, including Lisa Leslie.

Game #3--5:00 pm--#3 USC vs. #8 Washington State. Attendance at tip-off was about 300. At the half USC led 35-29. If WSU had shot better it would have been a close game. The Cougars played well otherwise. USC pulled away at the end to win 78-66. USC freshman Cassie Harberts was red-hot for the Trojans, scoring 31 points.

Game #4--7:20 pm--#6 Cal vs. #7 Washington. Attendance again was about 300, with a different mix as many USC fans left after Game 3. The Mendiola sisters who played for Washington were introduced before the game as one of a series honoring former players in connection with the 25th anniversary of women's sports in the Pac-10. Taylor Lilley was introduced before the Oregon game. Washington's new Harry the Husky mascot was present, looking fresher but blander than Good Ol' Harry. Oski paced the sidelines, hands clasped behind his back. This was a very close game until the final nine minutes, with many tied scores. Down the stretch the Golden Bears wore down the Huskies to come away with the win. The final score was 58-48.

Four games played over nine hours tests the endurance of the most devoted fans. As the attendance figures indicate, few accepted the challenge. The four survivors of today's games will meet on Thursday afternoon to cut the survivors list to two. Those two will play Stanford or UCLA on Friday.

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