Friday, March 11, 2011

The Semi-Finals

By Wally Mersereau

This morning I walked 20 minutes up Figueroa Street from the Staples Center to the Downtown LA Marriott where all of the women's teams are staying. About 30 or so Stanford fans were there to see the team off with the band, Dollies, Tree and cheerleaders. Arizona departed at the same time and both bands played side by side sometimes at the same time to produce a truly deafening sound under the hotel overhang. I was really impressed with the Dollies who are much more vigorous, athletic and attractive up close than they are viewed from a distance on the court. Viewing the high kicking and ever-smiling Dollies from a few feet away was awesome. After the team put their bags on the bus they formed a clapping line, enjoying the music and dancing. The Arizona band also was excellent. The Wildcat dancing girls were unsurpassed with regard to their glistening lipstick, all of the same shade of Arizona red, expertly and liberally applied.

After the send-off, Marian and Dave Cortesi, Judy Richter and I walked several blocks with Peter Ogwumike who had flown in from Africa the day before. I urged him to send his younger two daughters to Stanford and he said that would be fine with him.

It was another beautiful day, a little cooler with a high temperature in the mid-60s and somewhat more haze in the distance. From Dave Cortesi I learned that a rule for tournaments is that the higher ranked team is considered the home team and wears white uniforms, which Stanford did. Attendance for both of today's games approached 1,000 with Stanford fans being about 8-9% of that. There were almost no Cal fans present, but good representations from Arizona and UCLA. An attempt was made to restrict seating to four sections on the bench side of the arena, but this effort failed and fans ended up sitting on both sides.

This was my first visit to the Staples Center. It is a good arena, but not perfect. It had lots of food choices today, including sushi, Mexican, California Pizza Kitchen, McDonald's and even a gluten-free stand, in addition to the usual arena items. The sound system was poor, making the announcer only semi-understandable. The same announcer was great at the Galen Center. There is a new giant central video/scoreboard unit, but there were no video replays. Marian Cortesi gave me her scorecard for Staples: food concessions = A; video/scoreboard = B-; display of stats = C+; tight seat rows = C; ice cream = D and p.a. system/acoustics = F.

Vanessa Nygard and Tina Thompson were introduced before the game as former Pac-10 women athletes.

The Stanford-Arizona game was the clear winner of the most-impressive-display-of-talent-by-two-sisters game of the season. Nneka's 32 points and 10 rebounds and Chiney's 21 points and 13 rebounds were amazing. Probably the second most significant thing about the game was that Mel played 20 minutes and did well. Stanford was up 45-24 at the half and ended with a 100-71 victory. Soana Lucet led the Wildcats with 17 points and Ify Ibekwe had 15 points, with 9 of those from the free throw line. There were no Stanford injuries.

Lisa Willis of UCLA was the former player introduced before the second game. During a time-out in the first half Kayla was introduced at center court as Pac-10 Women's Basketball Scholar-Athlete of the Year. Kayla also was given a page in the program where her 3.53 GPA was noted.

UCLA easily won its game over Cal. Clarendon of Cal, who had been a shining star of Cal's two previous tournament games, had only two points--two free throws made with about two minutes left in the game. UCLA got off to an 11-1 start and that ended up being the primary difference in the game. The Bruins were ahead 37-23 at the half. Cal outscored UCLA by one point in the second half, for a final score of UCLA 63, Cal 50. Cal looked uninspired and ineffective for the most part and yet played UCLA even in the second half. UCLA had a couple of successful traps and generally played with more skill and confidence. Bobbie and Kate watched the UCLA game, Tara and Amy did not.

As of this point, with one game to go, combining the men's and women's Pac-10 tournaments seems to have been a failure. A clever idea that didn't work. Attendance at the women's games has been embarrassingly poor, with a top attendance at Galen of 400 and today's at Staples of not more than 1,000. Certainly contributing to this has been the days and times assigned to the women's games. When the tournaments were separated, the women had evening games on all days. This year they had evening games only on the four-game Day One. And Los Angeles just does not support women's college basketball, although the LA Times ran two stories today on page 6 of the sports section, one captioned "USC's NCAA hopes dimmed" and the other "UCLA will face familiar Cal team".

The women's championship game between Stanford and UCLA is Saturday morning at 11:30 am. The team looks ready.

No comments:

Post a Comment