Friday, March 7, 2014


By Wally Mersereau

Endurance is essential to survive certain challenging ordeals: running a marathon, persevering in the dog sled race to Nome, and being a fan for all of the first day of the Pac-12 Tournament. The latter event goes on and on. Fortunately, the seats in Key Arena are well upholstered.

In four games, eight teams went at it like cats and dogs, as if their very survival depended on it—which it did. Four teams won and will play at least one more game. For the other four it was one and done--their 2013-2014 season ended in defeat in Key Arena.

The competition began at noon and concluded ten and a half hours later.

Game 1

First up was #8 UCLA against #9 Colorado. The Bruins led slightly at the half, but the Buffs tied the game midway through the second half and then took the lead and held on to win 76-65. The Wilson sisters finished with 16 and 17 points each. Stanford will play Colorado at noon on Friday. Kate and Tempie scouted today’s game. A key Cardinal objective will be to control the Wilsons.

Game 2

Next up was #5 USC vs. #12 Arizona. This should have been an easy win for the Trojans. Arizona only came out on the winning end of one Pac-12 game this season. But Arizona fought like Wildcats and led at the half 30-25. The teams traded the lead in the second half and USC managed to do just enough to come away with the win 59-54. USC will play Arizona State on Day 2.

Game 3

This 6 pm tip-off game was the most fun to watch. #7 Washington State took on #10 Oregon. Oregon brought its run-and-gun offense and the Cougars matched the fast pace and then some, led by Tia and Lia. At the half the Cougs were ahead 59-55. In the second half the Ducks twice cut the lead to three, but the Paul Westhead era ended as WSU triumphed 107-100. Four players led the scoring: Presley and Galdeira for the Cougars with 31 points apiece and Rowe and Alleyne for Oregon with 29 and 28 points each. WSU will play Cal on Friday.

Game 4

I began yawning in this final game of the day as fatigue began to show itself. But the game was not a yawner. #6 Washington, the slayer of Stanford, met #11 Utah. The Huskies did not have their magic touch today and allowed the Utes to come away with the upset of the day. Utah led at the half 31-28 and at the finish 65-53. Plouffe scored 28 for Utah and Plum 20 for UW. The Utes are the lowest seed to progress to the second day when they will meet #3 Oregon State.

Most fans did not stay all day. Only a few of the hardiest or most foolish did so. The majority came to watch their team and then departed, usually arriving early or lingering to watch part of another game. My guess is somewhere between 1,500 and 2,000 people were present for at least one game. At any one time attendance varied from about 200 to 300 for the afternoon games and from 700 to 1,000 for the night games.

Friday will again be an endurance test for ardent fans with another slate of four games. The top four Pac-12 teams will arrive fresh and confident to meet the tired survivors of Day 1, all of whom were forced to give their all to earn the right to play another day.

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