March 5, 2022 

Inside the West Coast Conference Women’s Basketball Tournament Day 2

It was Upset City in the Sin City

LAS VEGAS — Day 2 of the West Coast Conference Women’s Basketball Tournament has come and gone. While it was the second day of the tournament, it was my first at the event. On Day 1, in case you missed it, No. 9-seeded Loyola Marymount defeated No. 8-seeded Pepperdine 64-54 and No. 7 Santa Clara defeated No. 10 Pacific 93-69. Now, on to a recap and thoughts on both games on Day 2 at Orleans Arena.

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Loyola Marymount Lions forward Jasmine Jones (20) high-fives teammate Nicole Rodriguez (24) in a WCC Tournament game against the Saint Mary’s Gaels at Orleans Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada, on March 4, 2022. (Photo credit: Kyle Terada)

No. 5 Saint Mary’s vs. No. 9 Loyola Marymount

Game summary: Behind a balanced attack, LMU upset Saint Mary’s 71-64. Despite playing yesterday, ninth-seeded LMU came out with a ton of energy. Holding the Gaels to three made baskets, the Lions built an 18-6 lead by the end of the first quarter. Saint Mary’s made up some ground in the second, but LMU held firm and took a 34-25 lead into the locker room. LMU forced 12 Gael turnovers in the first half, scoring 11 points off those.

LMU scored 10 of the first 14 points in the third quarter to take its biggest lead of the game, 15 points. The Gaels responded with a 17-5 run over the final six minutes of the quarter and trailed by just three, 49-46, going into the fourth. Saint Mary’s cut the deficit to one possession multiple times in the fourth but wasn’t ever able to take the lead as LMU held on for a second straight upset.

My thoughts on Saint Mary’s performance: Saint Mary’s didn’t have great energy to start the game, and it ended up being their downfall. The Gaels faced a 12-point deficit after one, and a large part of that was due to their inability to hold onto the ball. They had five turnovers in the first quarter and 12 in the half.

The Gaels’ run in the third quarter was impressive. They were able to limit their turnovers and hit threes to cut a 15-point deficit to just three heading into the fourth. Fifth-year senior Madeline Holland was strong in her final game at Saint Mary’s as she finished with 15 points, eight rebounds and three assists. Taycee Wedin, who is the WCC’s all-time 3-point leader, had a good game as well with 18 points and four made threes.

Holland has been at Saint Mary’s for five years and has left a lasting legacy on the program. “My five years here were very up and down. Obviously, we had my first two winning seasons and then we kind of hit a hole,” she said. “Then this year I think we came back from last year and we had gotten better now. I knew what I needed to do as a leader to lead the younger girls … so they can understand what to do moving forward.”

My thoughts on LMU’s performance: The Lions played so much better than their 11-18 record. They only averaged 60 points per game this season but scored the ball well on Friday. They were incredibly balanced with five players in double figures. Sophomore forward Alexis Mark impressed with her handles and her ability to get to the basket. Senior Cassandra Gordon had a career-high 13 points. The Lions also did a great job guarding WCC Newcomer of the Year Ali Bamberger, holding her to eight points on 4-of-15 shooting. LMU’s ability to weather every run from Saint Mary’s was incredibly impressive for a team with a first-year and first-time head coach in Aarika Hughes.

Hughes was proud of her team’s effort and said that LMU wants to do something special at the WCC Tournament.

“I’ve told them throughout the entire year, ‘Bet on yourselves. This program can be special. Why wait until next year or three years from now? Go ahead and take it,'” Hughes said. “They’re figuring out that, if they run and they play hard and they play for each other, the outcome is probably going to favor us.”

Santa Clara Broncos guard Lana Hollingsworth (34) shoots against the San Diego Toreros in a WCC Tournament game at Orleans Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada, on March 4, 2022. Photo Credit: Kyle Terada

No. 6 San Diego vs. No. 7 Santa Clara

Game summary: Behind a conference tournament record for free throws made and some late defensive stops, Santa Clara held off San Diego 86-79. The Toreros’ defense in the first quarter was very stingy, holding the Broncos to just 29% shooting, and allowed San Diego to take a 16-15 lead after one. With 2:56 remaining in the second quarter, Santa Clara’s leading scorer Lindsay VanAllen was fouled hard by San Diego’s Kendall Bird on a layup attempt. Bird was ejected for the foul and VanAllen was taken to the locker room after she seemed to injure her hand. Despite VanAllen’s injury, Santa Clara led San Diego 40-35 at halftime behind 22 free-throw attempts. VanAllen didn’t return in the second half for the Broncos, but it didn’t matter. They hit 50% of their shots in the third and took a nine-point lead into the fourth. In a fourth quarter that saw 23 fouls and 41 free throw attempts, San Diego made a late push, but it wasn’t enough.

I have never seen a game like this before. The game was so choppy between the 60 fouls and 88 free-throw attempts. All the stoppages made it seem like the game went on forever, and both teams set program records for free throws made and attempted in the conference tournament.

My thoughts on San Diego’s performance: San Diego played its style of game, to the extreme. Losing Kendall Bird in the second quarter hurt, but Laura Erikstrup stepped up in a big way, scoring 12 points. San Diego had some good defensive moments, especially in the fourth quarter, when it cut the Santa Clara lead to one possession. The Toreros were able to force some turnovers with their press and speed Santa Clara up for the first time all day. They also got a great performance from Erica Martinsen, who had 16 points and five steals. Finally, Sydney Hunter had a big game in what could be her final game as a Torero. She had 20 points to go along with seven rebounds, and the fifth-year senior felt she left it all out on the court.

“I wouldn’t want to be with any other team, and I think that was the worst part of when the buzzer went off, just knowing that was my last time I laced up the shoes and [went] through the rituals,” Hunter said. “I wouldn’t trade this year [or] my five years here for anything else.”

My thoughts on Santa Clara’s performance: If you haven’t gotten a chance to watch Lindsay VanAllen, I feel for you. She is an amazing scorer and has a multitude of moves. She had 12 points on Friday, but the injury seems likely to hold her out of Saturday’s quarterfinal game versus San Francisco. She is a senior but does have another year of eligibility.

When VanAllen got hurt, Ashley Hiraki stepped up. Hiraki finished with a game-high 22 points and played a big role in running the team. Santa Clara also hit a tournament-record 36 free throws. The Broncos handled every run San Diego threw at them and got a few key stops at the end of the game. Head coach Bill Carr knew the game would be an alley fight.

“It’s always like that with [San Diego], and like I said, my group’s not going to back down from that,” Carr said. “You know they’ll go in and we got down a little bit, but I knew that we were going to keep plodding along.”

Written by Matthew Walter

Matthew Walter covers the Las Vegas Aces, the Pac-12 and the WCC for the Next. He is a former Director of Basketball Operations and Video Coordinator at three different Division I women's basketball programs.

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