March 5, 2023
Sin City, more like upset city. Inside quarterfinal Saturday at the WCC Tournament
The upset bug is going around Las Vegas as the two underdogs won on quarterfinal Saturday at the WCC tournament.
LAS VEGAS — It seems the upsets bug that was going around the Pac-12 tournament and Michelob Ultra Arena spread its way down the road to the Orleans Arena as the No. 5 and 6 seeds were able to upset the third and fourth seed on Quarterfinal Saturday. Let’s take a look at how BYU and Pacific got it done and advanced to Monday’s semifinals.
Game of the Day: San Francisco vs BYU. The Dons and Cougars went back and forth throughout the first three quarters. Then the Cougars went on a run to start the fourth and pulled away.
Moment of the Day: Arielle Mackey-Williams dagger three as the shot clock buzzer expired. The three shut off all hopes of the Dons coming back.
Quote of the Day: “I think I’m just really grateful,” said San Diego sixth-year senior Myah Pace. “I’m just grateful for my teammates, my coaches, my family. This has been an amazing six years but a really tough six years and I am just so grateful. And I know right now. It’s really hard. You know, I know how good this team is. I know how talented we are. I wanted to, you know lead the team and do more and in the conference tournament. But at the end of the day, I think it just comes back to gratitude. It’s just been some of the most amazing years I’ve met so many amazing people and been able to achieve a lot. I’m just grateful for everybody that I’ve crossed paths with and it’s been a part of the journey.”
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Game 1: #5 BYU defeats #4 San Francisco 66-56
Summary: Down four heading in the fourth, BYU used a 13-0 run to start the final quarter to take a nine-point lead and never looked back. Their defense all game was phenomenal and in that fourth quarter, they held San Francisco scoreless for the first five minutes and forced six turnovers. The Cougars had three players in double-figures led by a career-high 17 points from Emma Calvert.
San Francisco Thoughts: The Dons played a great three quarters and then fell apart in the fourth quarter. The offense wasn’t great all day, but they were finding ways to baskets and hitting timely shots. However, at the start of the fourth quarter, they went ice cold and started turning the ball over. They had eight turnovers through the first three quarters and six in the final quarter.
USF’s star guard Ioanna Krimili had been struggling coming into the tournament and that continued against the Cougars. She came into the tournament averaging 17 points a game but the Cougars held her to just five points on two for 11 shooting. The Dons as a team shot just 32% from the field and 26% from three. San Francisco did get a nice lift from their bench, outscoring BYU 28 to five from their reserves. A lot of that was due to Debora dos Santos and WCC sixth player of the year Jasmine Gayles, who combined for 22 points off the bench.
The Dons’ defense was pretty stellar on BYU’s leading scorer Lauren Gustin. They held Gustin to just nine points on two of 14 shooting and she didn’t make her first field goal until the fourth quarter. They also forced 25 Cougar turnovers and scored 26 points from those turnovers. The Dons’ biggest issue on defense is they let BYU hit 12 threes, which was a season-high for the Cougars. Four of those 12 threes came in BYU’s big fourth quarter.
“I just think there was that stretch where they knocked down a few shots in a row and we had a few careless, sort of uncharacteristic turnovers that we usually don’t have,” said Jessica McDowell-White. “They just got on a roll, and we couldn’t find a bucket at that point. We’re struggling so it was probably been a good time to try to get to the rim but like I said, we just had some turnovers that gave them you know, easy looks at the rim.”
BYU Thoughts: The Cougars’ defense was impressive from start to finish. They limited all of San Francisco’s options and really made every basket hard for the Dons. They had USF to under 37% shooting in every quarter on Saturday, with the Dons never putting up more than 16 in a quarter. Kaylee Smiler did an incredible job guarding Ioanna Krimili from San Francisco. Smiler is BYU’s defensive stopper at the guard position, and she showed that, shutting down one of the WCC’s best scorers.
Offensively, the Cougars struggled inside the arc but from the perimeter they were excellent. BYU hit a season-high 12 threes. Emma Calvert hit five of those threes and scored 17 points on Saturday. The Dons were doubling on Lauren Gustin, BYU’s leading scorer, and leaving Calvert open.
Calvert took advantage of the open looks and was a huge key for BYU to get the win. Another player who knocked down multiple threes and was a big key for BYU was Arielle Mackey-Williams. She hit four threes including the dagger three with the shot clock winding down that put the Dons away for good.
Lauren Gustin struggled offensively for the Cougars, scoring just nine points on two of 14 shooting. However, her rebounding exceeded her relative standard as she set the WCC tournament record for rebounds in a game with 27. While her rebounding was great, she will need to find her offense if she wants to help BYU upset Gonzaga on Monday.
“I don’t know, I think these tournaments are kind of fun because you just get a bounce back to the next game,” said Emma Calvert. “And they can either be really good or really bad. If I were to take that game as Oh crap, I’m gonna play bad the whole tournament then that’s what it’s gonna be but if you just change your mindset, like new game, it’s zero, zero. We haven’t even started the game. I can’t have that mindset coming in. So just changing that to I got it. We’re gonna hit shots today. They’re gonna sink off me, got to help the team things like that.”
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Game 2: #6 Pacific defeats #3 San Diego 71-57
Summary: Using stout rebounding and defense from start to finish, Pacific was able to upset San Diego 71-57. The Tigers outrebounded San Diego by 17 and held them below 31% shooting in route to the victory. The Tigers had four players in double figures, led by 14 points from Liz Smith.
San Diego Thoughts: The Toreros offense didn’t come easy. They never shot better than 40% in a quarter and really struggled to make layups. The Toreros were nine of 24 on shots right around the rim and missed multiple easy point-blank opportunities. San Diego isn’t one of the best offensive teams in the WCC but the two times they played Pacific in the regular season, they scored an average of 79 points.
The leading scorer for San Diego, Ayanna Khalfani, struggled as well. She’d had a strong finish to the regular season offensively but Saturday she scored just nine points on three of nine shooting. She got in some early foul trouble and that took her out of her offensive rhythm. The Toreros only ended up with two players in double figures and only one player shot over 50% for them.
While San Diego isn’t known as the best offensive team, they are known for their defense and rebounding, which were the two biggest areas they struggled with on Saturday. Head coach Cindy Fisher said afterward she couldn’t remember the last time a San Diego team got outrebounded by 17. They also let the Tigers shoot 45% for the game and fouled 25 times, sending Pacific to the free-throw line 25 times.
The Toreros midway through the fourth were able to cut the Pacific lead to five but were never able to close the gap. Every time it looked like San Diego was going to make a run, Pacific was able to get a basket and that’s a big reason why they couldn’t get the victory.
“We had a lot of a lot of layups we just missed so many layups,” said Cindy Fisher. “They did exactly what we knew that they would do. We were hitting the rolls. We had opportunities you know, slicing in transition, getting to the rim. We just couldn’t finish tonight and some nights are that way but I think when that happens, and you start to get tighter and tighter and you’re trying to force things. I just thought we just struggled finishing at the random night and we didn’t offensive rebound put back like we normally do and our defense didn’t create the offensive it normally does for us.”
Pacific Thoughts: The Tigers came into the WCC tournament playing some of their best basketball and it has continued here in Las Vegas. Again, the Tigers got four double-digit scorers. Their depth helped push them to win on Friday against Saint Mary’s and it did so again on Saturday. The nice thing for the Tigers is that they have six or seven players who could score in double figures on any given night and that makes them tough to guard because anyone can go off.
Tonight, no one dominated for the Tigers, but they got a lot of solid performances. One of them came from Cecilia Holmberg who hit two clutch baskets when San Diego cut the Tiger lead to five in the fourth. Liz Smith was once again solid for the Tigers, scoring 14 points. While she only shot three of eight from the field, she knocked down eight free throws. She pushes the pace so well and is so difficult to guard in transition.
The Tigers were great as a team as well from the free-throw line. They drew 25 fouls and knocked down 21 of their 25 free throws. On defense, the Tigers made all of San Diego’s shots very difficult and really clogged up the paint. They also did a great job of boxing out an aggressive rebounding San Diego team, grabbing 30 defensive rebounds. The Tigers came in winning six of their last eight and now head to their first semifinals since 2018.
“It’s fun. We get to spend a weekend in Vegas now,” said Bradley Davis. “It’s fun. All credit to the players, you know we had two five-game losing streaks this season. And we battled back in the second half of the season, as you said going six and two. It just shows the toughness of this squad. And we felt like we were playing good basketball coming into this thing and I think we’re playing better basketball than we are the worse stuff. There’s been more ups than downs.”
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.