February 28, 2022 

Pac-12 Notebook: UCLA bolsters NCAA hopes

Lesila Finau steps up for Colorado

Reviewing the last week of Pac-12 Women’s Basketball, previewing the week to come.

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Final Standings

In order of Conference Record (Conference Record, Overall Record)
  1. No. 2 Stanford (16-0, 25-3)
  2. Oregon (11-6, 19-10)
  3. Washington State (11-6, 19-9)
  4. No. 14 Arizona (10-6, 20-6)
  5. Colorado (9-7, 20-7)
  6. Utah (8-7, 17-10)
  7. UCLA (8-8, 13-11)
  8. Oregon State (6-9, 13-2)
  9. Arizona State (4-9, 12-13)
  10. USC (5-12, 12-15)
  11. Cal (2-10, 11-12)
  12. Washington (2-12, 7-15)

Spotlight: Teams of the Week

(not necessarily the best teams of the week, but ones the author wanted to spotlight)

UCLA: 2/24 W at Arizona, 64-46; 2/26 W at Arizona St., 59-52

Heading into this week’s games, UCLA’s chances for the NCAA Tournament were in big trouble. After three straight losses, the Bruins would have to sweep both Arizona schools on the road to keep their hopes of an at-large berth alive.

UCLA responded with two games of urgent, all-around effort on both ends. First, against No. 12 Arizona, junior guard Charisma Osborne and senior forward IImar’I Thomas led the way with 18 and 16 points on offense, respectively. Then, the entire team crashed the boards on defense, outrebounding Arizona 48-26, with Thomas, Osborne, and senior guard Chantel Horvat all having at least 9 rebounds apiece. This sequence from UCLA, with a block from Osborne, a hustling tip from Horvat, and an instant Osborne jumper, exemplifies UCLA’s breakneck pace in this do-or-die game:

UCLA followed up their upset win over Arizona with a comeback win at Arizona State, finishing off a sweep of the Arizona schools. Charisma again led the way with 17 points, and Thomas, after a quiet first three quarters, scored 5 points in a critical (7-0) 4th quarter run that secured the victory for the Bruins. Coach Cori Close’s team will likely need two victories in this week’s Pac-12 Tournament to secure an at-large berth to the NCAA Tournament, including an upset win over Oregon. But after these two great performances with their backs against the wall, nobody should count the Bruins out.

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Colorado: 2/23 W v. #25 Oregon, 86-83 (2OT); 2/26 W v. Oregon St., 60-45

Colorado’s place in the NCAA tournament was already well-secured before this week, but these two wins from the Buffaloes put an exclamation point on a fantastic regular season. The first, a double-overtime thriller against No. 25 Oregon, might have been the game of the year. An excellent Colorado performance featuring senior guard Lesila Finau’s career-high 15 points gave them an 11-point lead with only 90 seconds left. But Oregon’s Nyara Sabally took over, scoring 7 points in 30 seconds to cut the lead to four, with fierce Oregon defense forcing two turnovers in the interim. And when Colorado missed three FTs in the final 30 seconds, including two from junior Jaylyn Sherrod, Oregon had the chance to tie the game up courtesy of two FTs from guard Endyia Rogers — overtime.

After seeing a sure win disappear, it would have been understandable for Colorado to have a letdown in the extra period. But the Buffaloes kept on fighting, playing Oregon to a draw in the first OT and then taking the lead in the second OT. With a few seconds left, Sherrod again stepped up to the FT line with a chance to ice the game. This time, she did not miss.

Colorado’s momentum continued into the weekend, where they used an (18-1) 2nd quarter run to take control against the Oregon State Beavers. This time, they kept the lead, holding the Beavers to 38% shooting and forcing 20 turnovers. The ever-steady Mya Hollingshed provided 13 points and 8 rebounds, while Frida Formann added 15 points off the bench. JR Payne’s squad is headed to its first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2013 and the first under her tenure. With four straight wins to end the season, the Buffaloes are stampeding into March.

Pac-12 Player of the Week

Charisma Osborne, UCLA

Credit: UCLA Women’s Basketball Twitter

With a gimpy leg and potentially facing her first-ever absence from the NCAA Tournament, junior guard Osborne responded with some of the best basketball of her career. The 5’9 Los Angeles native averaged 17.5 points 3.5 assists, and soared above the crowd to average 8.5 rebounds in her two games this week. They say pressure creates diamonds, and Osborne produced some gems this week. With more do-or-die games to come in this week’s Pac-12 Tournament, coach Cori Close will again rely on her team’s leader to shine her brightest.

Other Notable Weeks: Cameron Brink, Stanford (16.5 points, 13.5 rebounds, 4.5 blocks); Mya Hollingshed, Colorado (14.0 points, 9.0 rebounds, 3.0 assists).

Pac-12 Tournament Preview

Pac-12 Tournament Bracket (credit: Pac-12.com)

No. 1 seed Stanford is the heavy favorite to win their second-straight Pac-12 tournament, but with single-elimination, anything can happen. Here are the implications this week can have on the NCAA Tournament:

In (projected seed): Stanford (1), Oregon (4), Washington St. (10), Arizona (3), Colorado (8), Utah (9)

All these teams are relatively secure in their seeds. Notably, Arizona will likely be without senior star forward Cate Reese for at least their first game. If they lose that game, they may be in danger of becoming a 4-seed and having to face a 1-seed should they advance to the Sweet 16. Colorado may benefit from winning two games and improving to a 7-seed, avoiding a nasty potential 2nd-round matchup with a 1st seed. Utah or Washington State would also love to make a deep run and earn a top-8 seed.

On the Bubble: UCLA, Oregon St., Arizona St.

These teams would likely have to win at least two games to secure an at-large NCAA Tournament berth. Oregon State and Arizona State would face the daunting task of upsetting Stanford to do it, while UCLA has a slightly easier road of a potential match-up with Oregon.

Cinderella Run?: USC, Cal, Washington

In the 20-year history of the Pac-12 Women’s Basketball Tournament, No. 5 USC was the lowest seed to ever win. So while a miracle run to a tournament title and an NCAA Tournament berth is unlikely for these teams, they all come with some momentum in some recent weeks. An upset would work wonders in building positive energy heading into next season.

Written by Sam Hwang

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