Upsets on first day of the Pac-12 tournament: Three lower seeds surprise opponents

LOS ANGELES – The Pac-12 Tournament was rife with upsets on opening day Wednesday, as three of four higher seeds fell.

In the opener, #8 Washington soundly defeated #9 Oregon 72-56. The second game was a heart-stopper, as #12 Arizona rallied to overcome #5 UCLA 61-57. Colorado, seeded tenth, upended #7 Utah next, leading the entire way for a final score of 55-41. In the final game of the day, #11 Washington State went on a run in the first half and maintained the lead, beating #6 Oregon State 65-56.

The unlikely results set up a series of interesting match ups for Thursday’s quarterfinals: Washington will take on #1 Stanford; Arizona will face #4 Arizona State; Colorado will go up against #2 California; and Washington State will try to beat #3 USC.

The top three teams have had different paths to the tournament, and their coaches have dissimilar approaches to the task before them the next two or three days.

USC has had an up-and-down season that included the loss of one of their star players and a mid-season slump of game losses. They ended the season on a six-game winning streak. Coach Michael Cooper said the Trojans are “finally starting to gel,” as well as work on their main weakness, which is defense.

“Our goal is to make it to the finals,” he said of the Tournament. “We are taking it one game at a time.”
He said another goal for the seniors is to make it to the NCAA Tournament – something that has eluded them during their time at USC.

“The seniors have never had the opportunity to go to the big dance,” Cooper said. “(Thursday) we’ll have to play a fantastic game.”

Cal finished a strong season in sole possession of second place in the conference, at 19-5. Their only blemish came Sunday in facing Stanford for the second and final time of the season. In their prior meeting the Bears almost upset the Cardinal, but the second time they were routed 86-61.

Cal Coach Lindsay Gottlieb said she called a team meeting the next day.

“We had to make sure we were in the right mindset after the Stanford game,” Gottlieb said. “The kids are competitors, warriors who want to win every game.”

“By the time we left that team meeting, we were ready to go.”

Gottlieb said she knew Stanford was playing to show the nation that they are the #1 seed. The Bears are focusing on their own goals.

“We need to take care of our business in order to be an elite team year in and year out.”

Stanford Coach Tara VanDerveer said the Cardinal have four key players in Nnemkadi Ogwumike, Chiney Ogwumike, Toni Kokenis and Joslyn Tinkle. After that, there is a drop off when it comes to experience.

“We have a lot of young players who have no idea of the hurricane they’re about to get into,” she said. “The Pac-12 (tournament) is a dress rehearsal.”

For Friday’s semifinals, the winner of Stanford-Washington will face the winner of Arizona-Arizona State, while the Colorado-Cal and USC-Washington State winners match up on the other side of the bracket. The championship game is 11:30 a.m. PT Saturday at Staples Center.

Thursday’s games will be on YouTube.

  • #8 Washington vs. #1 Stanford, 3 p.m. ET
  • #12 Arizona vs. #4 Arizona St., 5:15 p.m. ET
  • #10 Colorado vs. #2 California, 8 p.m. ET
  • #11 Washington St. vs. #3  USC, 10:15 p.m., ET


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