The “feast week” games are wrapping up today, and Gonzaga will head into December with a 5-1 record after a couple hair-loss inducing games against Florida and Texas in the PK80. Thanksgiving break usually provides the first real test for college basketball teams in the non-conference slate.
Looking at the WCC, St. Mary’s and BYU each suffered losses during their respective Thanksgiving tournaments, leaving the surprising Toreros of USD as the only undefeated team in the conference. Portland fared about as expected in the PK80, and Santa Clara struggled in the Great Alaskan Shootout. Here’s a quick rundown of each team’s Thanksgiving weekend:
BYU suffered an ugly 89-74 loss against UT-Arlington last week. The Mavericks went on a 22-4 run early on and built a double-digit lead which they never relinquished. This is the second time in seven months that BYU has lost to Arlington. For a program that’s only chance to make the tournament is via an at-large bid, losses like this have a big impact on BYU’s tournament chances. The Cougars were able to recover in time to notch a win against MAAC opponent Niagara 95-88 in the first round of the Barclays Center Classic. BYU was down at half but was able to mount the comeback. Elijah Bryant had 22 points off the bench. The Cougars drew #25 Alabama in the second round and lost 71-59. While this isn’t a bad loss, BYU’s tournament hopes take a considerable hit with every defeat. A buzzer beating dunk by Yoeli Childs gave BYU a 68-66 win over UMass in their final game of the Barclays Center Classic. BYU plays at Utah Valley and Utah State next week, two must-win games if BYU wants a chance to snag an at-large bid in March.
Loyola Marymount (3-2)
LMU battled from 11 down at halftime to force overtime and eventually defeat the McNeese Cowboys 92-86. They battled from as many as 12 down against Incarnate Word and again pulled off the victory, beating them 91-87. JuCo transfer Justin Batemon had 14 of his 26 points in the last six minutes of that contest. The comeback kids were not able to pull off another upset, hanging tight with Boise State before an ugly second half led to a 68-48 defeat. LMU is led by Batemon at 16.4 points per game. The Lions will take on D2 Cal-State Los Angeles on Tuesday before heading north to play PAC-12 opponent Oregon State on Friday.
Pacific took their lumps early in the season, starting off 0-3 with losses to Stanford, UC-Davis and Nevada. They forced their way into the win column with a 83-71 victory over Air Force last week and followed that up with a nine point victory over 0-7 Arkansas-Pine Bluff. They hung tough against Texas State yesterday, eventually falling 85-78. Pacific is led by Juco transfer Roberto Gallinat, who is averaging 15.2 points per game. He likes to shoot from the outside and is an 84% free throw shooter on the year. Gallinat and the Tigers will take on Canisius Sunday afternoon and UC-Riverside next week.
Pepperdine has dropped three of their last four games, but has managed to hang around against some pretty tough opponents. First the Waves dropped a 84-82 heart-breaker to Big Sky foe Northern Colorado. Pepperdine had five players in double figures but only shot 3-12 from downtown. They squared off against UC-Santa Barbara next and lost 92-84. Kameron Edwards had 27 and freshman guard Colbey Ross added 25. Pepperdine then defeated Oral Roberts 80-76 in the Legends Classic. Ross had 21 in that game, including 19 in the second half. The Waves finished their Thanksgiving weekend with a tough 81-65 loss against #16 Texas A&M. They only managed to make 4-of-19 three pointers and shot 54.2% from the line. Pepperdine has challenged themselves in the non-conference slate, an encouraging sign for their growth as a program. They could be a pesky team to put away come WCC play. They will host Southern Utah next week before hitting the road to play at Cal Poly.
The Pilots had their hands full as one of the host teams of the PK80 tournament over Thanksgiving weekend. UP drew the defending champion North Carolina Tar Heels in the first round and were handed a 102-78 defeat behind Luke Maye’s 20 points and 10 rebounds. Portland did not fare much better against Oklahoma in the consolation bracket, losing 93-71. They face Depaul on Sunday afternoon for their final game of the tournament. Credit UP for hanging tough against some very solid teams. They scored more points in the second half of each contest and gained some very valuable experience. Terry Porter’s squad, led by Franklin Porter’s 13 points per game, will face the Multnomah Lions at home next week before hitting the road to take on Boise State next Sunday.
Saint Mary’s (5-1)
The steadfast refusal to play high quality opponents non-conference by Randy Bennett and the Gaels bit them in the backside yet again, as they lost 84-79 to Washington State in the Wooden Classic. Saint Mary’s was the only ranked team in the tournament, and were favored to win. Their schedule does not afford them any opportunities to secure a “statement win” non-conference, which would help them come tournament time. It is a high-risk, low-reward game they are playing down in Moraga, and it continues to impact their development into a Nationally recognized program. They beat San Jose State and Harvard earlier in the week - but the loss to the Cougars is all that matters. SMC draws Georgia in the consolation game Sunday afternoon and will head to Cal next week. It is time for them to step up and be willing to lose to teams like UCLA and Arizona non-conference instead of embarrassing themselves and their reputation against teams like Washington State.
Santa Clara (1-5)
Santa Clara coach Herb Sendek must be thankful that Thanksgiving break is over after his squad struggled last week. The Broncos lost at home against Cal Poly 63-59 before heading into the Great Alaska Shootout tournament. Santa Clara proceeded to lose all three contests over in Anchorage. They dropped their opener to Idaho 69-59, then fell to the host University of Alaska-Anchorage 78-73. They played Sam Houston State in their last game and lost 73-59. This is shaping up to be a rough season for the Broncos, whose only victory is against a D3 opponent. KJ Feagin is averaging 17.4 points per game and is the Broncos only chance this season at pulling an upset. Santa Clara will host Northern Arizona and Arkansas-Pine Bluff next week in the hopes of earning their first D1 win of the season.
University of San Diego (5-0)
And then there was one. Raise your hand if you thought San Diego would be the last remaining undefeated team in the WCC this year. Credit the Toreros who went on the road and beat a tough WAC opponent in Grand Canyon yesterday to remain undefeated. GCU is expected by many to win the WAC and advance to their first NCAA tournament since making the switch to D1 a few years ago. This is a high-quality win for USD on the road and adds some legitimacy to their record. Utah transfer Isaiah Wright had 16 points, 10 rebounds and 9 assists against GCU and is looking like a candidate for WCC Newcomer of the Year. USD added victories against Norfolk State and Little Rock as well. They will face local rival San Diego State on Thursday, a game that carries a lot more weight with USD’s hot start.
University of San Francisco (3-1)
USF chose not to participate in a Thanksgiving tournament this year, taking a week off between games. The break could slow down the Dons momentum, as they are currently riding a three-game win streak. The Dons took on Sacramento State last Sunday and won 69-56 behind 19 from senior Chase Foster. USF struggled mightily behind the three-point line, shooting 7-for-33 from beyond the arc. They will have to pick that percentage up if they want to contend for another fourth place finish in the WCC. USF also played an exhibition game against Division-II Sonoma State and won easily, 78-55. The Dons went on an early 25-0 run and cruised from there. Foster had 18 to lead the Dons. USF takes on Big West rival UC-Santa Barbara on Tuesday and then will travel out to Phoenix to face PAC-12 opponent Arizona State on Saturday, the first big test for the Dons.