LAS VEGAS — In terms of its top teams and its depth, the Pac-12 Conference takes a back seat to no other conference, and it has, arguably, been the deepest league in the country over the past 15 years. On Wednesday, the league’s depth was on display on the Las Vegas Strip, as some of the top teams in the league (and the country) were pushed to the limit while another former Pac-12 power turned back the clock to pull off an upset.
A Lot of Sports Talk’s wall-to-wall coverage of conference tournament action over the next couple of weeks begins with the Pac-12 Women’s Basketball Tournament, which got underway at the Michelob Ultra Arena as the No. 5 seed in the tournament, AP No. 19 UCLA, had to scratch and claw to finally put away No. 12 seed Arizona State 81-70 in overtime to begin the day’s action. Up by 10 to begin the fourth, the Bruins managed only six points in the quarter, with two coming on a layup by much-heralded freshman Kiki Rice with 1:28 remaining to force overtime. In the extra session, Emily Bessoir, who led the Bruins with 17 points, nailed two three-pointers to give UCLA some breathing room. UCLA will take on fourth-seeded Arizona, ranked 21st in the country, in the quarterfinals on Thursday.
The second game of the afternoon was a defensive struggle, one that ninth-seeded Oregon came out on top over eighth-ranked Washington 52-50. Endyia Rogers scored 28 points for the Ducks, who are now 17-13 and squarely on the bubble in terms of making the NCAA Tournament. The Ducks may need to win tomorrow’s game against top-seeded Stanford to secure a trip to the NCAA Tournament, which the Ducks have made in each of the last five NCAA Tournaments that have been staged.
The evening session started with another team on the NCAA Tournament bubble, the Washington State Cougars, come away with a much-needed victory, as it avoided what would have been a bad loss by disposing of California 61-49. The game was tight throughout, the Golden Bears leading by six at halftime. The Cougars responded, however, by scoring 23 points in the third quarter to take a two-point lead going into the fourth quarter, then holding Cal to just seven points in the final stanza to put the game away. Charlisse Leger-Walker, who was third in the Pac-12 in scoring this season, led Wazzu with 23 points.
In the nightcap, it was No. 11 seed Oregon State who pulled off the day’s biggest surprise, defeating No. 6 USC 56-48, using a 22-point fourth quarter to overcome a three-point deficit after three quarters. Freshman forward Raegan Beers led the Beavers with 18 points and nine rebounds, while another freshman, Adlee Blacklock, had 15 points and six rebounds. The Trojans still appear to be on the right side of the bubble as far as the NCAA Tournament is concerned, but will still have a long wait between now and Selection Monday to make sure to hear their name called..
*Editor’s note: Above the byline is the photo gallery from Wednesday evening’s games, with the photos taken by Las Vegas-area photographer Arnie Bazemore. After clicking on the first photo to enlarge the picture, make sure to press the left and right arrow buttons to scroll through the rest of the pictures. There are 14 pictures in total.