The first full day of the Pac-10 Tournament is in the books with mostly predictable results, but it's the one that didn't go according to plan that could have the conference hurting come Sunday.
Arizona State was thought to be on the verge of playing its way into the NCAA Tournament with a win or two in the conference tournament, and it seemed to be a foregone conclusion that the Sun Devils were on a crash course with Washington in the semifinals.
Turns out, only the Huskies got the memo, as No. 2 seed ASU lost a stunner to No. 7 seed Stanford, 70-61.
The Sun Devils fell behind early, came back to take a one-point lead early in the second half, then watched the Cardinal go on a big run keyed by eight straight points from Landry Fields -- who finished with 17, while Jeremy Green finished with 18 -- and would never threaten again. It was just another mystifying result in what has been a strange year in the Pac-10, and it likely means ASU will be heading to the NIT when the postseason tips off next week.
Washington held up its end of the bargain and strengthened its case for an at-large bid by coming back from a 13-point second half deficit to defeat Oregon State, 59-52. The Beavers had succeeded in uglying the game up, holding the Huskies to just 23 points through the first 25 minutes, but then Washington remembered it was playing for its NCAA life, and began to do what it does best -- force turnovers on defense, crash the boards on offense, and watch Isaiah Thomas take over a game.
While it doesn't set up the NCAA Tournament showdown many were expecting, the UW/Stanford semifinal will feature one of the better individual battles you'll see in any conference on Friday: UW's Quincy Pondexter vs. Stanford's Fields. It's rare that you see two elite players literally go head to head, guarding each other on both ends of the floor. That's what you'll get tomorrow.
In the first game of the morning session, UCLA beat Arizona 75-69 in a game that was close throughout, but was led by the Bruins virtually the entire way. It marked the return of Reeves Nelson, who hadn't played since that ugly forehead-greets-floor incident in Pullman, which required surgery on his eye. He was big with 18 points and 11 rebounds.
The loss finally extinguishes any flickering hope that the Wildcats would continue their 25 year run in the NCAA Tournament.
The Bruins will meet conference regular season champ California in the semifinals after the Golden Bears easily handled Oregon, 90-74. Cal led by 22 with less than 10 minutes to go, powered in large part by conference player of the year Jerome Randle's 22 first-half points. It was a tough draw for the Ducks, who finished their overtime win against Washington State last night at about 10:30 p.m., then had to come back and play at 2:30 this afternoon.
With the loss, Ernie Kent has likely coached his final game for the Ducks.
Here's Friday's schedule. All times PST, all games broadcast on FSN.
Friday, March 12 - Semifinals
#5 UCLA vs. #1 Cal, 6 p.m.
#7 Stanford vs. #3 UW, 8:30 p.m.