Vilardo: Day 2 Pac-12 & MWC Hoops Tournament Takeaways

Thursday's games did not disappoint, showing once again that no lead is safe in March

Posted on March 10, 2023

  By Stephen Vilardo, SuperWest Sports

The Pac-12 and Mountain West tournaments overlapped with identical schedules on Thursday, so I spent the opening session at the Pac-12 tournament and then headed to the Mountain West Tournament for the evening session.

Pac-12At T-Mobile Arena, I took in the morning game between No. 1 UCLA and No. 10 Colorado and hung around for the afternoon game featuring No. 4 Oregon vs No. 5 Washington State.

The evening session at the Thomas & Mack Center featured contests between No. 2 Boise State and No. 7 UNLV, followed by No. 3 Utah State vs. No. 6 New Mexico.

The games did not disappoint. The thing to know in March is that no lead is safe.

Here are my quick notes and takeaways.

Pac-12 Quarterfinals

1-Seed UCLA 80,  9-Seed Colorado 69
UCLA struggled to find their shot for the first few minutes of this one, and when they did find it, Colorado started to match them. At one point the teams combined to hit 10 consecutive shots, five apiece.

Colorado finished the half shooting 58.3% from the floor while the Bruins were 50.0% from the floor in the opening 20. The Buffs closed the first half on a 6-1 scoring run to take a 38-37 lead into the locker room.

With 14:47 to go in the game, Colorado went up 49-46, over the next 4:32 it would be a 9-0 Bruins run fueled by four turnovers by the Buffs and UCLA built a 55-49 edge.

Then it was Colorado’s turn to go on a 9-1 run to take a 61-60. The lead lasted all of 21 seconds and then it was UCLA rolling off nine straight to open up a 69-60 lead and would finish the game on a 20-9 run to close out the game.

Jaime Jaquez and Tyger Campbell combined to score 15 of the Bruins’ final 20 points. On the season, the Bruins were 10th in the nation in second-half scoring margin at +5.9 per game. They were +12 after the half in this one.

Julian Hammond had a career-high 21 points in the opening round against Washington and followed it up with another 14 points in the loss. He is averaging 16.7 points per game in his last three. Amari Bailey finished with 26 points for the Bruins.

Both teams moved the ball well as Colorado finished with an assist rate of 53.8% while UCLA finished at 76.0%. UCLA was +17 at the FT line and +10 in points off turnovers.

The Buffs played UCLA tough for the third time this season. UCLA just made too many plays down the stretch and that was acknowledged by Tad Boyle afterward when the mentioned that is what Campbell and Jaquez do.

Oregon Ducks Logo Pac-124-Seed Oregon 75, 5-Seed Washington State 70
The first half was all Oregon early in this one, with the Ducks shooting a lights-out at 53.3%  and the Cougars struggling at just 35.1%.

A 12-2 run for Washington State and a three-and-a-half minute drought for the Ducks made it just an eight-point lead at halftime. N’Faly Dante hit everything he attempted in the first half, compiling 10 points and seven rebounds at the break.

The Ducks had built up a 19-point first-half lead in the first 15 minutes, enjoying a 34-15 advantage. Over the course of the next 17:30, however, Washington State would outscore Oregon 47-24 to take a 62-58 lead with seven and a half minutes to play.

The teams would trade buckets with the score tied at 70 with three minutes to go. Oregon’s defense would step up in the final three minutes with a huge block from Dante and a pair of gigantic rejections by DJ Rodman for WSU.

There would be just one FG in the final three minutes, a layup by Dante with 1:34 to go, that would prove to be the game-winner. The Ducks would add three FTs, while the Cougars would miss their last four FGs and remain scoreless over the final 3:36 of the game.

Oregon went on a 7-0 run for the to finish the game over the last 3:05. Keeshawn Bathelemy and Jermaine Couisnard finished with 17 points each to lead Oregon in scoring.

The Cougars got good balance from their starters for the second day in a row as they had four in double figures with TJ Bamba leading the Cougs with 19.

Oregon dominated the inside with a 42-18 edge in paint points. Washington State outscored Oregon 33-18 on three-point shooting. Both teams missed their share of bunnies as the Cougars were just 3-10 on layups and the Ducks went 11-20.

Mountain West Quarterfinals

2-Seed Boise State 87, 7-Seed UNLV 76 (OT)
The Broncos wasted no time building a lead against UNLV. It was 9-0 after two and a half minutes of play and before the under-12 time out in the first half Boise State had doubled up the Rebels at 25-12.

It was all Boise State in the first half, taking a 50-34 lead into the locker room. The Broncos connected on 70.4% of their shots from the floor and were even better on three’s, knocking down 10 of 14 for 71.4%.

Defensively in the opening 20 minutes, the Broncos limited UNLV to 46.7% from the field. And then the second half started and things got drastically different!

A Boise State lead that ballooned at 48-26 with 2:17 to play in the first half had shrunk down to 56-52 with 12:30 to play in the game.

The Rebels started the second half by making seven of their first 11 shots while the Broncos missed seven of their first 13 shots in the final 20 minutes. Similar to what we saw at T-Mobile a couple of hours ago with Oregon and WSU, the script was flipped at the half.

And much like the earlier game, the team that mounted the comeback ultimately fell in the end. This one was decided in overtime, however, and got there with a tying three-pointer by Shane Nowell.

For the Rebels, it was the third-straight overtime game and the second on consecutive days, which may have taken a toll on their legs. The final margin was 11 for Boise State after the overtime period, buoyed by FTs and a technical near the end.

Boise State ended up with five players in double figures with Marcus Shaver topping the list with 17. EJ Harkless had another good outing for UNLV 18 points, 7 rebounds and 6 assists. Both teams finished with 17 assists for the game.

The Broncos’ assist rate was 56.7% while the Rebels had a helper on 58.6% of their made buckets. UNLV scored 17 points off 11 Boise State turnovers while the Broncos got nine points off 13 giveaways by the Rebels.

3-seed Utah State 91, 6-seed New Mexico 76
The first half between the Lobos and the Aggies was fast and furious. Taylor Funk found his stroke early for Utah State as he accounted for 13 of USU’s opening 16 points.

Funk had a season-high 24 points the last time Utah State took the floor, and he went into the half with 21 points in this one. Funk, along with Steven Ashworth and Dan Akin, accounted for 42 of the Aggies’ 44 first-half points.

The trio shot 15-23 in the first half while the rest of the Aggies were a combined 1-11. Utah State entered the game fourth in the nation in three-point shooting at 40.1%, going 7-14 on triples in the first 20 minutes.

New Mexico also shot 50% in the half on threes, but with just one make on two attempts. Lobos got 10 points apiece in the first half from Jamal Mashburn and Morris Udeze.

The lead would get as high as 18 in the second half, and New Mexico would fight to get it down to 10 on several occasions, but the margin would ultimately end up 15 points in favor of the Aggies at 91-76.

Utah State ended the game shooting 12-24 on three-pointers, getting 39.5% of their points off triples. Jamal Mashburn led the Lobos with 20 points, needing 25 shots to get there. Taylor Funk led all scorers with 32 points, his second career 30-point game.

In his last two games, Funk has averaged 28 per game. Dan Akin ended up with 17 points and Max Shulga also reached double figures with 12 for the victors. The Aggies assisted on 21 of their 30 made FGs for the contest.

Semifinal Matchups
The semifinals in both conferences are set. In the Pac-12 it will be UCLA facing off against Oregon in the first semifinal and Arizona squaring off against Arizona State for the rubber match in the second.

In the Mountain West, it will be San Diego State facing off with San Jose State in the opener and Utah State and Boise State in the nightcap to determine the last spot in the championship.

—More from Stephen Vilardo—