Pac-10 Women's Basketball Season Wrap-Up
April 17, 2006
For the first time in Pac-10 history, six women's basketball teams competed in the NCAA Tournament, tied for third-most among the major conferences, while three Pac-10 teams concluded the season ranked among the national Top-25 for the second straight year. The 2005-06 season was a successful one for the league as a whole as a total of seven teams earned postseason berths, while the Conference landed one player to the Kodak All-America Team and five others garnered honorable mention status.
The STANFORD Cardinal finished with a 15-3 league record, just one game ahead of second-place ARIZONA STATE (14-4) to grab its record-setting sixth consecutive Pac-10 championship. Third-place UCLA (12-6) defeated top-seeded Stanford, 85-76 in overtime, to capture its first-ever State Farm Pac-10 Tournament title.
Six teams -- Arizona State, CALIFORNIA, Stanford, UCLA, USC and WASHINGTON -- received NCAA Tournament bids for the first time in Conference history leaving little doubt as to the top competition in the Pac-10, as five teams won their first round games. The Cardinal reached the Elite Eight for the third-straight year, falling to LSU in the last seconds of the San Antonio Regional final, 62-59. Stanford's NCAA Tournament run included a 14-point, convincing win over second-seeded Oklahoma, 88-74. Arizona State earned an 80-61 win over Stephen F. Austin in the first round, but could not surpass fifth-seeded Utah in the round of 32, dropping an 86-65 decision. California returned to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 13 years, while USC made its second-consecutive appearance in the 'Big Dance.' The Women of Troy fell to national finalist, Duke, 85-51, in the second round. Fellow LA-counterpart, UCLA, downed Bowling Green, 74-61, behind the 23 points of SR G Lisa Willis, while Washington upset eighth-seeded Minnesota, 73-69, in first round play of the San Antonio Regional.
Three Pac-10 teams closed out the season ranked among the Top-25 in the final USA Today/ESPN/WBCA poll for the second-straight year as Stanford finished at No. 7, Arizona State at No. 17 and UCLA at No. 18. USC and Washington received votes.
FINAL CONFERENCE NOTES
SIX TEAMS SENT TO NCAA's: For the first time in Pac-10 history, six teams qualified for NCAA postseason Tournament play, as five at-large berths were announced on ESPN on Mon., March 13 ... UCLA, by virtue of winning the 2006 State Farm Pac-10 Tournament, represented the Conference as the automatic qualifier with a 20-10 overall record through regular season play ... The Bruins earned a No. 5 seed ... Selected as the highest Pac-10 seed, STANFORD, picked up the No. 3 regional spot, heading into the San Antonio portion of the bracket ... ARIZONA STATE garnered a No. 4 seed, while Conference Tournament semifinalist, USC, picked up a No. 8 seed ... Thought to be on the bubble by many critics, both WASHINGTON and CALIFORNIA silenced doubters with their respective berths into the NCAA's ... The Huskies were a No. 9 seed in the San Antonio bracket, while the Golden Bears earned a No. 10 seed in the Albuquerque Regional.
PAC-10 MAKES HISTORY: Never before had the Pac-10 sent six squads into NCAA Tournament action, as the top 1-6 league finishers were granted berths on the NCAA's Selection Monday ... The Conference has sent five teams six times, and most recently as last season ... This year, Pac-10 teams finished with a non-conference regular season record of 67-27 (.713), the best mark since 1991-92 when all 10 teams combined for a 75-24 (.758) record ... Only the ACC (7) and Big East (7) sent more teams to the 2006 Tournament ... The SEC also sent six.
NCAA NOTES: At least one Pac-10 team has advanced to the Sweet Sixteen in 22 of 25 NCAA Tournaments ... A Pac-10 team has reached the Elite Eight 16 times, and four times in the past six years (Stanford in `06, `05, `04, Washington in `01) ... The Pac-10 has posted an all-time record of 118-91 (.565) in NCAA Tournament play ... In the 1990s, Stanford made six Final Four appearances and won two NCAA titles (`90, `92) ... A Pac-10 team has reached the Final Four nine times (Stanford-six times, USC-three times).
2006 STATE FARM PAC-10 TOURNAMENT WRAP-UP: As was to be expected, the level of competition at this year's Pac-10 Tournament was the best it has been in the five-year history of the event ... In Friday's first round action, the seventh-seeded Beavers proved they were no fluke, defeating the 10th-seeded Washington State Cougars, 77-38 ... Later that evening, No. 9 Arizona upset eighth-seeded Oregon, 64-57 ... In Saturday morning early action, No. 3 UCLA took care of No. 6 California, 80-63, followed up with a 74-66 Arizona State win over Oregon State ... In the later portion of Saturday's quarterfinal rounds, Stanford defeated the Wildcats, 77-50 and USC edged Washington, 70-67 ... Sunday's semifinal rounds featured offensive powerhouses as four of the Top-5 scoring teams in the Conference went head-to-head ... In the first game of the day, UCLA barely got past the Sun Devils, scoring 60 to ASU's 59 ... Stanford was in mint condition as it easily handed USC a 73-44 loss ... Monday night's championship game, featuring five legitimate All-American candidates, was high-octane as only overtime finally decided the outcome - UCLA 85, Stanford 76 ... The game was not only the first overtime contest in the five-year history of the Tournament, but it also marked the first time since 2002 that a team other than the Cardinal took home the crown and the automatic berth into the NCAA Tournament.
TOURNAMENT ATTENDANCE: The 2006 State Farm Pac-10 Tournament saw the most fans in attendance in the four-year span of play at HP Pavilion.
Session 1: 3,173 Session 5: 4,073Session 2: 2,637 Total: 17,979Session 3: 4,371 Average: 3,596Session 4: 3,725 High: 4,371 (Sat PM)
FINAL TEAM-BY-TEAM NOTES
ARIZONA (3-15, 8-22): Arizona, despite an emotionally draining season, finished with solid momentum, picking up a 64-57 upset win over eighth-seeded Oregon in the Pac-10 Tournament ... JR G Joy Hollingsworth led the team with a 14.4 ppg and 6.0 rpg average, while SO G Ashley Whisonant averaged 13.7 points and 3.4 assists ... SR G Natalie Jones finished her career as just the seventh Wildcat ever to total 1,000 points and 500 rebounds on her career ... The trio of Hollingsworth, Jones and Whisonant tallied 64 percent of the team's points this season ... With so many injuries this season, younger `Cats gained invaluable experience, including FR G Kelsey Burns who played in 27 games, starting three ... She led the team in three-point field goal percentage and ranked third in three-point field goals made ... Look for the return of JR F/C Shannon Hobson and FR F Amina Njonkou to bolster Arizona's inside presence next season ... UA signed five players during November's early period, including F Rheya Neabors, F Rhaya Neabors, G Marie McGee, C Beatrice Bofia and F Suzanne Bofia.
ARIZONA STATE (14-4, 25-7): Arizona State was this year's Pac-10 regular season runner-up with a 14-4 league record, one game shy of first ... The Sun Devils enjoyed numerous accomplishments in 2005-06 under the discipline of head coach Charli Turner Thorne, the WBCA's Region 8 Coach of the Year ... Along with finishing undefeated at Wells Fargo Arena (15-0) for the first time in school history, the Sun Devils have now won their last 22 regular season home games dating back to the 2003-04 season ... With 25 wins, ASU has posted 20 or more victories four times in the last six seasons ... Further, ASU's No. 9 ranking in both the USA Today/ESPN/WBCA and Associated Press Top-25 polls (Jan. 2) tied the highest ranking in school history and was the first time the Devils were in the Top-10 of a major poll in 22 years ... Arizona State loses three solid seniors in F Amy Denson, G YoVanna Rosenthal and F Kristen Kovesdy ... Kovesdy, ASU's all-time leader in field goal percentage (.575), led the Conference with a 60 percent field goal average (165-of-275) this year ... Denson, a consistent scorer off the bench for the Sun Devils, averaged 7.8 points and 4.3 rebounds in her final collegiate season ... Turner Thorne's system allows for numerous players to log important minutes, therefore, a long list of players return next season with a second round NCAA exit to avenge ... JR F Emily Westerberg headlines a talented group that includes SO G Reagan Pariseau, FR G Briann January, JR G Jill Noe, FR C Kristen Thompson and JR F Aubree Johnson ... ASU's incoming list of signees includes G Gabby Fage, C Lena Gipson, C/F Kayli Murphy and G Dymond Simon.
CALIFORNIA (10-8, 18-12): California, the league's sixth-place finisher with a 10-8 record, returned to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 13 years under first year head coach Joanne Boyle ... The Bears were bounced from the first round by St. John's, 78-68, due in part to foul trouble as FR C Devanei Hampton played just 13 minutes, albeit scoring 16 points on 6-of-9 shooting ... Hampton, who became just the 10th freshman ever to garner All-Pac-10 honors, was just one member of this year's freshman class that put the Cal program back on the map ... Pac-10 Freshman of the Year Alexis Gray-Lawson, All-Freshman selection Ashley Walker and honorable mention All-Freshman selection Jené Morris were instrumental in this season's success ... Both Hampton (15.4 ppg) and Gray-Lawson (14.6 ppg) finished the season ranked on the league's Top-10 scoring list at seventh and ninth, respectively ... The duo was also named to the 2006 WBNS All-Freshman Team ... Walker, a consistent rebounder off the low block, tallied eight double-doubles this season, the second-highest total for a freshman, next to teammate Hampton ... Morris finished her freshman campaign as the third-leading steals-threat in the Conference, averaging 2.30 per game ... The Bears lose just one senior in G Reneé Wright who ranked fourth in the league in minutes played (35.53) and ninth in defensive rebounds (4.5) ... Signed during November's early period, the Bears welcome the talents of G Lauren Greif, C Adji Ramatoulaye N'Diaye and G Natasha Vidal for the 2006-07 season.
OREGON (5-13, 14-15): Oregon concluded the year with a 5-13 Conference record, good enough for an eighth-place finish in the Pac-10 ... Defense was the name of this game as the 2005-06 Duck squad set a new Pac-10 record for fewest points allowed in a season (1,705), besting the 1997 UO team that gave up just 1,726 ... Oregon finished the season atop the Conference in scoring defense (58.8 ppg), field goal percentage defense (.361) and free throw percentages (74.9) ... Additionally, the team ranked second and third respectively in three-point field goal percentage (.374) and three-point field goals made (6.00) ... Despite the statistical accolades, the Ducks will be looking to improve the numbers in the win column, but will have to do so without a talented trio of seniors in G Brandi Davis, G Kedzie Gunderson and G Chelsea Wagner ... Wagner (.425) and Davis (.380) finished the season ranked third and sixth, respectively, in three-point field goal percentage ... Wagner also tallied a fifth-place Pac-10 finish for three-point field goals made, with an average of 2.19 ... SO C Gabrielle Richards, this year's leading scorer (10.3 ppg), headlines all returners, while the early signing period produced G Taylor Lilley and F Maria (Mary) Sbrissa.
OREGON STATE (7-11, 16-15): Perhaps the biggest surprise of 2005-06 was the much-improved play of Oregon State under first-year head coach LaVonda Wagner ... The Beavers nearly tripled their win total from 2004-05, finishing with a 16-15 overall record, 7-11 in Conference play and a berth into the WNIT ... OSU picked up a 77-48 win over Santa Clara in a play-in game, but could not overcome a Wyoming home court advantage in the first round, losing 67-49 ... A contingent of Oregon State seniors have played in their final collegiate games, including seniors Kim Butler, Mandy Close, Anita Rivera and Karen Vickery ... Butler, an All-Pac-10 honorable mention selection, finished the season ranked second in the league in scoring with an 18.6 ppg average ... The Tacoma, Wash. product tallied three 30-point games and 10 20-point games this season, while notching her third career double-double ... Close, who led the Pac-10 in minutes played at almost 38 per game, was asked to carry a large load this season, playing the point and directing the team, but responded admirably, ranking second in the league in assists at 4.81 dishes per game ... A fresh crop of faces should emerge for the Beavers next season, highlighted by JR G Casey Nash who finished seventh in the Pac-10 in rebounding (7.2 rpg) ... Six early signees include F Whitney Champlin, G Julie Futch, F Judy Lomax, F Stacy Nichols, G Christen Myles and G Jasmine Smith.
STANFORD (15-3, 26-8): The Stanford Cardinal put together another great season, despite the question marks prior to the year's tip-off as to how the team would respond after losing six letterwinners from the 2004-05 campaign ... Head coach Tara VanDerveer made sure they responded in the correct fashion, engineering a 26-8 overall record, as well as a 15-3 league mark, good enough to capture the program's sixth-consecutive Pac-10 championship ... Stanford made its 19th consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance, and 20th overall ... The Cardinal advanced to the Elite Eight for the third time in as many years, losing a heartbreaker to LSU, 62-59, marking Stanford's third trip to the Regional finals ... Named the Pac-10 Player of the Year for the second straight season, SO G Candice Wiggins put together a year in which she led the Conference in scoring with a 21.8 ppg average, notching five 30-point games and a league-leading 19 20-point performances ... Wiggins was named a Kodak/WBCA All-American, while garnering second team Associated Press All-America honors ... Wiggins was also named a finalist for the Wooden Award, as well as the State Farm Wade Trophy ... JR C Brooke Smith also picked up postseason praise as she was named a Kodak All-America honorable mention ... With Wiggins and Smith having both scored more than 500 points this season, it marked just the fifth time that Stanford has had two players score 500 or more points in the same season, and the first time since 2001-02 when Nicole Powell scored 581 points and Lindsey Yamasaki added 551 ... Wiggins also became just the 26th player in Stanford history to score 1,000 points ... The Cardinal lose two seniors in G Krista Rappahahn and C Shelley Nweke ... Rappahahn was deadly from downtown, pacing the league in both three-point field goal percentage (.428) and three-point field goals made (2.68) ... Young talent emerged for the Cardinal squad as F Jillian Harmon was named to the Pac-10 All-Freshman team and G Rosalyn Gold-Onwude earned honorable mention accolades ... A highly-regarded class signed for Stanford this season ... Incoming freshmen include C Jayne Appel, F Michelle Harrison, G JJ Hones and G Melanie Murphy.
UCLA (12-6, 21-11): Pac-10 Tournament champion, UCLA, cemented a fine year, posting 21 wins, its most since the 1998-99 squad went 26-8 ... Further, UCLA won 21 games or more for just the third time since the 1980-81 season ... The Bruins earned the Pac-10's automatic berth into the NCAA Tournament, defeating 12th-seeded Bowling Green, 74-61, before falling in the second round to Purdue, 61-54 ... UCLA earned a third-place Pac-10 finish following its 12-6 league record ... With 12 Pac-10 victories, the Bruins tied for the third-most Conference wins in school history ... Bruin 'triple-threat' SR G Nikki Blue, JR G Noelle Quinn and SR G Lisa Willis garnered postseason praise from numerous outlets ... All three were named honorable mention Kodak/WBCA and Associated Press All-Americans, while Quinn was named to the WBNS All-America second team and Willis to the third team ... Both Blue and Willis will continue on with their careers, as they were selected in this year's WNBA draft by Washington and Los Angeles, respectively ... With 372 career steals, Willis set a new Pac-10 record, shattering the previous mark of 309 set by Tammy Story of USC (1989-92) ... Blue finishes second behind Willis with 325 career nabs ... Along with Quinn, next year's Bruin team will be led by JR F Amanda Livingston, FR C Chinyere Ibekwe, SO F Lindsey Pluimer, as well as a fully-healthy JR F Julia Pitts ... Four players were signed during November's early period, including, C Moniquee Alexander, F Amy Horton, F Erica Latimer and G Jerica Williams.
USC (11-7, 19-12): Despite injuries that seemed to just keep on coming, USC put together a solid season, finishing 19-12 overall, 11-7 in league for a tie for fourth place ... The Women of Troy earned a trip to the NCAA Tournament for the second straight season, picking up a 67-65 win over South Florida in the first round of play ... USC had three players go out for the season in SO F Simone Jelks (knee), SO G Brynn Cameron (hip) and JR F Jamie Funn (hip) ... JR F Markisha Lea also suffered a major injury, breaking her arm in practice the week before Tournament action ... Enough star-power existed, however, as USC hardly let it hold the team down ... JR G Shay Murphy, SO G Camille LeNoir and JR C Chloé Kerr highlight the group of returners ... Murphy, an All-Pac-10 selection and WBCA All-American finalist for Region 8, finished the season ranked fifth in the league with a 17.6 scoring average and sixth overall in rebounding (7.3 rpg) ... LeNoir ranked third in the Conference in assists (4.10) ... JR G Jamie Hagiya paced the Pac-10 in assist/turnover ratio, averaging just two turnovers to every 3.5 assists, good enough for a 1.77 ratio ... Look for the Women of Troy to be very strong next year as they should recover from injury, while being helped with a nationally-ranked recruiting class ... Donning the cardinal and gold next season will be G Hailey Dunham, G Jacki Gemelos, F Aarika Hughes and G/F Morghan Medlock.
WASHINGTON (11-7, 19-11): Picked to finish sixth and seventh in the Conference by the respective preseason media and coaches polls, Washington claimed a 19-11 season and a tie for fourth-place with an 11-7 Pac-10 record ... The Huskies earned a No. 9 seed and advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament, picking up a 73-69 win over Minnesota in the process ... UW had its first All-Pac-10 selection since the 2003-04 season, as JR G Cameo Hicks was named to the 10-member team ... Hicks notched seven 20-point games, leading the Huskies to a 7-2 non-conference regular season record, as well as wins over both Pac-10 champion, Stanford (77-72), and Pac-10 Tournament champion, UCLA (96-75) ... The Huskies conclude the 2005-06 campaign pacing the league in offensive rebounds (17.63), as they did all season, as well as finishing first in turnover margin (+3.73) ... Gone from this year's squad are guards Kayla Burt, Kristen O'Neill and Nicole Castro ... After starting for much of her career, O'Neill played a different role this season coming off the bench to average 8.3 points and 3.8 rebounds ... Burt, however, was forced into an early retirement after being admitted to the hospital following the activation of her internal heart defibrillator during the season ... As a senior, Burt came off the bench in 15 games, averaging 6.9 points, 2.5 rebounds and 1.9 assists ... The Huskies will welcome three new players that signed in November, including, F Laura McLellan, G Sara Mosimon and G Sami Whitcomb.
WASHINGTON STATE (2-16, 8-20): Washington State bettered its record of a year ago by two games, picking up eight victories, two of which came in league ... The Cougars were hampered by injuries much of the season, as SR G Charmaine Jones and JR G Adriane Ferguson sat out for much of the year ... Freshman guards Katie Appleton and Amanda DuRocher were among the bright spots for head coach Sherri Murrell ... The duo was called upon to start a combined 43 games, averaging 31.0 and 23.8 minutes, respectively ... Three-point specialists, DuRocher (1.85) and Appleton (1.79) ranked seventh and eighth on the Pac-10 season charts for three-pointers made ... For the second year in a row, JR F Kate Benz paced the league in rebounding, finishing with an identical average from last season (9.1 rpg) ... She now owns 696 boards, good enough to rank fourth on the WSU all-time career charts ... The Cougars signed three players for the 2006-07 season, receiving commitments from G Colleen Betterdige, C Shanice Brown and F Marisa Stotler.