Pac-12 Tournament upset, Final Four appearance highlights year in women's basketball

Eric Evans

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The women’s basketball season wrapped up with STANFORD representing the Pac-12 Conference in the NCAA Women’s Final Four in Nashville for the sixth time in seven years. The Cardinal’s appearance in the national semifinal also marked the seventh-consecutive year a Pac-12 team advanced that far. In all, it was one of the most successful seasons for Pac-12 women’s basketball in recent memory with five teams earning NCAA Tournament bids, the most since 2006. League teams went 4-1 in the first round and 7-5 in the Big Dance. An additional four teams also participated in the WNIT, making it the most-ever teams to participate in the postseason in the history of the Pac-12.
 
Three Pac-12 teams are ranked in each of the final national polls with Stanford leading the way with a No. 6 ranking by the Associated Press and No. 3 in the USA Today/WBCA Coaches poll. CALIFORNIA ended the season ranked No. 24 and No. 20, respectively. USC earned a No. 25 ranking by the writers, its first appearance in the final AP poll since 1994, while OREGON STATE was No. 25 by the coaches for its first appearance 1996.
 
Stanford’s Chiney Owgumike was a unanimous All-American, receiving nods from Associated Press, WBCA, USBWA and ESPN. She leaves as one of the most decorated players in the history of the Conference. After leading her Cardinal to three Final Fours in her career, she has claimed the all-time scoring and rebounding record, while claiming eight single-season or career records including tying the scoring average record, a mark set in 1989. A two-time Pac-12 Player of the Year, three-time Defensive Player of the Year and four-time all-Conference, she was also named the Capital One/CoSIDA Academic All-America of the Year.
 
A number of other individuals received national and regional recognitions this season. OREGON’s Jillian Alleyne and California’s Brittany Boyd were tabbed AP honorable mention All-Americans. Four league players from four schools earned WBCA All-Region honors: Boyd, USC’s Cassie Harberts, Ogwumike and UTAH’s Michelle Plouffe. Oregon State’s Scott Rueck was named the WBCA’s Region 8 Coach of the Year and WASHINGTON’s Mike Neighbors was named a finalist for the WBCA Maggie Dixon Rookie Coach of the Year.
 
Alleyne has also left a mark in the Pac-12 record book, shattering the Conference’s single-season rebounding average record, a mark that had stood since 1992. She also claimed the single-season total-rebounding record, becoming the first player in league history to haul down 500 rebounds in a season. She led the country in rebounding and double-doubles.
 
USC claimed the 2014 Pac-12 Tournament title, a first for the program, also earning its first NCAA Tournament bid since 2006. OSU also ended a long NCAA Tournament drought, earning its first invitation to the Big Dance since 1996 ... California made a third-straight trip to the NCAA Tournament, while ARIZONA STATE returned to the event after a two-year absence ... The Cardinal, meanwhile, made its 27th-consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance and 28th all-time ... COLORADO, OREGON, WASHINGTON and WASHINGTON STATE all participated in the WNIT with the Huskies advancing to the quarterfinal round.
 
The league’s coaches voted Ogwumike the Pac-12 Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year, while UW’s Kelsey Plum was the Pac-12 Freshman of the Year. STANFORD’s Tara VanDerveer was voted the Pac-12 Coach of the Year.
 
TEAM NOTES
 
ARIZONA (5-25, 1-17)
14 of the Wildcats’ losses this year were by 10 points or less, including nine of its 17 Pac-12 setbacks and the opening game loss to USC in the Pac-12 Tournament  ... The Wildcats’ lone Conference win came against in-state rival Arizona State ... RS JR guard Candice Warthen led the Wildcats this season after sitting out all of last season due to injury, averaging a team-best 11.1 ppg and 1.3 steals per game ... UA was without SR F Alli Gloyd because of a season-ending injury suffered at the start of the 2013-14 campaign. She was one of only two Wildcats to start every game last year ... Seven different Wildcats led the team in scoring in at least one game this season.
 
ARIZONA STATE (23-10, 11-7)
Arizona State made a return to the NCAA Tournament after missing the cut the last two years, the program’s 12th-ever bid, and advanced to the second round ... The Sun Devils finished in a tie for fourth in the Pac-12 after being picked 10th by the coaches in the preseason ... ASU ranked as high as No. 11 in the Associated Press poll on Dec. 17, its highest ranking since Dec. 21, 2009 ... The Sun Devils posted more wins and more Pac-12 wins than all of last season. Its 11-1 start to the season was its best since 1986-87, including regular-season wins over ranked teams - No. 11 North Carolina and No. 20 Syracuse ... ASU vastly improved its scoring this season, averaging over 11.0 ppg better than a year ago. Among the team’s reasons for the improvement is the team’s shooting percentage. The Sun Devils shot just 38.6 percent last year and were at a 42.1 shooting in 2013-14 ... ASU’s success can also be attributed to its balanced scoring, as six players averaged at least 7.0 ppg. RS-SR G Deja Mann led the way with 11.1 ppg after missing all of last season because of injury ... 13 of ASU’s wins came when either trailing or ahead by only one point at some point in the last five minutes of regulation.
 
CALIFORNIA (22-10, 13-5)
Cal advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament after receiving a third at-large bid in head coach Linday Gottlieb’s third season at the helm. It was the Bears’ seventh all-time NCAA appearance in the last nine years and the 10th overall ... Six of Cal’s 10 losses were to ranked opponents, including five against opponents ranked in the top five at the time of the meeting, including the second-round loss to Baylor ... JR F Reshanda Gray, a first-time All-Pac-12 honoree, was a tremendous force for the Bears averaging a team-best 16.8 ppg and 8.8 rpg, doubling her scoring average from last year and 3.0 rpg better than last year. She scored a Pac-12 season-high 43 points in an overtime win against WSU on the final weekend of Pac-12 play ... After missing 10 games, RS SR F Gennifer Brandon recorded seven double-doubles, inlcuding a 20-rebound performance against WSU ... JR G Brittany Boyd, who was named a finalist for the Nancy Lieberman Award, leads the Pac-12 with 6.0 apg and 2.9 steals per game, while scoring 14.7 ppg. In the win over WSU on the last weekend of league play, she recorded the second triple-double in Cal program history and 18th overall in Pac-10/12 history. In the NCAA Tournament, she averaged 18.6 ppg and 8.5 apg. She as named to the WBCA All-Region 8 team.
 
COLORADO (19-15, 6-12)
The Buffs made their fourth-straight postseason appearance, earning a WNIT bid for the third time in the last four years. They have advanced to at least the third round all three years ... Colorado won its opening game of the Pac-12 Tournament, an accomplishment it has achieved the three years since joining the Pac-12 ... After starting the season 9-0, the Buffs struggled to maintain consistency with 13 of their 15 losses coming by 10 points or less — four of those setbacks coming by three points or less. Among the close losses was a seven-point setback at Louisville and a 10-point decision to Stanford ... The Buffs had three players average double-digit scoring with SO F Arielle Roberson and JR F Jen Reese leading the way at 12.0 ppg apiece, followed by SR G Brittany Wilson at 10.8 ppg ... Roberson posted a team-best 8.3 rpg while Reese contributed 5.8 rpg.
 
OREGON (15-15, 6-12)
The Ducks’ WNIT trip was the team’s first postseason action since 2010, advancing to the second round ... Only a sophomore, Jillian Alleyne has proved to be one of the nation’s best rebounders goin on to record another stellar season. Averaging a nation’s leading 16.2 rpg, she has broken the Conference’s rebounding single-season mark, which had stood since 1992. She bested the mark by over 3.0 rpg. She also broke the league’s single-season total rebounding mark, hauling down 519 on the season. She is also the only player in Pac-12/10 history to grab 500 rebounds in a season. Alleyne also leads the NCAA in double-doubles (29). She was named a honorable mention All-American by the AP ... The Ducks lead the nation in scoring at 93.2 points per game this year ... UO tripled its Conference win total and overall win total from a year ago ... UO has improved its scoring by more than 35.0 ppg from 2012-13, reaching triple digits 10 times and tallying at least 90 points 15 times ... FR G Chrishae Rowe is the top-scoring freshman in the country, leading the team and ranking 17th in the nation at 21.9 ppg.
 
OREGON STATE (24-11, 13-5)
OSU returned to NCAA postseason play after an 18-year absence, marking the program’s sixth NCAA Tournament appearance...the first round win marked just the second in school history ... The Beavers advanced to their first-ever Conference title game earning the highest seed in program history at No. 3 ... OSU won 11 in a row before a loss to the Trojans in the Pac-12 championship game and won 14 of 17 to close the season after opening the Pac-12 season 2-4. The second place in the league was the team’s best showing since 1995-96 ... The 13 league wins was the most-ever for the program history while the 23 overall wins were more than double the total from 2012-13 ... OSU posted eight wins of 10-points or less, with three of those coming by five or less points ... OSU recorded a Pac-12-best 6.3 blocks per game, led by Ruth Hamblin’s 4.03 bpg. She recorded a school-record nine blocks against No. 2 Notre Dame in December. She also broken the Pac-12 single-season blocks record ... OSU turned up the offensive pressure this year, averaging 70.5 ppg as compared to 57.3 ppg in 2012-13, but still emphasizing defense as they limited opponents to just 34.6 field goal percentage, tops in the Pac-12 ... Sydney Weise had a stellar freshman season as she led the team in scoring at 14.3 ppg and hit a team-best 112 three-pointers.
 
STANFORD (33-4, 17-1)
The sixth-ranked Cardinal played in its sixth Final Four in seven years after making its’ 27th-straight NCAA Tournament appearance ... The Cardinal clinched the Pac-12 regular-season title for the 14th-straight season but failed to make the Conference tournament title game for the first time in the 13-year history of the event ... Two of its four losses came to back-to-back NCAA Champion Connecticut, the second coming in the NCAA tournament semifinals ... Stanford SR forward Chiney Ogwumike was voted the Pac-12 Player of the Year for the second-straight year and the Defensive Player of the Year for the third-straight season. The CoSIDA Academic All-American of the Year and consensus national player of the year candidate led the Pac-12 in scoring (26.1) and finished ranked fourth in the country. Her 12.1 rpg were ninth in the nation and she was fourth in the country in field goal percentage at 60.1. She was the only player in the country to rank in the top-10 in all three categories. Ogwumike also owns the Pac-12’s all-time rebounding and scoring record, securing the scoring title with her first basket in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament. Ogwumike also tied the single-season scoring average record, a mark that was set in 1989. She was a unanimous All-American earning the honor by five different organizations ... Hall of fame head coach Tara VanDerveer posted her 900th-career victory earlier this season, becoming only the fifth women’s basketball coach in NCAA history to reach the threshold. She was voted the Pac-12 Coach of the Year for the 14th time.
 
UCLA (13-18, 7-11)
The Bruins finished an injury-riddled season with a loss to Colorado in the opening round of Pac-12 Tournament, finishing 13-18 overall ... Despite the slim roster, the Bruins were more than competitive as nine of their Conference games were decided by six points or less and 10 of its setbacks coming by 10 points or less. UCLA posted a notable win over Oklahoma, who was ranked No. 10 at the time of the meeting ... SR F Atonye Nyingifa, a two-time All-Pac-12 pick, leads the team with 18.4 ppg and 8.7 rpg ... G Nirra Fields is contributing 17.4 ppg and 6.3 rpg in her sophomore campaign, en route to earning All-Pac-12 honors. 
 
USC (22-13, 11-7)
The Trojans made first appearance in the NCAA Tournament since the 2005-06 season after earning the league’s automatic bid after winning the Pac-12 Tournament for the first time in school history ... USC upset regular-season champion and top-5 ranked Stanford to reach the title game in head coach Cynthia Cooper’s first year at the helm ... The Trojans had more overall wins and Pac-12 wins than a year ago ... USC posted an upset of then-No. 12 Colorado for their first win over a ranked opponent since 2011 and also had a big upset at No. 23/22 California ... Six of the team’s seven league losses were by 10 points or less ... USC opened the 2013-14 campaign with a 3-0 start, the team’s best since 1998-99  ... JR G Ariya Crook and SR F Cassie Harberts led the team in scoring, averaging 15.8 and 15.4 ppg, respectively, while Harberts grabbed 7.3 rpg. Crook was named Most Oustanding Player of the Pac-12 tournament while Harberts was named to the All-Pac-12 team for the second year in a row and was also honored by the WBCA as an all-region team member.
 
UTAH (12-19, 4-14)
Utah went 1-1 at the Pac-12 Tournament, defeating Washington in the first round ...The Utes had an up-and-down year, going undefeated in the month of December and winning three of four games from Jan. 19-Jan. 29 but then dropping eight of their next nine to finish 11th in the Conference ... 2013 All-Pac-12 performer Taryn Wicijowski was out for the season because of an injury ... Team’s leading scorer and rebounder Michelle Plouffe tallied 18.4 ppg and 10.6 rpg during her senior campgain. She was named to the all-Conference team for the second time and earned a spot on the All-Defensive team ... FR F Emily Potter is one of two players scoring in double figures, contributing 10.5 ppg and is the team’s second-leading rebounder at 6.7 rpg.
 
WASHINGTON (20-14, 10-8)
UW made a third-straight WNIT appearance and its first under first-year coach Mike Neighbors ... Kelsey Plum was named the Pac-12 Freshman of the Year, the second Husky in three years to earn the honor. She was the second-highest scoring freshman in the nation and ranked in the top-five in the Pac-12 ... UW picked up one of their biggest wins in program history when they upset then-No.3 Stanford for their first win over a top-5 ranked team since 1990 ... UW won seven of its last 10 heading into the Pac-12 Tournament ... Three players averaged in double digits with Plum leading the way with 20.9 ppg, followed by JR PG Jazmine Davis at 18.8 - both in the top six in the Pac-12. Davis was named to the All-Pac-12 teams ... Neighbors is a finalist for the WBCA Maggie Dixon Rookie Coach of the Year award.
 
WASHINGTON STATE (17-17, 9-9)
WSU made its first  postseason appearance since 1991 and first-ever in the WNIT...The Cougs reached the Pac-12 Tournament semifinals for the second time in three years .... After going winless the first 10 years of the Conference tournament, WSU has posted a 5-3 record over the last three years ... WSU  finished .500 in league play for the first time since 1994-95 ... WSU opened the Pac-12 slate with a 5-0 record, their best-ever start in Pac-12/10 play in program history ... WSU’s 17 wins and nine Pac-12 wins are the most since the 1995-96 campaign ... WSU’s 82-80 win over the Huskies on January 7 was its first since 1995, snapping a 36-game losing streak to UW. The Cougs then got their first win in Seattle since 1993 later that week ... WSU showed significant improvement in its scoring, averaging 74.2 ppg after averaging just 59.4 ppg all season last year... SO G Lia Galdeira and JR G Tia Presley were named to the All-Pac-12 team, the first time a Coug has earned the honor since 1999. 
 
 
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