DAYTON, Ohio (AP) -- Ugly, ugly, ugly. Just the way South Florida likes it.The Bulls introduced the NCAA tournament to the Big East's nastiest defense Wednesday night, putting more than just a chill into a California team that had never seen anything like it. The Bulls allowed only 13 points in the first half and brushed their way to a 65-54 victory.South Florida (21-13) will play No. 5 seed Temple in Nashville on Friday, a matchup of teams known for gritty defense. Few have been better than this one for the first 20 minutes on the NCAA stage.The Bulls swarmed em, bumped em' and swatted their shots away - those that weren't air balls, that is.California (24-10) didn't score over the last 8:55 of the first half, missing 10 shots and turning it over twice while South Florida pulled ahead 36-13.Guard Jorge Gutierrez, the Pac-12 player of the year, was held to 10 points on 4-of-10 shooting.It wasn't all defense that got it done for South Florida. Freshman point guard Anthony Collins, a thin-built player with a youthful face that reminds coach Stan Heath of a 12-year-old kid, played like a star in his first NCAA tournament game, scoring 12 points. Victor Rudd had 15 pointsThe Golden Bears won't soon forget the way they got worked over. They must have felt as if there were six Bulls on the floor at times playing defense.No, only five. The refs counted.The Bulls set a Big East record by giving up only 56.9 points per game this season. Their problem: They score about as many points as they give up. South Florida didn't have a player average in double figures for the season.Realizing he didn't have many scoring options, Heath instituted the defense-first, defense-last philosophy that got them to their first NCAA tournament appearance in 20 years and, now, their first win. The Bulls came in 0-2 in the tournament.Other teams exult when one of their players hits a big basket. The Bulls cheer from the bench as the other team passes the ball around helplessly and hopelessly.They were cheering their defense from the opening tip.The first time down the court, Gutierrez forced a running shot that was too hard, a taste of the misery ahead. California missed its first five shots and eight of its first nine, helping South Florida pull ahead 15-3.Collins made a driving layup, a floater, a 15-foot pull-up jumper and a layup off his steal during the opening run, getting South Florida's unpredictable offense moving.The Golden Bears readily acknowledged that they hadn't played anything quite like the Bulls' defense. With four players averaging in double figures, their best chance was to spread the ball around and be patient.They ran out of patience real fast, prompting coach Mike Montgomery to call a timeout to get his team settled down. Instead, things quickly got worse.A lot worse.Gutierrez hit a fade-away 15-foot jumper with 8:56 left in the first half. The Golden Bears wouldn't score again before halftime, with South Florida pulling off a 14-0 run. It ended with a telling moment: California guard Justin Cobbs dribbling toward the basket and failing to even attempt a shot before the buzzer sounded.Totally discombobulated.The Golden Bears shuffled toward the locker room with blanks expressions. Their 13 points matched the seventh-fewest in an opening half since the NCAA tournament expanded in 1985, according to STATS LLC.The Bulls pulled ahead 57-25 with 8:49 left. The only question was how low they could keep the sore. California fouled repeatedly in the final minute, giving itself enough chances to hit the 50-point mark.
It’s only February, but this week marks the beginning of the 2017 football season in the Bay Area. Spring practice has arrived.
Most schools now begin “spring” practice in the winter. In the Pac-12, for example, Oregon State began on February 17, Arizona on Feb. 18 and Colorado on Feb. 22. Stanford’s drills start this Tuesday, while Cal’s kick off on March 15.
Schools are limited to a total of 15 sessions, and safety concerns have led the NCAA to strongly recommend that only eight involve full-contact drills. Indeed, if you ask most head coaches what they hope to gain from spring ball, the first thing most of them say is, “I hope no one gets hurt.”
There’s more to it than that, of course. Typically, spring is the time teams look to fill spots lost to graduation, resolve competition for starting spots, move players to new positions, and evaluate redshirts and early-admit freshmen. It also can be a time to find a quarterback and install a new system, which is the case at Cal this spring.
In certain parts of the country, spring practice is a much bigger deal than it is here in the Bay Area. As longtime Texas sports information director Jones Ramsey used to say, “we only have two major sports at Texas—football and spring football.”
In the SEC and Big Ten, huge crowds are commonplace for the spring intra-squad game. Last year for example, Ohio State drew 100,129 fans to its spring game. Alabama, Auburn, Georgia, Penn State and Nebraska routinely draw 75,000 to 90,000. Cal and Stanford are thrilled if 3,000 fans show up.
Perhaps the most significant spring practice in the history of Bay Area football took place in 1968 at Stanford. Head coach John Ralston had been recruited from Utah State in 1963 to turn around a moribund program that had won 14 games in five years, low-lighted by an 0-10 record in 1960.
But Ralston’s run-oriented attack wasn’t producing the kind of results Athletic Director Chuck Taylor had hoped for when he hired him. Taylor, a member of Stanford’s 1941 Rose Bowl championship team that introduced the T-formation to college football, and coach of Stanford’s ‘52 Rose Bowl team that lived and died by the forward pass, made a not-so-gentle suggestion to Ralston after three middling seasons: throw the football.
So Ralston recruited a couple of local quarterbacks who could sling it—Jim Plunkett from San Jose’s James Lick High School and Don Bunce from Woodside—and announced that he would switch to a pro-style passing game for the ’68 season. Spring practice would serve as the test kitchen for Ralston’s new offense.
Back in those days I was a wet-behind-the-ears sports editor of the Stanford Daily. My timing was good, as I was fortunate enough to cover the ’68 spring practice and football season. In the spring game, Plunkett completed 22 of 39 passes for 335 yards and two touchdowns to solidify his hold on the starting job.
That fall, Stanford opened with San Jose State and Plunkett made his debut by throwing for four touchdowns—including three bombs to quarterback-turned-wide receiver Gene Washington—in a 68-20 rout. No one who was in the stadium that day will ever forget it…it was the beginning of a new era in Stanford football and, in many ways, a new era in college football.
Two years later, Plunkett led Stanford to the conference title and an upset win over Ohio State’s team of the decade in the Rose Bowl. He also won the Heisman Trophy over Notre Dame’s Joe (don’t call me THEES-man) Theisman.
Bunce, the forgotten quarterback, backed up Plunkett for two years before red-shirting his senior year (1970) so he’d have the job to himself in 1971. All he did was win another Pac-8 championship and Rose Bowl.
This spring has the potential to be another important milestone for Stanford and Cal with a new coaching staff at one school and major holes to fill at both.
Cal: New coach Justin Wilcox and his team open spring ball on Wednesday, March 15. The Bears will have three open practices—Friday March 24 at 3:30, Saturday, April 8 at 11 a.m., and the spring game on Saturday, April 22, also at 11. The Pac-12 network will televise the spring game and admission is free. Cal’s March 24 practice will be preceded by “Pro Day” (also open to the public) at 10 a.m., when selected graduating players will work out before NFL scouts and coaches.
In addition to installing a new system and introducing a new coaching staff, Wilcox must find a replacement for record-setting quarterback Davis Webb (a key attraction on Pro Day). Wide receiver Chad Hansen, last season’s breakthrough star, returns to make the new QB’s job easier.
Stanford: The Cardinal divides spring practice into two sessions—February 28-March 12 and April 3-15, separated by a three-week break for dead week, finals and spring break. Four practices will be open to the public—Saturday, March 4 at 10 a.m., Sunday, March 12 at 11:45, Saturday, April 8 (time tbd), and the spring game on Saturday, April 15 at 1:00 p.m., which also will be televised on Pac-12 network.
Stanford’s “Pro Timing Day” on Thursday, March 23 is open to the public at 11:15. The main attractions will be running back Christian McCaffrey and defensive lineman Solomon Thomas, both of whom are turning pro after their junior seasons. Unlike McCaffrey, Thomas played in the Sun Bowl and elevated his pro stock with several game-changing plays.
Coach David Shaw has a quality replacement for McCaffrey in junior Bryce Love, who averaged 7.4 yards per carry during the season and broke two long plays in the bowl game. But he will have to replace Thomas, record-setting kicker Conrad Ukropina, and possibly quarterback Keller Chryst, who is rehabbing from knee surgery.
We’ll be back with a roundup after the conclusion of spring ball. In the meantime, let's hope both Cal and Stanford unearth a few nuggets and that no one gets injured.
MORAGA — Jock Landale scored 17 points and No. 20 Saint Mary's beat Santa Clara 70-56 on Saturday night in the West Coast Conference regular season finale for both teams.
Emmett Naar and Calvin Hermanson scored 13 points apiece and Dane Pineau added 10 points to help the Gaels (26-3, 15-3) complete a season sweep of the Broncos.
Saint Mary's will get a week off before playing in the WCC tournament as the No. 2 seed in Las Vegas next week.
The Gaels will go in at full strength after suffering a brief scare midway through the second half. Joe Rahon, the team's emotional leader and workhorse in the backcourt, limped off the court with an apparent knee injury and was taken into a tunnel to be examined. He returned to the court a few minutes later wearing tape around his right leg below the knee. He then later got his entire knee wrapped.
Saint Mary's led by as many as 20 in the second half despite coming out of halftime missing six of seven shots with two turnovers.
Landale, as he has much of the season, got the Gaels back on track with a short hook over Henrik Jadersten to start a 10-0 run. Landale later scored on consecutive trips down the floor to push Saint Mary's lead to 66-47.
Jared Brownridge and Matt Hauser scored 15 points apiece for Santa Clara. The Broncos (16-15, 10-8 WCC) lost for only the second time in the last five games.
The Gaels led nearly the entire way.
Saint Mary's came out strong from the perimeter, making five of seven shots beyond the arc in the first half. Naar had two of the 3s and was one of six Gaels players to score as part of an 11-2 run that pushed their lead to 41-29 at halftime.
Santa Clara: Another tough night for the Broncos, who couldn't get much going despite Saint Mary's going through a pair of lulls on offense. Brownridge scored nine of his team's first 11 points, a pattern that played out much of the game. Jadersten gave Santa Clara an early lift with two 3s but picked up three fouls over a span of 1:41 minutes during the first half.
Saint Mary's: With four straight wins the Gaels have regained some of the momentum they lost after falling to No. 1 Gonzaga on Feb. 11 for the second time this season. A third showdown between the conference's two best teams appears likely.
Santa Clara: The Broncos are the fourth seed for the WCC tournament and will have a bye in the first round.
Saint Mary's: The Gaels also receive a first-round bye and won't play until March 4.