Gaels going dancing after beating Gonzaga in WCC tourney

692726.jpg

Gaels going dancing after beating Gonzaga in WCC tourney

BOX SCORE
LAS VEGAS (AP) With the score deadlocked in overtime and the ball bouncing free, opposing guards Matthew Dellavedova and Kevin Pangos collided near the scorer's table.The guy who grew up around Aussie Rules Football made sure he got there first, and it proved critical as Saint Mary's pulled out a 78-74 OT victory Monday night over Gonzaga in the West Coast Conference tournament championship."I was trying to get my body in front of it," said Dellavedova, who led the Gaels with 22 points. "It goes back to Australia Rules footy. I was pretty happy they called the foul on him, but I guess it could have gone either way."Dellavedova would get the call and sink the free throws, and later add two more to secure the win over No. 24 Gonzaga and an NCAA bid.It was Saint Mary's second WCC tourney title in three years. But it was the first time the Gaels (27-5) have won the regular-season title outright and claimed the tourney championship the same year."I'm just a bit relieved that we finally got it done," Dellavedova said. "We'll enjoy this but once we get back (to California), we're going to focus, work hard again to get ready for the (NCAA) tourney because we want to do some things there."The Bulldogs, despite some big wins and a 25-6 overall record, will have to wait for the selection committee to find out if they'll make the NCAA field."It was a great ball game, two high-level tournament teams going at it and battling," Gonzaga coach Mark Few said. "Forty minutes wasn't enough so we needed another five, and in the end they stepped up and made big shots."Elias Harris led Gonzaga with 22 points, including a 3-pointer with 2 seconds left in regulation to force the extra period.Dellavedova, the WCC player of the year, had a chance to win it at the buzzer in regulation but his runner bounced off the rim.The junior point guard also gets plenty of credit for forcing Pangos into a miserable shooting night, just two days after the WCC newcomer of the year lit up Brigham Young for 30 points.Pangos finished with seven points on 3-of-18 shooting. He was just 1 of 10 from 3-point range. Center Robert Sacre finished with 17 points for Gonzaga while Sam Dower added 14 off the bench."Pangos had a really good night the other night and he hurt us up at Gonzaga," Saint Mary's coach Randy Bennett said of a Feb. 9 loss in which Pangos scored 27 points and hit five 3-pointers."He won't go 1 of 10 very often, but Matt did a good job of making him take tough shots."Saint Mary's also got help from Clint Steindl defending Pangos, and had post players rotate over as well.Rob Jones was just as valuable for the Gaels, adding 18 points and nine rebounds, while Jorden Page, another Aussie, added 16 points and Brad Waldow had 13 and eight rebounds."The stars showed up tonight," Bennett said. "It was fun, a little too exciting down the stretch. ... but I'm really pleased."He said it was important no one panicked after Harris forced overtime with the huge 3."People ask what did we say after they hit that shot? We didn't say anything," Bennett said. "We played good defense and they hit a tough shot. I don't have to coach leadership. The leadership is already there."Despite having to go another five minutes, Jones said Saint Mary's players knew they were still the tougher team."In the end, we got it done," Jones said.The teams were meeting for the 12th time in four years in a rivalry that is perhaps the fiercest on the West Coast right now.At least one player called it a "hate-hate" relationship before the game, with Sacre saying it was personal and a matter of pride.It lived up to its billing.There were 14 lead changes and nine ties.Saint Mary's led by as many as eight points early in the second half, but Gonzaga hung tight, pulling within 63-62 on Pangos' only 3-pointer with 3:58 left.The Gaels still led 68-63 with 31 seconds left, but Harris hit a driving layup with 15 seconds remaining then sank the game-tying 3-pointer.Both teams had chances to take command in the overtime.In addition to the collision between Pangos and Dellavadova with 39 seconds left in OT, Page grabbed a key rebound for Saint Mary's then sank two free throws to put the Gaels up 76-72. Dower's layup cut it to two again, but Dellavedova was fouled breaking through Gonzaga's full-court press and converted the free throws for the final margin.Delly Dazzles read the sign in the crowd."He's got it all," Bennett said of Dellavedova, who was born outside Melbourne, Australia, but learned basketball from his father in a Friday night league. "I don't know if I've ever coached a guy's who's as good a leader. He studies it, cares about it. He knows in game like this, he's supposed to step up."Now it's on to the NCAAs, and Bennett believes a game like Monday's can only help the Gaels."We haven't played many close games," Bennett said. "You get confidence playing close games by having success. We probably had 3 all year. ... I think our guys will be even more resilient and tougher and harder to beat."

Local college players turn heads at respective Pro Days

college-round-mccafrey.jpg
AP

Local college players turn heads at respective Pro Days

Last week both Stanford and Cal held “Pro Day,” an annual showcase where each school’s departing players audition for NFL scouts. 

To those unfamiliar with Pro Days, these events typically feature lots of men with stopwatches, a few TV news crews, and a group of players running 40-yard dashes, cone drills and 20-yard shuttles. The objective is to give NFL teams an opportunity to evaluate prospects up close and personal.

Since 1982, the top 300 or so prospects in the country have been invited each year to the NFL Scouting Combine, a centralized evaluation for all pro teams. Subsequent Pro Days held by individual schools provide a stage for players who weren’t invited to the combine. They also offer participants a chance to improve their combine performance or give interested teams another look.

At Cal’s Pro Day on Friday, Khalfani Muhammad turned a lot of heads with a 4.35 40-yard dash, faster than any running back recorded at the combine earlier this month. In fact, Muhammad’s time would have tied for fourth best overall. Wide receiver Chad Hansen also impressed with a 4.45 in the driving rain. Quarterback Davis Webb, who had some accuracy issues at the combine, had a good outing despite throwing a wet ball for much of the day. His predecessor, Jared Goff, was the No. 1 pick in last year’s NFL draft.

Stanford’s “Pro Timing Day” on Thursday attracted a lot of attention because of the presence of two projected first round draft picks — running back Christian McCaffrey and defensive lineman Solomon Thomas. Over 40 NFL representatives were on hand, including 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan and Carolina Panthers head man Ron Rivera. Several sportswriters and local TV anchors covered the proceedings, which were also streamed live on ESPN3.

It was a far cry from the pre-Jim Harbaugh and David Shaw days, when Stanford had few pro prospects and Pro Days drew sparse turnouts. However, 31 Stanford players have been drafted in the last seven years, including four in the first round and six in the second. McCaffrey and Solomon will boost those numbers.

McCaffrey has been the Cardinal’s marquee player for the past two seasons. He set an NCAA record with 3,864 all-purpose yards in 2015, finishing second in the Heisman Trophy balloting, and then rushed for 1,639 yards in ’16. Thomas had 25 tackles for loss and 11.5 sacks in the last two seasons and was named the Pac-12’s defensive lineman of the year last fall.

Surprisingly, most pundits now believe Thomas will go higher than McCaffrey in the draft. McCaffrey is currently projected to go middle or late first round. Thomas is expected to go in the top five. In fact, NFL draft guru Mel Kiper now has Thomas being taken with the No. 2 pick in the draft by that team down the road in Santa Clara.

NFL teams are split as to whether McCaffrey can be an every down back. Some see him as more of a complimentary, third-down type. At the combine, he excelled in the 40-yard dash (4.48), vertical jump (37.5”), cone drill (6.57) and both 20 and 60-yard shuttles (4.22 and 11.03), but did only 10 reps in the bench press. His overall rating at the combine was 5.99 (out of a possible 8.0). At Pro Day on Thursday, he put on a brilliant display in a number of receiving drills, showing off the versatility that many teams crave.

Thomas was one of the top performers at the combine, registering a 4.69 40, 30 reps in the bench press, a 126” broad jump, 6.95 cone drill and 4.28 shuttle. His overall rating was 6.85. On Pro Day, he did a number of position specific drills.

Unlike McCaffrey, who elected to skip the Cardinal’s post-season game, Thomas played in the Sun Bowl and elevated his pro stock with several game-changing plays. The NFL’s post-combine analysis noted: “Thomas' bowl performance against North Carolina opened a lot of eyes, as he was all over the field in the Cardinal's win in a way that isn't even reflected in an impressive stat line (seven tackles, two for loss, sack).”

According to one NFL observer at Pro Day, “In the bowl game, Thomas went from the second round to maybe the second pick in the draft.”

Stanford coach David Shaw, understandably, is a huge fan of both players. He chafes at the suggestion McCaffrey can’t be an every down back.

“People may not want to talk about it, but race is a component in that discussion,” he told me at Pro Day. “Some teams want to put Christian in a box. ‘He’s a white running back, another Danny Woodhead.’ Well, he’s not. If you look at the film, what he did at the combine, and here today, he’s more of a Reggie Bush or a Ladainian Tomlinson. He’s a difference maker.”

Shaw also marveled at Thomas’s rise up the draft boards since his Sun Bowl performance.

“That’s the beauty of bowl games,” Shaw said. “What might seem meaningless to one guy can make 10 million dollars for another.”

Stanford rallies to beat Notre Dame, punches ticket to Final Four

vanderver-stanford-2017eliteeight-usatsi.jpg
USATSI

Stanford rallies to beat Notre Dame, punches ticket to Final Four

BOX SCORE

LEXINGTON, Ky. -- Alanna Smith's jumper with 23 seconds left capped Stanford's rally from a 16-point deficit in the second half, Erica McCall blocked a last-second shot and the Cardinal edged top-seeded Notre Dame 76-75 Sunday to reach its first Final Four since 2014.

Brittany McPhee scored 27 as the second-seeded Cardinal (32-5) won its eighth in a row overall. This was the third straight year Stanford and Notre Dame have met in the NCAA Tournament, with the Cardinal winning twice.

Down 47-31 in the third quarter, Stanford surged to end Notre Dame's 17-game winning streak. The Irish (33-4) had a final shot, but McCall blocked Arike Ogunbowale's drive near the basket.

The win in the Lexington Regional gives Stanford a chance to pursue its third national championship under coach Tara VanDerveer.

Among those in the crowd at Rupp Arena was Jon Samuelson, whose daughter, Karlie, scored 15 for Stanford. A day earlier, he was at the Bridgeport Regional to see another daughter, UConn star Katie Lou Samuelson, help the Huskies win their 110th straight game.

Smith finished with 15 points.

Ogunbowale had 25 and Marina Mabrey 20 for Notre Dame, which had sought its sixth Final Four in seven seasons.

After driving for a basket with 51 seconds left, Smith added her biggest shot for the go-ahead score. Stanford then denied Notre Dame's Lindsay Allen and Ogunbowale on successive attempts in the final 15 seconds to spark a wild celebration.

THE BIG PICTURE:
Stanford once again proved no deficit was too big to overcome. The Cardinal shot 12 of 26 on 3-pointers, Samuelson and McPhee each making five. Not bad, considering Stanford shot 2 of 15 overall in the second quarter while getting outscored 23-7. ... McCall had 15 rebounds.

Notre Dame seemed to do everything right for most of the game but couldn't stop Stanford's perimeter game in the second half. The Irish also made just 11 of 31 shots after halftime and were topped 33-32 on the boards.

UP NEXT:
Stanford faces the South Carolina-Florida State winner in the Final Four in Dallas next weekend.