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West college basketball notes: BYU yearns for another shot at Saint Mary's

Published February 28, 2012 6:14 pm

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Be careful what you wish for

Saint Mary's pounded BYU by a combined 30 points in two WCC regular-season meetings, winning 98-82 in Moraga, Calif., and 80-66 in Provo. But after the Cougars dropped Portland on Saturday, they started talking about their desire for a third shot at the regular-season champion.

"We got embarrassed by them twice, and we can't wait for the opportunity to match up against them," said BYU senior Charles Abouo. "We've got something to prove."

Alas, the Gaels and Cougars are on opposite sides of the bracket, and can't meet until Monday's championship game.

"I mean, you lose twice to a team — and it's not like [they] were close games. [They] were some pretty big beatings, them on us," said BYU junior Brock Zylstra. "So we remember it and we know that we can play with them, that we can beat them. If we play our game, we can."

The Pac-12 puzzle

Unhappy with the leader in the Pac-12 men's basketball race? Just wait a few days.

California was the latest team to learn that, as the Bears moved into first place briefly after Thursday's tougher-than-expected 60-46 win over the Utes, then lost the lead two days later in a 70-57 loss at Colorado.

Illustrating just how unpredictable the league is this season, Colorado had lost 74-50 at home to Stanford on Thursday, the same Stanford team that traveled to Salt Lake City and was ambushed by the second-to-last-place Utes, 58-57.

So Washington (13-3) is the league's new leader, a half-game in front of the 13-4 Bears heading into this week's final round of conference games.

With five league losses apiece, Arizona, Oregon and Colorado are all mathematically in the hunt for a piece of the title as well.

The debate regarding how many NCAA Tournament bids will go to the Pac-12 rages on, and critics are pointing out that the league still lacks a strong non-conference win. For instance, Arizona, Oregon, Cal and Washington are a combined 0-12 against RPI top-50 teams.

Big attendance for the Big Sky

Thanks to another successful season and the talents of junior guard Damian Lillard, Weber State is averaging 6,771 fans per home game, its best attendance for men's basketball since the 1995-96 season. According to Paul Grua of WSU media relations, the Wildcats rank 12th in attendance among schools in the West and are outdrawing Pac-12 schools such as UCLA, Stanford and USC.

In case you're wondering, BYU is the state's attendance leader, averaging 14,296 fans, followed by Utah State (9,899) and Utah (7,771).

Gonzaga cleans up

Gonzaga junior Elias Harris won the final WCC Player of the Week award, announced Monday. The junior was phenomenal in GU's 74-63 win over BYU, grabbing a career-high 16 rebounds and scoring 19 points for his 19th career double-double.

Although Saint Mary's won the league outright to snap Gonzaga's streak of earning at least a piece of the league title for 11 straight years, the Bulldogs outpaced the Gaels in WCC weekly awards, winning five. Loyola Marymount and BYU won three apiece, while Saint Mary's won just two.