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Frisco Del Rosario writes about chess960, women's basketball, minor league baseball, unsupported collectible card games, lettering in comic books, and Golden Age movies

Pacific shares first place, but doesn’t yet instill great confidence 01/15/2017

Tommy Full Color on whiteMy fear about the three teams I’m watching this season — Cal, Pacific, Utah — is that they’re good enough to be disappointing.

As the Golden Bears visit the Utes in Salt Lake City Sunday, the Bears are 2-3 in Pac-12 play, one game ahead of the Utes and the bottom of the Pac.

Unfortunately, either Gottlieb’s or Roberts’ bunch has to lose tomorrow, but as displeasing that is, I plan to bicycle downtown in the morning, and ask the place with many TVs to put on Pac-12 women’s basketball.

Cal and Utah have one thing in common: a lone senior — Cal’s Range and Utah’s Crozon — who can sometimes shoot the hell out of it. Both teams both suffer for a lack of seniors.

Pacific was wretched last week in a 55-68 home loss to BYU, though the week before that, the Tigers beat Gonzaga in Spokane. It’s hard to tell with this team — when they’re bad, they’re over-reliant on one player; when everyone’s involved, they’re good. (It’s junior guard GeAnna Luaulu-Summers on whom Pacific depends — against USF, she broke the school record for free throws in a game — but it was Desire Finnie’s steal of an inbounds pass plus layup that stretched the Pacific run to 11-0 and the lead.) When they’re bad, it’s sometimes because they’re too short for some critical rebounds; but especially when the Tiger forwards scrap for offensive rebounds, they’re good. When one Tiger is seen trying to do too much, the whole team can follow suit and fall apart.

Pacific came back late against San Francisco Saturday, winning 63-60 despite trailing 59-50 with 3:30 remaining. It rivaled a 2011 win at Nevada, when the Tigers made up 12 points in the last three minutes, and won in overtime. The thing about the 2011 game was that the Tigers were clearly driven as a team to win the overtime, to make up missing the last shot in regulation. The win today against San Francisco carried no such suggestion — though the Tigers ran off 13 straight points to lead 63-59 with 1:12 to go, their last possession at Pepperdine Thursday mean four points was quite unsafe.

A steal by sophomore guard Ameela Li gave Pacific a chance Thursday in Malibu, down 58-59 with 0:37 left, but their last possession never took form. That loss, coupled with the BYU disaster, made me think Pacific would get to March in 6th place.

Then again, if you consider the win at Gonzaga plus today’s reassuring comeback against San Francisco — and the fact that no one’s running off with the West Coast Conference this season; Pacific, and three others are tied at 4-2 — maybe they’ll be OK come tournament time. Especially if Pepperdine is actually a good team — I mean, if the Waves’ final defensive stop at 0:37 was by design, it makes the whole win appear stronger (and Pacific less clunky at the same time).

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For a similar dependence on one player, the 2016-17 Pacific Tigers at 3-5 evoke the 2013-14 team at 5-7 12/08/2016

Tommy Full Color on whitePacific got off to a slow start in 2013-14. In December, I sent an email to coach Lynne Roberts:

“When Madison Parrish scores X points, Pacific’s record is Y-Z.
When Parrish shoots X percent, Pacific’s record is Y-Z.
When Parrish pulls X rebounds, Pacific’s record is Y-Z.
When Parrish makes X assists, Pacific’s record is Y-Z.
When Parrish makes X steals, Pacific’s record is Y-Z.”

When the Fresno State transfer did stuff, Pacific won; otherwise, they did not. Coach said yep, we are not good when we are that reliant on one player.

Pacific’s trouble in 2016-17 is that the Tigers are similarly dependent on junior guard GeAnna Luaulu-Summers.

The Tigers won two games in week one when they scored 210 points against UC Merced and San Jose State — Luaulu-Summers recorded double points-plus-assists in both games, and was named West Coast Conference player of the week.

However, Luaulu-Summers left the San Jose State game early with a knock to the head, after which the Tigers blew a late lead, but won in overtime. Wholly without Luaulu-Summers for three games against a good UC Davis team, then Montana St. and Marquette on the Thanksgiving weekend, Pacific lost them all — the Tiger Turkey Tipoff games were particularly telling because traditionally, when you host a holiday tournament, you invite opponents you fully expect to beat.

Considering how seriously athletic organizations take head injuries these days, I thought Pacific’s #15 might have been done for the season, and the team might’ve been toast, accordingly.

However, Luaulu-Summers (my mnemonic for spelling her last name: “Lua” is an undersung programming language, “ulu” is useful at Scrabble because U is a crappy tile unless it accompanies Q, and if you are stuck with two U’s, then ULU is a convenient dump of two of them) returned for Pacific’s 91-61 thrashing of Cal State Bakersfield, in which she recorded 20 pts, 4 rb, 7 ast, 3 stl.

I presented my “uh oh, we count on GeAnna like we did Madi in 2013, and we weren’t good then” hypothesis to Pacific coach Bradley Davis, who said: “We’re bringing along the newcomers (sophomore Ameela Li and freshman Callie Owens) to address that, so we won’t have to be so reliant on GeAnna.”

Last Wednesday, the prevailing theory held when Pacific visited Long Beach State — preseason favorites in the Big West Conference — and the 49ers won 66-58, while Luaulu-Summers made six turnovers and four fouls.

Perhaps a second straight rebuilding year is in store at Pacific. The seniors are roleplayers — a three-headed forward contributes 14 points and 13 rebounds (always loved Emily Simons because she relishes defending much bigger opponents, and never taking a questionable shot — she’ll break Pacific’s field goal percentage record if she tries the required attempts). Guard Unique Coleman lost more than a year to a knee injury, and looks like a player who’s still recovering from a serious knee injury.

I thought wing Desire Finnie would be the headliner among Pacific’s class of 2018, though her junior numbers are not yet improved over her all-conference sophomore statistics. Guard Najah Queenland is inconsistent, going from brilliant to what-the-hell on consecutive possessions.

It’s sophomore guard Chelsea Lidy who’s opening eyes around Spanos Center. In 20 minutes per game, she’s the team’s second-leading scorer while shooting 60 percent behind the three-point line. Sophomore Tylah King makes 58 percent of her treys, also.

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