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January 20, 2011 at 12:47 PM

Around the Pac-10: Defending home court

NewPac.jpgHow little respect does the Pac-10 get? Exhibit A should be Thursday’s matchup between No. 8 UCLA at No. 4 Stanford. It’s not as historical as a 90-game win streak, which, ahem, the Cardinal ended. But you’d think Stanford’s 54-game win streak at home and hosting of an emerging top-10 program would warrant some configuring to get this clash on TV.
Or could we at least get a webcast? Actually yes, just pick your price here and watch on your computer.
But such is life in women’s basketball on the West coast, especially when FSN plans to carry the equally intriguing battle for first between No. 20 Washington and Arizona in men’s hoops at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday. So, in a national blackout, two of the hottest women’s teams will battle for the No. 1 spot in the conference, possible NCAA seeding, and state pride.
“We don’t necessarily receive the media attention,” UCLA coach Nikki Caldwell said in a teleconference call on Tuesday. “West coast basketball hasn’t appreciated the same amount of respect that other conferences have. We’re trying to do our part in making UCLA the best program it possibly can be so that we can shed some light on not only the Pac-10, but this is going to be a great showdown…This is going to be a great opportunity for us to gauge and see where we step up against one of the top teams in the country. I just wish the game would be on TV.”
It’s being billed as Stanford’s offense versus UCLA’s defense, but take a peak at the numbers and these teams are pretty solid on both ends. UCLA (15-1 overall, 5-0 Pac-10) leads the conference in scoring defense, holding opponents to an average 53.3 points. Yet, Stanford (14-2, 5-0) is third at 55.9 and the schools are back-to-back in field goal percentage. The Cardinal shoots 49.5 percent from the field while the Bruins shoot 45.2.
Stanford is bigger than UCLA, still both schools are impressive. The Cardinal in the continual way they remains on top despite stars like a Jayne Appel or Candice Wiggins graduating. The Bruins for how quickly the team adapted to Caldwell’s philosophy to become a nationally ranked team.
“Coach Olivier was a good coach, I can’t say that she wasn’t,” senior Darxia Morris told ESPN of former coach Kathy Olivier, who led the Bruins to its sole conference tournament championship in 2006. “But Nikki came in and showed us a whole different system. … If you play under her you can’t think about losing. That’s not in your mindset. If we lose it’s like the world is over.”
Stanford isn’t the only team protecting homecourt in the conference. Washington is traveling to the desert to play Arizona (11-5, 2-3) on Thursday and Arizona State on Saturday. Both schools are undefeated at home, the Wildcats posting a 7-0 mark at McKale Center.
The Huskies (7-8, 2-4) are banking on their defense to draw them closer to an upset. UW is fourth in the conference in scoring defense (allowing 56.9 points per game) and second in field-goal percentage defense (36.7).
Washington State (4-14, 2-4), which upset California at home last week, will play at ASU (11-4, 3-2) in a matinee game geared toward kids. The Sun Devils are 9-0 at home.
Lastly, Oregon (11-6, 2-4) is preparing to begin a new tradition in its new arena. The Ducks debut at the glitzy Matthew Knight Arena on Sunday against rival Oregon State (7-10, 0-6), already selling more than 11,300 tickets to the matchup. The men officially opened the facility last week with a win against USC.
Here’s the complete women’s Pac-10 schedule this week:
Thursday, January 20
Washington State at Arizona State, 11 a.m. MT
Washington at Arizona, 7 p.m. MT
USC at California, 7 p.m. PT
UCLA at Stanford, 7 p.m. PT
Saturday, January 22
Washington State at Arizona, 2 p.m. MT
USC at Stanford, 2 p.m. PT
UCLA at California, 2 p.m. PT
Washington at Arizona State, 4 p.m. MT
Sunday, January 23
Oregon State at Oregon, 12 p.m. PT/ FSN
Game times are local to site

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