As it prepares for the West Coast Conference tournament opener, the USF women’s basketball team finds itself in a situation very similar to what it faced last year at this time.
In the 2006 tournament, the Dons entered as the WCC’s No. 7 seed, but they shocked tournament host and second-seeded Gonzaga in the first round 75-67 and played the No. 1 seed, Santa Clara, tough before losing a 75-65 overtime heartbreaker.
This year, the Dons (9-20) will once again be the No. 7 seed for the WCC tournament, this time facing second-seeded San Diego (21-7) today in Portland, Ore., where both the men’s and women’s playoffs are being held.
The men begin Friday.
"I definitely think we’ll draw upon the success from last year," first-year Dons coach Tonya Haave said. "We want to remind them of some of the good times and let them know, ‘Hey, we were a seven seed last year and look what we did.’"
The Dons played the Toreros tough in both meetings this season, but San Diego pulled out close victories — 52-45 at San Diego in the Jan. 7 conference opener and 66-60 at Feb. 3.
For the Dons to stay close to San Diego, they will have to contain the Toreros’ inside-outside combination of point guard Amanda Rego and center Amber Sprague, teammates who have been playing together since high school.
Monday, Rego, a junior who led the conference in assists at 7.6 per game, was named the WCC’s Co-Player of the Year, and Sprague, a sophomore who led the Toreros in scoring at 14 points per game, joined her as a first-team selection.
The Dons will counter with junior guard Dominique Carter, a three-time first-team All-WCC pick who leads the team in scoring at 14.2 points per game. Carter is just the second player in USF history to be named first-team all-conference in her freshman, sophomore and junior seasons.
Carter will get help in the backcourt from Shay Rollins, a sophomore point guard who was an honorable-mention all-conference pick and is averaging 10.3 points a game. Rollins’ older brother Jimmy is a star shortstop for the Philadelphia Phillies. Both played at Alameda’s Encinal High School.
The two will look to steer USF out of its recent offensive struggles. The Dons have scored less than 70 points in eight straight games, including a 37-point outing in their final regular-season game against Gonzaga.
"I think we’re very excited to play in this tournament," Haave said. "Other than our last game, we’ve played teams close in every one of our conference games. We haven’t quite got over the hump, but we’re getting closer."
West coast Conference Tournament
At Chiles Center, Portland, Ore.
TODAY’S QUARTERFINAL GAMES
» No. 2 San Diego (21-7) vs. No. 7 USF (9-20), noon
» No. 1 Gonzaga (21-9) vs. No. 8 Portland (10-19), 2:15 p.m.
» No. 3 Loyola Marymount (17-11) vs. No. 6 Santa Clara (13-16), 6 p.m.
» No. 4 St. Mary’s (14-13) vs. No. 5 Pepperdine (13-16), 8:15 p.m.
No games scheduled
SATURDAY’S SEMIFINAL GAMES
» Pairings reconfigured based on seedings, noon, 2:15 p.m.
SUNDAY’S CHAMPIONSHIP GAME
» Semifinal winners, 1 p.m.