BY Nathan Shoup 06:30AM 03/07/2013

Women’s Pac-12 hoops tourney starts run at Key

After a dismal four-year stay in Los Angeles, Pac-12 women’s hoops tourney begins a three-year run at KeyArena, where Washington likely must win four games to make NCAA field.

Aminah Williams and her University of Washington teammates will attempt to get back on track Thursday as KeyArena hosts for the first time the Pac-12 Conference tournament. / Scott Eklund, Red Box Pictures

The University of Washington dropped its regular-season finale at home to sixth-ranked California 78-50 Saturday. But it was not the Huskies final game in Seattle this season. For the first time since the women’s Pac-12 Tournament debuted in 2002, the tournament will be held in Seattle at KeyArena.

The tournament tips off Thursday at noon when No. 10 Oregon State squares off with No. 7 Southern California.

The Pac-12 Network will air the entire tournament. ESPN2 will televise the championship game.

As the five seed, the Huskies (19-10, 11-7), losers of their final four games,  open with the last-place Oregon Ducks (4-26, 2-16) Thursday at 8:30 p.m. Washington handled Oregon in both games this season, winning 66-53 at Hed Ed in January and 97-71 in Eugene three weeks ago.

With a win, the Huskies would play the fourth seed, Colorado (24-5, 13-5),  at 8:30 p.m Friday in the second round. The first four teams in the conference standings drew first- round byes, which means No. 5 Washington must win four games in four days to win the tourney.

In their lone meeting of the season, 12 days ago in Boulder, Washington shrunk an 11-point Colorado halftime lead to two inside three minutes, but the Huskies were unable to complete the comeback, falling 68-61.

The tournament is moving to Seattle from a four-year stay at Staples Center in Los Angeles, following stops in Eugene and San Jose. Overshadowed by the simultaneous men’s tournament, the women’s tournament drew poorly — the title game had attendance of  1,845 — and had dismal TV ratings.

Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott a year ago announced the move to Seattle, calling the Emerald City “one of the most prolific women’s basketball markets in the country.” The event, the first of a three-year contract, is co-hosted by the UW and WNBA Seattle Storm, which has been among the top draws in the pro league.

Since none of Washington’s wins include a ranked opponent, the Huskies will likely need to win the tournament to advance to the NCAA Tournament. ESPN women’s college basketball analyst Charlie Creme does not forecast UW in the NCAAs, nor lists the Huskies as a bubble team.

Creme projected Monday that Colorado, which finished two games ahead of Washington in the regular season, will be a five seed in the NCAA Tournament.

If Washington beats Oregon and Colorado, conference champion Stanford (28-2, 17-1) will likely be waiting in the semifinals Saturday.

In the teams’ only meeting of the season, Stanford dismantled last week a shorthanded Husky team 71-36 at Hec Ed. Starters Jazmine Davis and Talia Walton served one-game suspensions for violating a team rule on the road the previous weekend.

The team didn’t disclose the violation, but sources close to the team speculated the two, along with reserve Deborah Meeks, missed curfew one night.

The Cardinal have won nine of the 11 Pac-12 tournaments. In the two years Stanford did not win, it lost in the title game. It is Stanford’s tournament to lose, even though Cal was the regular-season champion.

Last year, Washington eliminated Oregon in the opener. Then Stanford ousted the following night, 76-57.

The Huskies qualified for the National Invitational Tournament, where they won games over Cal Poly, Utah and Oregon State before losing in the quarterfinals to San Diego.

PAC-12 WOMEN’S TOURNAMENT SCHEDULE

Thursday

Game 1: No. 7 USC vs. No. 10 Oregon State, noon.

Game 2: No. 6 Utah vs. No. 11 Arizona, 2:30 p.m.

Game 3: No. 8 Washington State vs. No. 9 Arizona State, 6 p.m.

Game 4: No. 5 Washington vs. No. 12 Oregon, 8:30 p.m.

Friday

Game 5: No. 2 California vs. Game 1 winner, noon.

Game 6: No. 3 UCLA vs. Game 2 winner, 2:30 p.m.

Game 7: No. 1 Stanford vs. Game 3 winner, 6 p.m.

Game 8: No.  4 Colorado vs. Game 4 winner, 8:30 p.m.

Saturday

Game 9: Game 5 winner vs. Game 6 winner, 6 p.m.

Game 10: Game 7 winner vs. Game 8 winner, 8:30 p.m.

Sunday

Championship game: Game 9 winner vs. Game 10 winner, 8 p.m.

Tickets

The tournament is divided into six sections of two consecutive games each. The title game is its own section. Single-session tickets start at $10.

General admission tickets for all six sessions is $50, a $10 discount.

Tickets can be purchased online at the Pac-12 Tournament website: http://championships.pac-12.com/womens-basketball/tickets/


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