Pac-12 officials say attendance at KeyArena for the first day of the women's basketball tournament is well ahead of the pace for previous tournaments in Los Angeles.
KeyArena’s intimate environment covered for the lack of crowds for the first session of the Pac-12 women’s basketball tournament Thursday. The crowd picked up for the evening games featuring Washington State, a No. 8 seed, and fifth-seeded Washington.
A loud, but sparse audience watched USC defeat Oregon State 64-57, including USC’s men’s basketball team. The USC men lost to Washington on Friday at Alaska Airlines Arena but vented by playfully taunting the Beavers.
“It’s a long tournament, but we’re well above what we did in LA,” said Danette Leighton, the Pac-12’s chief marketing officer.
The women’s tournament relocated to KeyArena after splitting sessions on USC’s campus and Staples Center last year, totaling 7,720 fans for the four-day event. The conference hasn’t totaled more than 27,415 fans since the tournament’s first year in 2002, when it was held at Oregon’s McArthur Court.
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The conference gave each team 50 complimentary tickets. Washington was creative, throwing in food and a free bus trip from the Montlake campus to KeyArena to entice students to attend UW’s tournament-opener against Oregon. WSU had a solid contingent travel from Pullman.
No. 7 seed USC set a Pac-12 tournament record with 46 free-throw attempts in a seven-point win against 10th-seeded Oregon State. But the 46-12 attempts disparity at the foul line is nothing new for the Beavers. The disparity was 30-14 in a four-point loss at No. 19 Colorado and 31-11 in a one-point loss to USC during the regular season.
“It was just strange,” OSU coach Scott Rueck said of Thursday’s loss, adding he thought his team was as aggressive as USC in driving to the hoop. “If ever a game sums up our season, this is it.”
Stanford junior guard Toni Kokenis will not play for the Cardinal in the Pac-12 tournament due to an undisclosed illness. She started 19 of her 21 games this season, averaging 7.7 points.
Cardinal coach Tara VanDerveer told The San Jose Mercury News that Kokenis might be available for the NCAA tournament. She was a starter for last season’s Final Four team.
Kokenis’ last game was a Feb. 1 victory over Oregon. She scored six points, shooting 1 for 6 from the field.
Chris Hansen, who is leading the charge to bring the NBA back to Seattle, was seen in the KeyArena concourse with Karen Bryant, the Storm’s president and CEO, and Wally Walker, among others before the opening tip of the first game of the day.
Storm coach and general manager Brian Agler sat courtside with his son, a former practice player for the team.
Jayda Evans: 206-464-2067 or email@example.com. On Twitter @JaydaEvans.