Semifinal Friday
Can Lizzy Williamson and SUU get off to a quick start on Friday against GCU? Courtesy Western Athletic Conference.

WBB: Semifinal Friday is Upon Us at WAC Vegas

Four for one…sounds like a playoff for a spot in a golf tournament. It’s Semifinal Friday at the 2023 WAC Tournament.

Four teams fighting for one spot in the NCAA Tournament (the WAC’s automatic bid to the tournament winner). Eight games so far in the Western Athletic Conference tournament have been decided by a combined 52 points including perhaps the shot of the decade from Cherita Daugherty to send Southern Utah forward.

What does Semifinal Friday have in store for us?

Here is a breakdown.

1 – Stephen F. Austin vs. 4 – California Baptist, Noon PT ESPN+

These two teams split the regular season series with CBU winning the most recent matchup on January 28th in Nacogdoches by a final of 82-74. In that game, the Lancers were 13-25 from 3-point range and 26-55 overall from the field. At one point, the Lancers had a 15 or 16-point lead before the Ladyjacks rallied to make a game of it late in the fourth quarter.

It took everything CBU had to get by a Utah Tech team in Wednesday’s quarterfinals. The same Utah Tech team that the Ladyjacks rolled by in their lone regular season encounter.

Semifinal Friday
Aiyana Johnson and the defending champs are one win away from playing for the title again. Courtesy Western Athletic Conference.

CBU Keys to the Game:

1. Get hot early…whether that’s inside or out. On Wednesday, the Lancers really didn’t find the range and a comfort zone offensively until after intermission.

2. Battle of the Bigs…How will Grace Schmidt and Kinsley Barrington handle the size? Aiyana Johnson, Avery Brittingham and Kurstyn Harden create a quite the challenge.

3. Run where the opportunity presents itself. Arguably the Lancers have the most team speed in the WAC and used it to their advantage on Wednesday. Can they do it again?

SFA Keys to the Game:

1. Finish down low…In their 15-point win over Sam Houston on Wednesday, it seemed as if the Ladyjacks missed a number of quality looks in the paint, especially early.

2. Contest the perimeter…In the last meeting, about a month and a half ago, it seemed like the Lancers were getting nearly wide open opportunities from 3-point distance early on. Know where the shooters are at all times.

3. Energy early…The Ladyjacks didn’t have to invest as much emotional or physical energy as the other teams these first two days. Come out with that energy and set the tone for 40 minutes.

2 – Southern Utah vs. 3 – Grand Canyon, 2 p.m. PT ESPN+

In both regular season matchups between the T-Birds and the Lopes, it’s taken big Southern Utah rallies to come away with wins. This time, though, Southern Utah will have to come off the high of one of the best buzzer beaters in recent mid-major women’s basketball history

Keys to the Game:

1. Settle down and get off to a good start. Set the emotion of Wednesday night aside because it’s a new day and get off to a good start. One of these days falling behind like the Thunderbirds have made a habit of doing will come back to bite them. Is Semifinal Friday going to be that day?

Alaina Harper was really good down the stretch on Wednesday. How will she handle SUU’s bigs on Semifinal Friday? Courtesy Western Athletic Conference.

2. Battle of the Bigs. Four of the conference’s top post players on the floor in the same game. Question is: whose posts will play the bigger role in the outcome on Semifinal Friday? On Wednesday night, it was Alaina Harper coming through big for GCU to survive a valiant effort from Seattle. Which post(s) push their team one win closer to the 2023 NCAA Tournament?

3. Take care of the ball. It’s well known that GCU can turn teams over at an impressive rate (22 per game in the two regular season matchups between the Lopes and Thunderbirds). Can the Thunderbird guards better that number in the third game between these two sides?

Finals Predictions:

Chelsea: SUU and SFA

Derryl: CBU and SUU



About the author

Derryl Trujillo

Derryl Trujillo is a Southern California based sportswriter who won the 2019 Inland Empire Baseball Coaches Association's Supporter of the Year award. He joined the WAC Hoops Digest staff in 2020 and also covers local sports for Inland Sports and the Valley News. Before transitioning to media Derryl was a high school, collegiate and club volleyball official along with serving as a high school basketball scorekeeper for ten years.

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