For Boise State women’s basketball coach Gordy Presnell, a road trip to UCLA’s Pauley Pavilion conjured up memories of weekends with his father.
Presnell has led the Broncos to 10 straight wins, the 2017 Mountain West championship and an NCAA Tournament berth, where they will play against the Bruins at 4:30 p.m. Saturday (ESPN2). Over the past few days, Presnell has found himself quoting legendary UCLA men’s basketball coach John Wooden and his “Pyramid of Success.”
It’s not surprising given that, as a child in the 1960s, Presnell watched plenty of Bruin basketball and went on road trips with his dad to watch Wooden coach. As Presnell walked around UCLA’s Hall of Fame after practice Friday afternoon, the gravity of being at Pauley Pavilion and UCLA for the first time in his life was not lost on him.
If only for a few moments, Presnell traveled back in time.
“It’s kind of fun to be able to relive a little history. They were on almost every Saturday afternoon,” Presnell said. “Just a lot of memories, and it’s kind of fun to reconnect some of those things. I’ve always kind of wanted to coach (here).”
Now Presnell and the Broncos have a chance to make history of their own. In this, their fourth NCAA appearance, the 13th-seeded Broncos (25-7) seek their first win — and they’ll have their hands full.
The No. 4 Bruins (23-8), who finished fourth in the Pac-12, are led by All-Pac-12 selections Jordin Canada (18 points per game) and forward Monique Billings (16.8 points, 10.7 rebounds), both of whom were All-Pac-12 selections. UCLA is second in the conference in scoring offense (73.9), and it has won 27 straight home games — including two regional games last year to reach the Sweet 16.
“We’re going to have to keep Jordin Canada in front of us, which is pretty hard to do. We’re going to have to keep Billings off the boards, which no one in the Pac-12 was able to do,” Presnell said. “And then (Kari) Korver can get going, and the other two athletes can get going. We have to make sure we have a hand up.”
UCLA is favored by 16 1/2 points. The Bruins have a win over Washington, which defeated the Broncos by 26 points in December.
Boise State players joined Presnell in the UCLA Hall of Fame for the tour and were also lost in Bruin lore. With 134 total national championship trophies proudly on display, they had a lot to take in.
Junior forward Shalen Shaw and her teammates see Saturday as a chance to make their own mark.
“Walking through and seeing all these trophies, I’m kind of taken back at what a phenomenal school this is and what an opportunity is to just walk through this Hall of Fame,” Shaw said. “We had a talk about it in the locker room. Everyone just needs to take a deep breath and loosen up and enjoy it.”
Over the past month, Boise State has disposed of all obstacles placed in its way, rebounding from a 3-6 January. Senior guard Brooke Pahukoa is confident that if the team plays the way it has over the past 10 games, it will give itself a chance.
“We’ve been playing our best basketball. I think that we’re on a good peak right now,” Pahukoa said. “We don’t have a superstar. We all just grind and play our roles, and it’s been working.”
While not intimidated by UCLA’s national brand, Presnell nonetheless made sure his players knew what it meant to walk through campus Friday. He always wants his teams to know the history of schools to which Boise State travels.
Presnell is a historian, after all. Especially when it comes to UCLA.
“I try to come up with something every time, and they get a little worn out. But I want them to know the roots,” Presnell said. “Basketball is providing them an education, and it’s giving them an opportunity to advance in life. And they need to know a little of the history of it, that’s for sure.”
No. 13 Boise State at No. 4 UCLA
- What: NCAA Tournament first round
- When: 4:30 p.m. MT Saturday
- Where: Pauley Pavilion (13,800), Los Angeles
- Records: Boise State 25-7, UCLA 23-8
- Broadcast: ESPN2 (Cable One 134/1134, Dish 144, DirecTV 209)
- Radio: KTIK 1350 AM