Long Beach State (18-11) at Pacific (18-12)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, March 9, 7 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Spanos Center (6,150) -- Stockton, California. Television: FS-West. Home Record: LBSU 11-3, Pacific 12-2. Away Record: LBSU 7-8, Pacific 4-9. Neutral Record: LBSU 0-0, Pacific 2-1. Conference Record: LBSU 14-3, Pacific 12-5. Series Record: Long Beach State leads, 56-37.
GAME NOTES: Regular-season action in the Big West Conference comes to a close on Saturday night, as the Pacific Tigers play host to the Long Beach State 49ers at the Spanos Center.
After losing back-to-back games to Stephen F. Austin (68-60) and UC Irvine (72-69) leading up to its latest game, LBSU came out on top against UC Davis on Thursday night, 77-76, to capture its third straight Big West title. The 49ers, who are 18-11 overall and 14-3 in the league, will enjoy the top seed in next week's conference tournament.
Pacific is also in the midst of a strong season at 18-12 overall and 12-5 in the league, a game up on Cal Poly (11-6) for second place. The Tigers have won three straight contests, including a 70-62 decision over UC Irvine on Thursday night, and they have been outstanding at the Spanos Center this season (12-2).
LBSU has taken down Pacific on six straight occasions, including 67-63 at the Walter Pyramid back on Dec. 29, to extend its lead in the all-time series to 56-37.
In a back-and-forth contest, LBSU took a two-point lead with three and a half minutes remaining on a Mike Caffey 3-pointer, and it was able to hold on down the stretch to make claim to the regular-season title. Despite getting outshot from the field, 50.9 percent to 43.5 percent, the 49ers earned extra possessions by dominating the rebounding battle, 42-25, which included 19 offensive boards. James Ennis was a beast in the triumph with 24 points, 14 rebounds, two blocks and two steals, while Tony Freeland (21 points) and Mike Caffey (11 points) were also effective. Ennis is one of the frontrunners for Big West Player of the Year, as he scores 17.1 ppg on nearly 49 percent field goal shooting while adding 7.0 rpg, 1.8 spg and 1.4 bpg. Caffey brings 12.4 ppg to the table, while Freeland (11.1 ppg, 5.1 rpg), Keala King (9.7 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 3.2 apg) and Dan Jennings (9.0 ppg, 6.3 rpg) round out arguably the best starting five in the league. As a team, LBSU scores a solid 70.3 ppg, but it is often let down by a suspect defense (70.5 ppg).
Pacific opened up a 20-point halftime lead over UCI on Thursday night, and while the Anteaters climbed back to cut their deficit three late in the game, the Tigers never surrendered their advantage. Sama Taku led the way with 15 points, while Lorenzo McCloud put in 14 points on a busy night from the foul line (9-of-10). Tony Gill made an impact off the bench with 10 points and seven rebounds. On the season, Pacific boasts an under-performing offensive attack, which ranks seventh in the league in pouring in 67.8 ppg, but it has risen in the standings thanks to the second-ranked scoring defense (64.4 ppg). McCloud is one of the Big West's top point guards, as he logs 11.5 ppg and 3.9 apg while sporting impressive percentages from 3-point range (.397) and the foul line (.804). Travis Fulton, Ross Rivera and Taku have also been important pieces to the Tigers' puzzle, with each scoring between 8.0 and 9.1 ppg.
LBSU has proven once again to be the Big West's top team, but it has been vulnerable away from home with just a 7-8 road mark. With the 49ers' clinching the regular-season title, they might not have a sense of urgency in this one, meaning Pacific is primed to take advantage of the home court advantage to close out the campaign on a high note.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Pacific 70, Long Beach State 67
03/09 10:41:49 ET