Pacific (15-11) at Western Michigan (16-9)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, February 23, 1 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: University Arena (5,421) -- Kalamazoo, Michigan. Television: ESPN3. Home Record: Pacific 11-2, WMU 9-1. Away Record: Pacific 2-8, WMU 5-8. Neutral Record: Pacific 2-1, WMU 2-0. Conference Record: Pacific 9-5, WMU 8-4. Series Record: Pacific leads, 3-1.
GAME NOTES: The Pacific Tigers will take a break from Big West Conference action as they travel to University Arena to tangle with the Western Michigan Broncos as part of the BracketBuster weekend.
This will be the fifth all-time meeting between the Broncos and Tigers on the hardwood. Pacific holds a 3-1 edge in the all-time series. The last matchup between these schools took place in the 2007-08 season, with the Tigers coasting to a 90-76 verdict at the World Vision International hosted by Oregon.
Pacific is coming off of a 68-59 loss at UC Irvine that ended a two-game winning streak and dropped it to a 15-11 overall record. The Tigers are one of the top teams in the Big West standings and enter the weekend in second place, 3.5 games behind the first-place Long Beach State 49ers. Coach Bob Thomason uses an 11-man rotation that allows his team to stay aggressive for the full 40 minutes. Lorenzo McCloud is pacing the squad with 11.5 points and 4.0 assists per tilt.
McCloud netted 11 points in Pacific's setback to UC Irvine on Wednesday while Tony Gill came off the bench to lead the team with 17 points on 5-of-10 shooting from the field. The starting five went just 7-of-30 from the field to contribute to the team's 33.3 percent field goal efficiency in the contest. The Anteaters meanwhile, converted 45.5 percent of their field-goal tries, including 8-of-16 from beyond the arc to coast past the Tigers. Pacific has the seventh most productive offensive in the 10-team Big West with a scoring average of 68.0 ppg, but it is third in the league on the defensive end with only 64.7 points allowed per tilt.
The Broncos ended their two-game slide last weekend with a 66-58 victory over Northern Illinois at home. The brief skid followed a seven-game winning streak that helped WMU rise to the top of the MAC's West Division standings where it is tied with Toledo for first place. Both the recent losses occurred on the road, and the team showed how much better it is at home versus NIU at University Arena where it is 9-1 on the season. Coach Steve Hawkins has seen solid play on both ends of the floor by his Broncos, who are fifth in the conference in scoring (67.0) and fourth in scoring defense (63.1).
In the win over NIU, Shayne Whittington finished with 15 points, nine rebounds and three blocks. Connar Tava made his mark as well by providing 12 points and eight boards, while Austin Richie added 11 points. The Broncos appeared like they were headed for their third loss in a row as they went into the intermission trailing, 37-32. WMU stepped it up on the defensive end after the break to hold the Huskies to just 4-of-20 shooting from the field, which allowed it to narrow the deficit and collect the eight-point decision. Whittington paces the team in both scoring (12.8 ppg) and rebounding (8.7 rpg), while Nate Hutcheson chips in 11.2 points per tilt.
The Broncos regained their confidence with the win over the offensively challenged Huskies last weekend. After a week off, WMU should be well rested for its non-conference bout with Pacific. The Tigers showed they can be dangerous early in the 2012-13 season with victories over Xavier and Saint Mary's, but they clearly have holes and Thomason's deep rotation can sometimes prevent his players from getting into a rhythm. WMU's homecourt edge should be enough to help it begin a new winning streak.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Western Michigan 68, Pacific 64
02/23 10:37:57 ET