UC Irvine (20-14) vs. Pacific (21-12)
Saturday, March 16, 10:30 p.m. (et)
The Sports Network
By Gregg Xenakes, Associate College Basketball Editor
FACTS & STATS: Site: Honda Center (17,608) -- Anaheim, California.
Television: ESPN2. Home Record: UCI 12-1, Pacific 13-2. Away Record: UCI 5-12,
Pacific 4-9. Neutral Record: UCI 3-1, Pacific 4-1. Conference Record: UCI
11-7, Pacific 13-5. Series Record: Pacific leads, 41-37.
GAME NOTES: Pacific head coach Bob Thomason continues to prolong the
inevitable as his Tigers now compete in the title game of the 38th annual Big
West Conference Tournament against the UC Irvine Anteaters on Saturday night.
Thomason, who has been at the helm of the Tigers for the last quarter century,
has announced that this will be his last season with the program, but at this
point there's no telling when his last game will be. The second-seeded Tigers
first defeated UC Santa Barbara (71-68) on Thursday, and then followed that up
with a thrilling 55-53 victory over third-seeded Cal Poly on Friday night.
As for the fourth-seeded Anteaters, a squad which has never captured the crown
in this event, they've now won three straight and eight of the last nine
overall. Their run in the tourney began two days ago with a 71-60 victory over
Hawaii, followed by a 67-60 win against Long Beach State on Friday.
The teams split their two meetings earlier in the campaign, each winning on
its home floor. The Anteaters posted a 68-59 victory in February, and then
Pacific returned the favor with a 70-62 decision at the Spanos Center nine
days ago. The Tigers, winners of this tournament a total of four times, now
own a 41-37 advantage in the all-time series.
Up against the defending tournament champs and this year's top seed in Long
Beach State, the Anteaters got 18 points from Alex Young who made good on all
six of his chances at the free-throw line which made all the difference on the
night as UCI outscored the Beach by a 13-5 margin at the charity stripe.
Coming up a rebound shy of a double-double was Will Davis II who tallied 14
points and made three blocks, followed by Chris McNealy with 13 points and
Scoring almost 70 ppg this season, the Anteaters have survived to this point
despite shooting only 66.4 percent at the free-throw line, but don't blame
that on Daman Starring who connected on 78.4 percent of his attempts, en route
to a team-best 13.0 ppg. Young (9.5 ppg) has also been rather solid at the
stripe with 78.0 percent accuracy, while also leading the group in assists
this season with 138.
Travis Fulton's put-back with 1.3 seconds remaining was just what the Tigers
needed to keep coach Thomason on the sidelines for at least one more night, as
the squad slipped by Cal Poly on Friday night. Fulton finished with 12 points
which was second only to Ton Gill who stepped up with a perfect 4-of-4 behind
the 3-point line, 7-of-8 from the floor overall, as he finished with 20
points. Defensively, the Tigers held Cal Poly to only 5-of-18 shooting beyond
Even though he scored just four points on 2-of-7 shooting from the floor on
Friday, Lorenzo McCloud is still the top scorer for the Tigers overall this
season with 11.2 ppg. A fixture at the free-throw line where he's made (121)
more shots than any one of his teammates has even attempted, McCloud is also a
valued facilitator who has handed out 134 assists for a squad generating 67.6
ppg on the campaign.
The Tigers cut it rather close last night, but there's something to be said
for a team playing their hearts out for their head coach before he leaves the
bench for the final time.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Pacific 62, UC Irvine 59
03/16 10:45:45 ET
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