Anaheim, Calif. – Pacific led by 19 points, then had to come from behind to defeat UC Santa Barbara 71-68 in the first round of the Big West Tournament at the Honda Center in Anaheim on Thursday, March 14. With the win, Pacific improved to 20-12 on the season. UC Santa Barbara dropped to 11-20 overall. The Tigers picked up their 20th win for the 14th time in school history.
"We got the bounces right at the end and we'll take advantage of it, rest and be ready to go tomorrow," said Tiger head coach Bob Thomason.
The Tigers opened up a 5-0 lead, after a jumper and a three-pointer from seniors Travis Fulton and Colin Beatty. Fulton scored five more points to give Pacific a 10-3 lead with 14:47 to play in the half. The Gauchos cut the lead to 12-8, then Beatty hit a pair of three-pointers in a 12-0 run to make it a 24-8 Tiger lead with 7:08 to play in the half. A pair of free throws from Michael Bryson made it 27-13, but the Tigers pushed it to a game-high 19 point lead (38-19) after another three-pointer from Beatty with 3:27 to go in the half. Pacific ended the half with a 40-25 lead after shooting 57.7% (15-26) in the first 20 minutes.
Beatty scored Pacific's only four points in a 14-4 UCSB run to start the second half, which tightened the score to 44-39 with 15:33 to play in the game. Beatty hit yet another three-pointer and Fulton scored on a layup to take it back to 10 (49-39), but the Gauchos weren't done. Bryson hit a pair of three-pointers, including one to cap a 12-2 run that tied the game at 51-51 with 12:13 to play. After a pair of free throws from juniors Ross Rivera and Tony Gill, the Tigers went back up by four (55-51). But two more three-pointers from Bryson and Kyle Boswell gave the Gauchos their first lead of the game at 57-55 with 9:59 left. The game was tied six times and the lead changed hands four times from that point forward. Senior Lorenzo McCloud gave the Tigers a 64-63 lead with a layup and free throw at the 3:26 mark. After a free throw from UCSB's Taran Brown evened it at 64-64, McCloud scored again on a layup to give Pacific a 66-64 advantage with 2:11 left. After Bryson evened it again with a pair of free throws, McCloud made one of two free throws and Fulton scored on layup off of a great feed from junior Sama Taku with just :17 seconds to play to make it 69-66. Bryson scored on a dunk with :11 seconds left and the Gauchos needed to foul.
As McCloud dribbled up the sideline, he was fouled by Boswell, but was also called for a technical foul after his right arm made contact with Boswell's head. The officials viewed video of the play to ensure the proper call, which resulted in a lengthy delay. Following the delay, McCloud missed his two free throws and Boswell missed both of his technical free throws as well. The Gauchos retained possession, but Bryson's three-point attempt was off the mark. Beatty, fittingly, secured the rebound and hit a pair of free throws as Pacific held on for the 71-68 win.
Beatty led the Tigers with a career-high 26 points. He hit his first six three-pointers and also led the team with eight rebounds. McCloud added 12 points and Fulton scored 11 points. Bryson scored a career-high 29 points to lead UCSB.
The Tigers shot 45.3% from the field, but it was a tale of two halves. In the first half Pacific was 15-26 (57.7%) and in the second half just 9-27 (33.3%) from the field. UCSB was 9-26 (34.6%) in the first half, but used 10 three-pointers in the second half to make up a big deficit quickly. Pacific had a 36-30 rebounding advantage and used 14 offensive rebounds to outscore UCSB 15-8 in second chance points.
Pacific is next in action with a game in the semi-final round against Cal Poly on Friday, March 15 at 9:00 pm in the Big West Tournament.