Shorthanded Tigers Fall At #10/12 Arizona, 79-61, To Open The Season

T.J. Wallace - Photo by: KeithSanpeiPhoto.com
T.J. Wallace - Photo by: KeithSanpeiPhoto.com

Tucson, Ariz. - Undermanned and undersized, the Tigers fought to the end but could not overcome the Wildcats' advantages in the paint, falling 79-61 to the No. 10/12 ranked team in the nation on Friday night. Junior guard T.J. Wallace scored a game-high 19 points in the loss as Pacific dropped its opening game of the season for the first time in seven years while the Wildcats extended the nation's longest home winning streak to 39 games at the McKale Memorial Center. 

With the Wildcats scoring the first four points of the game, Wallace got Pacific on the board as he hit the Tigers' first shot of the night, a three from the top of the key. Despite the shot, the excitement would be short-lived as the Wildcats answered immediate thanks to a Gabe York three from the corner.

After the furious start to the game had the Wildcats up 13-7 at the first media, both teams hit a wall over the next four-plus minutes with just two baskets coming between the two sides. With 10:34 left in the half the lid would finally come off the basket as Kaleb Tarczewski, who had the first four points of the game for Arizona, hit a pair of free throws before Kadeem Allen dropped in a layup to get the Wildcats' offense on track. 

Pacific would finally get on the board after over four minutes without a point when freshman Anthony Townes knocked down 1-of-2 from the line to put his first collegiate points in the book as a Tiger. He would add a layup two minutes later with 7:47 remaining. Townes' basket snapped a nearly six-minute run for the Tigers without a field goal as the Wildcats were able to push their lead to 10 by the third media timeout. Arizona would steadily build its lead throughout the final seven minutes of the half, growing the advantage to 17 at the break with a 41-24 lead.

Throughout the half the Tigers were able to get open looks but could not find the bottom of the net shooting just 25.9% from the floor to start the game. In addition, the Wildcats were able to use their size and depth to control the paint, scoring 22 points to the Tigers' eight, while getting the shorthanded Tigers' front court in foul trouble.

Out of the break, the Tigers began to find their stroke, hitting three of their first six shots in the half including a runner by Wallace to kick off the scoring in the half. However, the Wildcats were able to add to their lead through the first four minutes of the second half, knocking down a three and using the free throw line to continue to create separation.

After a quiet first half, sophomore Ilias Theodorou began to get into rhythm from behind the arc, hitting a pair from deep before being sent to the bench with his fourth foul with just over 12 minutes to play in the game. He would later foul out of the game as did Townes forcing the Tigers to go small ball for the end of the game. The mounting foul trouble for the Tigers' front court let the Wildcats extend their lead from the line as they shot 13 free throws and made 10 in the half before Pacific was awarded its first trip to the line.

Trailing by as much as 21 midway through the half, the Tigers went on a mini run as sophomore Maleke Haynes scooped in a layup before Wallace scored five-straight points with his second three-pointer of the game and a layup. Once again, the Wildcats had an answer as Parker Jackson-Cartwright drained a three of his own and Ryan Anderson added two more free throws to push the lead back over 20. 

The Wildcats led by as much as 28 with six minutes to play, but a persistent Wallace and a surge from Ray Bowles cut the deficit to under 20 with 3:00 minutes to play. Pacific would use a 14-2 run and nearly four minutes without an Arizona basket to close within 16 with 1:28 to play. During the run, Bowles came up with seven of his 14 points including knocking down Pacific's fifth three of the half just in front of the Tigers' bench.

In all, the Tigers cleaned up their shooting in the second half as they hit 46.7% from the floor and 55.6% from behind the arc. Overall, the Tigers shot 36.8% overall while going 6-for-19 from behind the arc. Behind Wallace's 19 points, Bowles came on hot at the end of the game to drop in 14 points. On the boards, Wallace led the way with eight rebounds while Bowles finished with five.

The Wildcats held the edge on the glass 51-to-28 led by Ryan Anderson's game-high 12 rebounds. He would score a team-best 18 points for his first double-double of the year. Three other Wildcats scored in double-figures with York and Allen each tallying 13 points while Mark Tollefsen chipped in 10. In addition to the boards, the Wildcats got to the line 32 times and made 25 free throws (78.1%) including holding an 18-to-6 edge in free throw attempts in the second half. 

The loss was the Tigers' first in a season opener in seven years since dropping a 68-56 decision at Cal to begin the 2008-09 season.

Pacific heads home to open play at the Alex G. Spanos Center on Tuesday, Nov. 17 when they host an old Big West rival in Cal State Fullerton. The tip is scheduled for 7:00 pm in Stockton.