March 10, 2011
ANAHEIM, Calif. - The Pacific Tigers women's basketball team looks to post back-to-back wins over the Big West regular season co-champions as the Tigers meet Cal Poly in the semifinals on Friday at noon at the Honda Center.
Seventh-seeded Pacific rallied from down 14 points in the second half Tuesday, putting the chokehold defensively on regular season co-champ and number-two seed UC Santa Barbara in a 49-45 win. Trailing 32-18 with 18:45 remaining, the Tigers out-scored UCSB 31-13 the rest of the way, closing with a 15-2 run in the final 6:45 to snap a 24-game losing streak at the Thunderdome.
Pacific had not beaten the Gauchos in Santa Barbara since the 1987 season, but turned in their best defensive effort of the season to snap the streak in the Big West Quarterfinals.
Cal Poly (17-11) finished 12-4 in the Big West regular season and enter as the number one overall seed in the Big West Tournament. The Tigers (9-21) won back-to-back games for the first time this season, after holding Cal State Northridge to 49 points in a must-win road victory on March 5.
The Mustangs won both regular season meetings, 84-74, in San Luis Obispo, and 83-73, at the Alex G. Spanos Center in Stockton. In the last 17 games, Pacific has allowed over 80 points three times, as Cal Poly joins No. 1 UConn (85) as the only other team to accomplish the feat since Christmas.
The Tigers defense has steadily lowered its points per game allowed, turning in its best defensive efforts of the season in each of the last two games. Pacific held CS Northridge and UCSB to an average of 47 points by defending the perimeter (holding the Matadors and Gauchos to a combined 5-for-20 behind the arc) and dominating the glass. UCSB entered Tuesday's contest as the top rebounding offense and rebounding defense in the Big West, but Pacific out-rebounded UCSB 44-37 for the game.
Sophomore forward Kendall Rodriguez (La Habra, Calif.) has paced Pacific with 28 points in the last two games, including her third career double-double against UCSB. She led the Tigers with 12 points and 10 rebounds against the Gauchos, including four on the offensive glass.
Her three-pointer with 2:14 to go tied the game, which Pacific would win on a pair of free throws by sophomore forward Jordan Rogers (Sparks, Nev.). Rogers also buried the second of three consecutive three pointers made by Pacific to turn a seven-point deficit into a tie ball-game. Rogers finished with seven points and five rebounds.
Sophomore guard Erica McKenzie (Sparks, Nev.) added 11 points against the Gauchos and grabbed a career-high nine rebounds. Her final rebound came with 8.6 seconds remaining on the Gauchos' attempt to tie the ball game. She then knocked down a pair of free throws to push the Tigers cushion to a two-possession game and settle on the 49-45 final score.
Freshman forward Danielle Peacon (Sparks, Nev.) turned in 11 points with six rebounds and a pair of blocks, as she became one of four Tigers in school history to reach 50 blocks in a single-season.
As the Tigers seek to continue their Cinderella run, Pacific chases its first trip to the Big West tournament finals since 2003 with the semifinal with Cal Poly, which will precede the second semifinal between third-seed UC Riverside and fourth-seeded UC Davis.