Stockton, Calif. - The Tigers got a big night out of the senior forward Eric Thompson but could not convert it into a big win at home as Loyola Marymount rallied late to down Pacific, 77-72, on Thursday night in the Spanos Center. Pacific (7-16) dropped to 5-8 in WCC with the loss to LMU (11-14) which snapped a four-game losing skid to improve to 4-10 in conference action. The loss split the season series for the Tigers with the Lions as for the third-straight season each team won on the oppositions home court.
Early and often the Tigers went inside to their muscle using Thompson's size to control the paint while getting the Lions' front line in foul trouble right out of the gate. Scoring the Tiger's first five points of the game, Thompson got Pacific's offense off to a strong start as Pacific took the early 8-2 lead. However, back-to-back threes by Steven Haney Jr. were signs of what was in store for the rest of the night as LMU erased the fast start by Pacific allowing the Lions to take the lead after the first media on a pair of free throws, capping an 8-0 run.
After falling behind by two, the Tigers would respond, taking back the lead with a three from the corner from Ilias Theodorou, the first of two-straight for the big Greek that put Pacific back ahead by four. Again, the Lions would have an answer of their own as Pacific missed its next four shots allowing LMU to tie the game up for a second time at 15-15. Thompson would end the drought for the Tigers after reentering the game but a three from the corner from David Humphries put the Lions back out front for the second time in the opening half.
LMU would hit five-straight and six of seven from the floor including three from distance while the Tigers' shooting went cold, allowing the Lions to grow their advantage to six with just under 8:00 to play in the first half. The Tigers would close the gap back to just one as the Lions went two minutes without a point, but three more threes, all from the Lions' Marin Mornar, and mistakes by the Tigers, let LMU push the advantage to 10 with 1:42 to go.
Despite the hot shooting by the Lions, the Tigers were able to cut the halftime deficit to just five thanks to a jumper from D.J. Ursery and a three from the left-angle by T.J. Wallace on Pacific's last possession. In all, the Lions finished the half 8-for-14 from deep and took advantage of a myriad of missed free throws by the Tigers who went just 5-of-11 from the stripe including three missed front-ends.
Out of the break, the Tigers would get to the rim on back-to-back possessions to make it just a one-point game, feeding off the defensive play of Thompson who came up with a steal and a block to spur the break the other way. Yet, just as Pacific looked to get momentum, the Lions struck back, pushing the lead to eight on consecutive threes from Joshua Spiers.
Pacific would hold the Lions without a point for just over three minutes as they chipped away at the deficit, cutting it to one before an Alec Kobre three from the top of the arc erased the deficit completely and made it a whole new game with 11:17 to play. From there, the two sides would trade punches resulting in a pair of draws and three lead changes in just a two-minute span.
The scales finally tipped in the Tigers' favor with 7:53 to play in the game when Maleke Haynes hit his second midrange jumper from the paint to give Pacific a one-point lead with 7:53 to go. From there, the Tigers pressed their advantage both inside and out to grow their lead to eight, its largest of the game, when Kobre hit his fourth three of the night with just over 4:00 to play.
However, just as the Tigers appeared to have the game under control, the Lions caught fire from deep once again, drilling back-to-back threes from Haney Jr. as part of what would be a closing 14-1 run that tipped the scales for good in favor of LMU. In the final four minutes of the game, Pacific would go cold from the field as LMU kept the ball out of the paint and saw the Tigers go 0-for-5 with just a single free throw finding the bottom of the net from Thompson with :07 seconds remaining and the game out of reach.
Overall, Thompson finished with a season-best 19 points, three shy of his career best, as the big man hit a career-best 11-of-15 from the line while going 4-for-4 from the floor. He would add eight rebounds to go with two assists, two blocks, and one steal. Kobre ended his night with 12 points on 4-of-8 shooting from deep while Wallace tallied 11 points. The Tigers were without their leader for the final 11:19 of the contest after Wallace sprained his neck after a Lion forward landed on the junior during a fight for a rebound.
The Tigers would outscore the Lions in the paint 26-to-18 while outshooting (49.0%-to-48.1%) and outrebounding (35-to-29) LMU. None of the Tigers' advantages would matter in the end, however, as Pacific missed 11 free throws (17-for-28) while the Lions hit 12-of-19 from deep.
The Gaels were led by Spiers who netted 17 points on 3-of-5 shooting from deep while Mornar added 13 points, Haney Jr. scored 12, and Jacko finished with 11. Mornar grabbed a team-best seven rebounds while Haney Jr. matched Kobre from deep with four threes.
Pacific is back in action on Saturday, Feb. 13, when the Tigers host the suddenly red-hot Waves who enter the night coming off of an upset of Saint Mary's in Moraga on Thursday night. The game at the Spanos Center is scheduled for 7:00 pm.