Tigers beat Wyoming after huge third quarter

Photo by Keith Colgan
Photo by Keith Colgan

Pacific women's basketball (3-1) closed out the Tiger Turkey Tip Off on Saturday with a win over Wyoming (3-2), 70-64.

Sophomore guard Valerie Higgins led the way in what turned into her best game so far as a Tiger. She totaled 28 points, eight boards and six steals in the contest and put together a huge third quarter in which she had 17 points. Senior guard Ameela Li kicked in 22 points for her second-highest total of the year to help Pacific to the victory.

The game started out as a defensive struggle with Wyoming leading just 24-21 at the break. The Cowgirls held Pacific to just 25 percent from the field and shot 45 percent themselves in the opening 20 minutes, but Pacific did well to limit their shots with tight defensive pressure. Jessica Blakeslee set the tone with two blocks midway through the opening quarter and Higgins sandwiched one of her own between Blakeslee's to help hold the Cowgirls to just 11 shots in the first. The defensive show continued into the second quarter when the Tigers forced five turnovers out of Wyoming thanks to four steals, two of which were credited to Higgins.

Out of the break, the Tiger offense exploded and was led by Higgin's performance. She was lights out in the quarter pocketing 17 points with two rebounds and two more steals. She shot 5-7 from the field and went 6-6 from the line while forcing two and-one opportunities. Li had nine in the quarter and extended the lead to six, Pacific's biggest of the day, with a buzzer-beating layup to end the quarter.

The Tigers never let Wyoming back out front following the 31-point third quarter and allowed Wyoming to tie the game just once in the fourth quarter. Li helped the team's efforts with a perfect fourth quarter going 6-6 from the line, 2-2 from the field and made her lone three-pointer for 11 points.

As a team, the Tigers shot 69% from the field and went 13-15 from the free throw line in the second half to help secure the win.

This is the first time that Tigers have won both of the grueling back-to-back game format of the Tiger Turkey Tip Off since the tournament was created and the second-straight season that the Tigers started the season 3-1. However, it is the best start the Tigers have had against four Division I opponents since the 2012-13 season when Pacific went 4-0 against Seattle, Eastern Washington, Nevada and Santa Clara. That year, the Tigers qualified for the WNIT and made a run to the Third Round.

The Tigers enjoy four days off before hitting the road on Thursday for a match at San Jose State. It is set for a 7 p.m. start.

Game Summary

First quarter:

  • Pacific led 10-9 after the first despite shooting just 5-18 from the field.
  • The Tigers' shooting woes were overshadowed by the defense's performance. Wyoming shot on 3-11 from the field in the frame.
  • In a 1:26 stretch in the quarter, Pacific blocked three of the Cowgirls' shots, two of which were credited to Blakeslee and another went to Higgins.
  • Higgins started hot with four points, two steals, two rebounds and a block.
  • Pacific led after the first quarter and has led after one in every game this season.
  • Wyoming's Marta Gomez had all nine of her team's points in the quarter. She was 3-4 from the field and from beyond the arc. The rest of her team went 0-6 from the field.

Second quarter:

  • Wyoming outscored Pacific 15-11 in the second quarter. It was the only quarter that they outscored the Tigers.
  • Higgins and freshman guard Kaylin Randhawa both had five points in the quarter, however, Higgins added four rebounds and two steals to her stat line.
  • Rachelle Tucker led the way in points off the bench for Wyoming going 4-4 from the field for eight points. The rest of her team went just 3-7 from the field.

Third quarter:

  • Pacific's offense exploded for 31 points in the third quarter behind Higgins 17. Li had nine and the Tiger offense went 11-13 from the field, 3-4 from three-point land and 6-6 from the line.
  • Higgins also led the team in rebounds and steals with two each.
  • Her 17 points was the most in a single quarter by a Tiger this year.

Fourth quarter:

  • The Tigers closed out the game in the decisive fourth quarter thanks to a perfect shooting performance from Ameela Li. She went 2-2 from the field, 1-1 from three-point range and 6-6 from the line for 11 of her 22 points in the game.
  • Sophomore guard Lianna Tillman played eight minutes in the quarter and contributed two points, two rebounds an assist and a steal.

Notables:

  • Pacific has started the season 3-1 for the second-straight year. It is the team's best start against four-straight Division I opponents since the 2012-13 season when the Tigers went 4-0 and ran to the Third Round of the WNIT to close out the year.
  • Higgins logged season highs in points (28) and steals (6) in the game.
  • Her 28 points were the most by a Tiger in a game this year.
  • Li had her second 20-point performance of the year. Her first came against UC Davis when she had 27.
  • The Tigers' four blocks were a team-high this season while Blakeslee's two were an individual high.
  • This is the first time that the Tigers have won both games in the Tiger Turkey Tip Off.