Tigers down Pilots Behind Higgins' 34 points

Photo by Keith Colgan
Photo by Keith Colgan

Pacific women's basketball bounced back with an 87-77 victory over Portland tonight at the Alex G. Spanos Center to complete the regular-season sweep of the Pilots.

Sophomore guard Valerie Higgins willed the Tigers to a win with a career-high 34 points, which is the third most in a game this year by any West Coast Conference player and the fifth most in a single game in program history. Higgins also had her ninth double-double of the year, which ties her for 13th on the single-season record book.

Higgins' supporting cast was there to lend much more than just a helping hand. Four Tigers finished in double-figure scoring. Senior guard Ameela Li had 13 points and five assists while freshman Kaylin Randhawa scored a career-high 11 points and tied a career-high with five rebounds. Sophomore guard Lianna Tillman continued a strong run of games with 10 points, six rebounds and five assists from the bench.

While Pacific's half of the box score made it look like it was an easy game for the Tigers, Portland put up solid numbers as well and hung with the Tigers for the majority of the contest. The Pilots were led by Kate Andersen who had 19 points. Maddie Muhlhelm and Haylee Andrews also scored in double figures with 13 points and 11 points respectively.

Portland opened with a strong first quarter in which it outscored Pacific 20-19 despite the fact the Higgins got rolling very early. The Tiger sophomore reached double-figures for the 19th time this season by the end of the first quarter with 11 points and four rebounds.

Pacific got going as a team in the second and powered out to a 46-32 lead heading into the half thanks to Randhawa who erupted for 11 points, three rebounds an assist and a steal in the second quarter alone. The freshman had a career-high before the end of the first half. Li was a deadeye from long-range making all three of her attempts in the quarter.

Portland rallied back in the third quarter to make it a ball game again. They outscored the Tigers 24-16 to cut the Pacific lead down to just six points. Pacific made six of its 15 shots in the quarter while the Pilots shot 50% behind Gorzeman's eight points to cut down the lead.

In the fourth Pacific's shots still didn't fall, but what hamstrung the Tigers on Thursday ended up being the difference maker on Friday. The Tigers pulled down eight offensive rebounds in the final quarter to keep the ball out of Portland's hands.

For a stretch just longer than a minute in the fourth, the Tigers allowed the Pilots to control the ball only once and briefly at that. Pacific missed five shots and got the offensive rebound on four of them. The only time the Tigers didn't get the offensive rebound, Portland's Gorzeman turned it over just seconds later with a travel.

Following the stretch, the Tigers went on a 9-2 run to build space between themselves and the Pilots.

Portland rallied back briefly and made it a three-possession ball game, but with 1:13 to play, the Pilots had Pacific on the ropes. With the shot clock running down and Pacific failing to find an open shot, Tillman took matters into her own hands by taking a shot with the defense guarding her tight from the logo at half court and found nothing but the bottom of the net. Her long-range dagger was the final nail in the Pilots' tomb. The Tigers made five of their six free throws with time expiring to clinch Conference win number seven on the season.

At the time of this release, Pacific sits in a tie for fourth in the WCC standings with Pepperdine, who handed No. 25 BYU its second-straight loss. Saint Mary's sits alone in third place and are currently taking on Gonzaga. A Gonzaga victory will move the Bulldogs into first in the league at 10-1. BYU will remain in second and Saint Mary's would fall into a tie for third with Pacific and Pepperdine with a loss to Gonzaga.

Pacific's win tonight tied the 2017-18 total for WCC wins with seven. Pacific still has six opportunities to surpass that mark before the Conference Tournament starts in March.

Game summary

First Quarter:

  • Portland led 20-19 at the end of one quarter.
  • Valerie Higgins led all players with 11 points to get to her 19th game in double-figure scoring this year in just 10 minutes of time on the floor. She also had four rebounds and two blocks.
  • Portland's Maddie Muhlheim had six points and Haylee Andrews had five points.
  • Jayce Gorzeman had five rebounds for the Pilots.
  • Pacific's sophomore guard Lianna Tillman was only on the floor for three minutes but assisted on four buckets.

Second Quarter:

  • Pacific outscored Portland 27-12 to take a 46-32 lead into the half.
  • Kaylin Randhawa led all players in the quarter with 11 points, which alone was a career-high for her. She also had an assist and a steal.
  • Ameela Li was perfect from long range at 3-3.
  • The Tigers outshot the Pilots by nearly nine percentage points in the half. Pacific shot at a 45.7% clip.
  • Higgins neared a double-double through two quarters with 15 points and eight rebounds.
  • Three Tigers, Higgins, Randhawa and Li scored in double figures in the first half alone.

Third Quarter:

  • Portland outscored Pacific 24-16 in the quarter.
  • Gorzeman led all players with eight points while Andersen had six.
  • Tillman had seven points to lead the Tigers in the quarter.

Fourth Quarter:

  • Pacific outscored Portland 25-21 in the decisive fourth quarter.
  • Pacific outrebounded Portland 14-12 in the quarter. Eight of those rebounds came on the offensive end of the floor.
  • Higgins took over with 15 points in the fourth quarter to cap off the best game of her career so far.

Notables:

  • Higgins 35 points were: A career high. Tied for the fifth most in single-game history at Pacific. And the third most of any WCC player this season.
  • Her 13 made field goals are the most in a game this season.
  • Higgins has had four games with at least 20 points this season.
  • Higgins double-double was her ninth of the season, which tied her for 13th on the single-season double-doubles list.
  • Li has scored in double-figures in 12-straight games.
  • Tillman scored in double figures for the fourth time this season. Three of those double-figure performances have come in the last five games.
  • Randhawa's 11 points were a career-high. She tied a career-high with five rebounds.
  • As a team, the Tigers made 10 three-pointers for the first time since Pacific made 11 against San Jose State in November.