Stockton, Calif. - With a chance to pull the biggest upset of the season, the Tigers saw their Hollywood ending slip through their hands as a layup with :18 seconds to go in the game missed its mark allowing the Gaels to survive and hold on for a 68-65 win on Saturday night at the Spanos Center. Pacific (6-14) found itself on the wrong side of another one-possession contest falling to 4-6 in WCC play while the Gaels (18-2) held on to first place in the conference with the win that moved them to 9-1.
An inauspicious start for the Tigers saw Pacific down 13-0 before finally getting on the board for the first time in the game having started the contest 0-for-6 with four turnovers and without a point for the first five minutes. Pacific saw the ball through the net for the first time thanks to an Alec Kobre floater that stopped the bleeding momentarily at the 14:39 mark.
Pacific would trail by 14 at 18-4 with 10:45 to play in the half before finding a rhythm from behind the arc as Maleke Haynes hit a three from the corner before Ilias Theodorou drilled one from the top of the key to cut the lead to eight. Again, the fix would be temporary as the Gaels would answer with two three's of their own from Calvin Hermanson that pushed the lead back to 13. Hermanson, with the threes found himself with 13 points, two clear of the Tigers who found themselves trailing 24-11 at the third media.
Despite the early issues, the Tigers would fight their way back into the game behind an 8-0 run in less than one minute as T.J. Wallace, Ray Bowles, and Kobre took over the game for Pacific. The run cut the deficit to four at 32-28 at the final media before a step back 18-footer by Wallace made it just a one possession game out of the timeout. The run would end at 10 when Joe Rahon got to the rim for a layup moments later. Rahon would do it again in the final seconds of the half to keep Pacific trailing after an Eric Thompson put-back made it just a one-point game with :38 seconds to go.
For the half, Pacific would end up shooting 48.0% (12-of-25) despite the rough start while the Gaels would end the half at 50.0% (15-30).
Out of the break the two teams would trade punches before a layup by Bowles with 16:25 to play in the game tied the contest up for the first time since the opening tip. On the very next possession the Tigers would capture the lead when Tonko Vuko beat his man to the basket to put Pacific ahead 42-40.
Pacific would push ahead by four but a rash of mistakes on the offensive end kept the Tigers from expanding their lead further allowing the Gaels to push back, recapturing the lead at 46-44 with a three from Kyle Clark with just under 13 minutes to play. The Gaels would take advantage of a six-minute stretch where Pacific netted just two points to go ahead by six at 52-46 with 9:43 to play.
After a huge block by Wallace kept the Tigers within two possessions, the Tigers finally got back on track thanks to a layup from Bowles with 8:51 to play. Wallace would follow with a circus layup to cut the Gael lead back to just two at 52-50 before a three by Kobre after a Jock Landale layup made it a one-point game with just over seven minutes to play. Pacific would force a turnover on the next possession and turn it into another three from Kobre that gave the Tigers' their second lead of the half.
Kobre would drill his fourth three of the game moments later and hit a pair of free throws as part of an 11-0 run by his own hand over two minutes of game action. The Kobre devastation put Pacific ahead seven at 61-54 before the Gaels would finally answer with a layup to stop the run. Pacific would have a chance to push the lead to nine but two missed free throws and a pair of threes from Rahon quickly cut the Tigers' lead to just one at 63-62 with 3:05 to play. The Gaels would retake the lead on a jumper by Landale on the next possession but Pacific would answer with Vuko free throws to take back the lead for the third and final time.
Unfortunately for the Tigers, that would be their last lead as the Gaels would hit a pair of free throws of their own to retake the lead and Pacific would miss the layup with :18 seconds to play allowing Saint Mary's to ice the game from the line.
Overall, Pacific put three in double-figures led by Kobre who netted 18 points on 6-of-11 shooting including hitting 4-of-6 from deep. Wallace would finish his night with 17 points while Bowles chipped in 11 to go with five assists. Thompson would end with seven points for the Tigers while grabbing a career and game-best 12 rebounds.
Pacific would outshoot the Gaels 47.1% (24-of-51) to 44.4% (24-of-54). Saint Mary's saw three score in double-figures as well with Hermanson ending the night with game-high 20 points while Rahon added 13 and Landale finished with 10.
Both teams struggled from the line as Pacific went 9-of-19 while the Gaels went 13-of-23 from the stripe.
The Tigers hit the road to begin the new month when Pacific heads to San Diego on Thursday, Feb. 4. The game is scheduled for 7:00 pm from the Jenny Craig Pavilion.