Tigers Open Season at Fairfield, No. 4 UConn
Stockton, Calif. – The Pacific women's basketball team opens its 2011-12 regular season on the road with contests Sunday at Fairfield (10 am PT) and Tuesday at No. 4 Connecticut (4:30 pm PT).
"Going on the road to Fairfield's going to be tough. We've been talking about that all week," head coach Lynne Roberts said. "We go on the road, across the country to play a very good Fairfield team on Sunday and then the University of Connecticut and play them on Tuesday, so we're starting off the season with a bang, that's for sure. We have to compete. This a group that will compete together."
In Pacific's regular season tune-up, the Tigers cruised to a 30-point victory over Division II opponent Academy of Art, 92-62, as 12 of the 13 Tigers in uniform scored. Junior guard Erica McKenzie and junior forward Ashley Smith led the way with 14 points each, while sophomore guard Gena Johnson added 13 points and five assists. Pacific shot 45.2 percent from the field, scoring 44 points in the paint and recording 18 steals. The Tigers took advantage of the 32 Urban Knight turnovers, converting the miscues into 30 points for Pacific.
Pacific's swap of Erica McKenzie to shooting guard and Gena Johnson to point guard paid dividends, as Johnson's five assists came opposite just one turnover, and McKenzie connected on five field goals including a pair of threes, while handing out four assists herself.
The Tigers connected on 31 of 44 free throw attempts, including an eight-of-10 performance by Smith and a seven-for-10 from Johnson. Junior forward Kendall Rodriguez hit five-for-five from the stripe to finish with 11 points and tied for the team lead in rebounds, with Smith, at five.
The Stags, out of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, are coming off a 17-13 season last year and return four of their starters, including leading scorer Taryn Johnson. It's the second meeting all-time between the Tigers and Stags, and first since a 1985 matchup in Las Vegas, won by Fairfield.
Following Sunday's contest, Pacific will return a game with the Connecticut Huskies after UConn's trip to the Alex G. Spanos Center last season. The game with the then-No. 1 Huskies was Pacific's first-ever women's basketball sell-out crowd, as 6,150 saw UConn stretch it's NCAA-record winning streak to 90 games. Pacific hung with Huskies in the early going, holding UConn to 15 points in the first 12 minutes, before head coach Geno Auriemma called time out and went to the full court press, which enabled the Huskies to pull away. The conclusion of a home-and-home series is the second all-time meeting between the two schools.
"We're trying to take it one game at a time, so we haven't talked about it," Roberts continued. "We scheduled this home and home with them because we knew it would be a great playing experience for our team. They'll have a lot of people there, and there will be a lot of excitement there. My hope is that we can go in there and be fearless; enjoy the atmosphere their, but not get caught up in it."
The Tigers will be making a rare east coast road swing, playing just their 10th and 11th games in the eastern time zone. Pacific's last trip to the Atlantic seaboard was in November of 2009, with road contests against Iona and Monmouth.
Following the road trip, Pacific will return to the Spanos Center for the Tigers' home opener on Nov. 19 against St. Mary's, the 1,000th game in the history of the Pacific women's basketball program.