The Pacific Tigers fans rushed the court, amazed and stunned by their team’s dominance in beating the second-place BYU Cougars, 89-82, Thursday night in Stockton, Calif.
The loss damages the Cougars’ chances of making the “big dance” in March and drops them back to third place in the WCC standings. It was a tough loss to swallow for BYU head coach Dave Rose.
“We had a good chance at winning the league,” Rose said. “And if that doesn’t happen for us, then there’s a lot of other things you gotta shoot for.”
Pacific (14-10, 5-8) played lights out in the second half, shooting 68 percent from the field and missing nary a free throw late to put them over the edge for a tough win on their home floor.
Tony Gill and Trevin Harris came alive in the second half, carrying the Tigers by hitting clutch threes, combining for four in the second half, none bigger than one hit by Gill late in the second half, stretching the Tigers’ lead to 15 points, 78-63, with 5:55 remaining.
“It felt a little bit like the Wichita State game, where they made all the big plays,” Matt Carlino said. “And to their credit, we just got to be better on the road.”
The Cougars (17-10, 9-5) fought hard late, cutting a 14-point deficit to four off a steal and breakaway-dunk from Nate Austin down 79-75 with 2:01 to play, but it wasn’t enough, as they played the foul game to the finish.
Tyler Haws contributed average production by his standards, scoring 20 points off 6-16 from the field, including a perfect 8-8 from the line. Carlino led the way for the Cougars, adding 28 points off 9-15 from the field, including six three-pointers and four assists. Four of his shots from distance came in the first half.
Plagued by foul trouble, the Cougar big men never really got going offensively as Nate Austin and Eric Mika combined for just six points off 2-7 from the field.
“There were some tough calls,” Carlino said. “They were going at our bigs, and that was tough. Every one of our starters except for one had two fouls to start the second half, and I think that might have affected our aggressiveness on defense.”
Skyler Halford added 14 points for BYU off 2-10 from the field, making 6-7 from the charity stripe, while Kyle Collinsworth notched 10 points and seven rebounds.
The first half was much different than the second. The Cougars jumped out to a 9-0 lead, followed by a 12-0 run from the Tigers that was capped off by a Tim Thomas layup, and another 9-0 run from the Cougars. The score was 38-36 Cougars at the break.
Despite being a big loss, the Cougars still have a chance to take second place in conference as they finish off the regular season, traveling to Saint Mary’s on Saturday. A second win over the Gaels would put them in second place once again as they prepare for the WCC Tournament.