LAS VEGAS — The WCC, a league known for high scoring teams and offensive efficiency, saw its tournament get underway with a defensive struggle.
Pacific, the 9-seed, isn't a particularly strong 3-point shooting team and San Francisco, the 8-seed, is an above average team when it comes to defending against the three. You wouldn't know that from the first half of this game.
David Taylor got the scoring underway with a three on the Tigers' first possession of the game. For the first 12-minutes, 30 seconds, the Tigers weren't able to score from inside the 3-point arc unless they were at the free throw line. The Dons' strong interior defense kept the Tigers on the perimeter. When the Tigers ventured inside the Dons either took the ball, got a hand on it or forced the Tigers to run nearly 35 seconds of inept offense.
The Tigers first two-point field goal, an uncontested Sami Eleraky dunk, came on an inbounds play after the third media timeout.
The Dons asserted themselves out of the break. After a sluggish start from both teams in what was honestly a pretty sluggish game, San Francisco managed to get a bit of separation for the first time.
Mark Tollefsen stole the ball from Dulani Robinson and took straight to the hoop for a thunderous one-handed slam. That gave the Dons a five point lead. But this is March, and the Tigers were playing to keep their season alive. While the Dons had been dominant the were unable to really pull away.
The Tigers stayed within two possessions for most of the half thanks mostly to T.J. Wallace. On two occasions in the middle of the half he hit threes that cut the lead to just one point. Unfortunately for his Tigers, the Dons were starting to heat up.
Back-to-back threes moments after Wallace's, from Kruize Pinkins and then Chris Adams, finally pushed the Dons out to a three-possession lead.
Pacific was hot from long range to start the game but fell cold late. The Tigers missed four threes in a row in the final minute and a half. The fourth, a T.J. Wallace miss, landed in the hands of Dulani Robinson who promptly launched from deep and knocked it down.
After nearly 20 minutes of San Francisco asserting itself as the better team we had a two point game with 23 seconds to play. This is March, after all.
March or not San Francisco is the better team. They held on to win, just as they did in both previous meetings with the Tigers this season.
Pacific's season ends at 12-19. San Francisco, now 14-17, will face Gonzaga in Saturday's quarterfinals at 6 p.m. Pacific.