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WCC Tournament Opening Round Recap: Underdogs own the night in Vegas

Pacific and Portland survive, for now, and advance to take on the league’s top-two.

Pacific v Pepperdine
Maleke Haynes (0) high fives Ray Bowles (22), who set a career high in Pacific’s win over Pepperdine
Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

The WCC’s four lowest seeds faced off Friday night at Orleans Arena in Las Vegas. Both games ended with upsets. What have the Tigers and Pilots earned with their wins? A chance at another upset tomorrow.

Game 1: No. 9 Pacific Tigers 89, No. 8 Pepperdine Waves 84

Two teams that don’t usually score the ball all that well found themselves in a shootout in the WCC Tournament opener.

Both teams average under 70 points per game, but Saturday in Vegas they climbed well into the 80s. Those high point totals were there result of quality shooting, Pacific connected on 53.3% of its shots and the Waves knocked down 49.2%, and career highs in scoring.

Pepperdine senior Lamond Murray Jr. poured in 41 points, good for second most all time at the WCC Tournament, in what would be his final collegiate effort. Pacific was led by junior Ray Bowles, who scored a career high 26.

“I asked him to do a lot tonight,” Tigers’ head coach Damon Stoudamire said.

It was a back-and-forth affair with seven ties and 19 lead changes. It took until the 1:48 mark of the second half, when the Tigers wet up 83-76, for either team to extend a lead beyond five points.

In the end the Tigers posted their most efficient offensive display of the season against a Division I opponent. Coach Stoudamire knew his team was capable of scoring 1.25 points per possession, and at this point it’s a case of better late than never.

"I knew we had one or two of these games in us,” Stoudamire said, “but it just never clicked like that."

The Tigers (11-21) had better hope things keep clicking, as their next game is against No. 1 Gonzaga (29-1), Saturday at 7 p.m. Pepperdine’s injury riddled season ends at 10-21.

Game 2: No. 10 Portland Pilots 60, No. 7 San Diego Toreros 55

Portland used a stingy interior defense to take down the Toreros.

Brett Bailey, in his final collegiate game, led San Diego with 19 points. Sophomore Jazz Johnson paced the Pilots with 17 points. Gabe Taylor (12 points) Xavier Hallinan (11 points) also scored in double figures for the Pilots.

“It’s been a while since we got a league win,” Taylor said.

The Pilots used a stingy interior defense to snap their 16 game WCC losing streak. Portland held San Diego to 35.8% shooting from the field, and outscored the Toreros 26-10 in the paint.

“We didn’t give up as many post ups,” Portland head coach Terry Porter said, “we did a great job on dribble penetration as well. Those were two of the areas they really dominated us in the previous two games.”

San Diego was forced to jack up shots from deep, but went just 11-33 from three point range.

Up next for the Pilots (11-21) is a Saturday night date with No. 2 Saint Mary’s (26-3). Saint Mary’s held Portland to nine first half points, in Portland, earlier this season. San Diego’s season ends at 13-18. Saint Mary’s also held San Diego to nine first half points, in San Diego, earlier this season.