Pacific Men's Basketball - Pacific 86, Loyola Marymount 76
Junior Sam Willard (Pierre, S.D.) had career highs with 23 points and 17 rebounds to lead the Tigers to an 86-76 win at Loyola Marymount on Wednesday, March 17 in the first round of the CollegeInsider.com Postseason Tournament. The Tigers improved to 21-11 on the season, while the Lions dropped to 18-16. Pacific will next be in action on Monday, March 22. Pacific will face Northern Colorado in the second round of the CIT, but the location of the contest has not been determined.
The Tigers outscored the Lions 18-1 after falling behind 4-0, getting a pair of three-pointers from freshman Allen Huddleston (Merced, Calif.) to lead 18-5 with 11:15 to play in the first half. Leading by double digits from that point, Pacific took it's largest lead at 20 points (42-22) late in the first half. Vernon Teel hit a three-pointer at the first half buzzer to make it a 42-25 halftime lead for the Tigers. Pacific shot a season-high 69.6% from the field in the first half.
Loyola Marymount opened the second half with seven straight points to carry over a 10-0 run and make it at 42-32 Tiger lead with 18:15 to play. The Tigers took lead back to 15 (49-34), before the Lions made another run. LMU cut the lead to 51-48 with 11:37 to play after a 14-2 run over a five minute span. After trading baskets, the Tigers used a layup from Willard, a three-point play from senior Joe Ford (Altadena, Calif.) and three-pointer from Huddleston to take the lead back to 63-52 with 7:56 to play. Another LMU surge cut the Tiger lead to 68-63 with 4:56 to go before senior Lavar Neufville (Fairfield, Calif.) stepped up. He scored five straight points, then had an assist to senior Michael Nunnally (Stockton, Calif.) for a dunk. Neufville then grabbed a rebound on the other end and was fouled, making both free throws to give the Tigers a 9-0 run and a 77-63 lead with 1:58 to play in the game. The lead did not fall below nine the rest of the way, as the Tigers hit nine of 12 free throws in the final two minutes.
"It was great to be able to step up in late minutes of the game and help the team," said Neufville. "Different players have been stepping up all year, and tonight was a big win."
Pacific, the Big West Conference regular season co-champions making their second straight CIT appearance, connected on a season-high 60.0% on the way to a season-best 86 points. Willard's eighth career double-double was supported by four other Tigers in double figures. Nunnally and Ford each had 12 and Huddleston and Neufville both came off the bench for 11 to give Pacific a huge lift from its reserves, outscoring the LMU bench 25-7. Vernon Teel led the Lions with 22 points.