Pacific Men's Basketball - Pacific 66, UTEP 61
The Pacific men's basketball season opened up the 2010-11 season with a 66-61 victory at UTEP in front of a sellout crowd of 12,222. The Tigers begin the season 1-0, while the Miners start out 0-1.
The Tigers fell behind early after a 4-0 burst by UTEP - but fought back to even it up at 7-7 after a layup from senior Sam Willard (Pierre, S.D.) a jumper from senior Nyika Williams (Kingston, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines) and a three-point play by sophomore Allen Huddleston (Merced, Calif.). Another layup from Willard with 12:07 to go in the half gave the Tigers their only lead of the first 20 minutes (13-12). Randy Culpepper, a 2010 All-America selection, scored five points in a 10-0 run to give the Miners a 26-16 lead with 6:13 to go in the first half. Pacific then scored five straight points on a jumper from Willard and a three-pointer by senior Demetrece Young (Oklahoma City, Okla.). The Miners scored the next six points to take an 11-point lead 32-21 and held a 36-25 advantage at the break.
The second half with a blitz, as the Tigers out-scored the Miners 15-2 over the first five and a half minutes to take a 40-38 lead. Willard had seven points in the run, while junior Jose Rivera (Brentwood, Calif.) knocked down a pair of three-pointers. The teams traded the lead back and forth over the next several minutes, with the Tigers holding a 49-48 lead at the 7:58 mark of the second half. UTEP took a four-point lead with five unanswered points, but the Tigers struck back with back-to-back three-pointers from senior Pat Eveland (San Diego, Calif.) and Rivera to take a 55-53 lead. Julyan Stone tied it up with a jumper for UTEP, followed by a jumper from senior Terrell Smith (Federal Way, Wash.) and a layup from Willard. The Miners climbed back to the tie with a trey from Michael Perez (his only basket of the game) and a free throw from Jeremy Williams. Young then nailed a three-pointer from the top of the key with 1:44 left and Smith followed a Willard miss with a thunderous put-back dunk to silence the sellout crowd and give Pacific a 64-59 lead with :58 to play. The lead increased to seven after a layup by Young with :32 seconds remaining. The Perez three-pointer was the last field goal made by the Miners as Pacific's defense forced an 0-for-7 in the final 3:44. In the final :20 seconds the Tigers missed three front ends of one-and-ones, allowing the Miners a chance, but the defense held strong for the Pacific victory.
Willard led the Tigers with a double-double, scoring a career-high tying 23 points and grabbing 11 rebounds. Rivera came off the bench to score 17, including five three-pointers. Young had 11 points and seven assists for the Tigers.
Pacific shot 53.3 percent in the second half (16-30) after hitting just 10 of 30 shots in the first half. The Tigers also held a 39-36 rebounding advantage.
"It was a great road victory," said Pacific head coach Bob Thomason. "UTEP is a very athletic team and really bothered us in the first half. We played with a lot of poise and showed great toughness."
UTEP was led by Culpepper's 13 points, but the Tigers held scoreless in the second half on 0-for-6 shooting.
The Tigers are next in action at the Dick's Sporting Goods NIT Season Tip-Off, taking on Nevada at 5:30 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 15.