Pacific Women's Hoops Downs Arizona St. To Advance in WNIT
The Pacific women's basketball team pulled away from Arizona State for a 77-62 win and the program's first-ever post-season victory Friday night at the Alex G. Spanos Center.
The Tigers, making their second WNIT appearance, closed the first half with a 13-2 run to take a 33-24 lead into the half, and led by as many as 18 in the second half.
Sophomore guard Gena Johnson led all scorers with 16 points, while junior forward Kendall Rodriguez added 15 and a team-high eight rebounds. Junior guard Ashley Wakefield chipped in 14 points on five-of-five from the field, while junior guard Erica McKenzie added 11 points and seven assists.
The first half was a defensive struggle as neither team led by more than more than three. After eight ties and eight lead changes, Pacific took the lead for good on a free throw by forward Brianna Johnson with 3:30 to go in the half. Gena Johnson picked up a steal and nailed a jumper and a lay-up by Wakefield gave the Tigers a five-point advantage. McKenzie recorded a steal and lay-up, and Wakefield added another drive to the hoop to cap the run and provide a nine-point cushion at halftime.
Pacific forced 12 first-half turnovers, and held the Sun Devils to 30 percent shooting in the first half.
An interior move from junior forward Ashley Smith gave the Tigers a 44-33 lead five minutes into the second half.
Arizona State tried to fight their way back, as Olivia Major drained the Sun Devils' first three pointer of the game to cut it to eight. But the Tigers answered with an 11-2 run, starting with a Wakefield fastbreak lay-up, and a three from Rodriguez. Smith's free throws provided the Tigers with a 17-point advantage before ASU made another push.
Deja Mann's jumped started a 17-6 run for the Sun Devils, as Alex Earl hit a three and added a lay-up to pull Arizona State to within single digits again. Then, Earl added another bucket inside and hit a three-pointer to cut Pacific's lead to just six, at 61-55 with 5:05 to go.
But the Tigers responded as Rodriguez' drained a three-pointer and the Tigers defense held on the ensuing possession. McKenzie hit an off-balance runner from just inside the arc to beat the shot clock and restore a double-digit lead, 66-55 with 2:41 to go.
At that, the Tigers' raucous crowd began to sense the program's first post-season win. A defensive rebound by Smith and a jumper from Gena Johnson preceded a 10-for-10 close by the Tigers from the free throw line.
Pacific improves to 18-13 on the season, while Arizona State wraps their campaign at 20-12.
The Tigers move on to the second round of the WNIT, and will face San Diego on Sunday at 4 p.m. at USD's Jenny Craig Pavilion.