Tiger basketball teams ready for March runs in WCC Tournament

composite image of a men's and women's basketball player on the court

(L-R) Keylan Boone and Sam Ashby

The Pacific men’s and women’s basketball teams are primed for successful showings in the West Coast Conference Basketball Tournament, which tips off Thursday at Orleans Arena in Las Vegas.

The men’s team (14-17, 7-9) is the No. 7 seed and will play at 8:30 p.m. on Thursday against No. 10 seed Pepperdine. The Tigers swept the season series with the Waves.

The Pacific women’s team (13-16, 8-10) earned a bye into Friday’s second round by finishing in sixth place while winning six of its final eight games. The Tigers will play at 2:30 p.m. on Friday against the winner of the first-round game between No. 10 seed Loyola Marymount and No. 7 seed Saint Mary’s. 

Pacific’s men finished in a three-way logjam for fifth in the WCC, tied with Brigham Young University and San Francisco, but lost the tiebreaker. Pacific was picked to finish 10th in the conference in the preseason poll and vastly exceeded expectations by tying for fifth. 

The Tigers might be the most balanced team in the WCC. Six players scored in double figures in a 81-77 win over Portland in the season finale and four Tigers averaged more than nine points per game for the season, led by junior Keylan Boone with 13.4 points per game.

According to Boone, the team’s chemistry is a big edge heading into postseason play.

“We live by the saying ‘even if’ because no matter what happens on the court, we will have each other’s back and fight through adversity as a team,” he said.

“It’s the best time of the year for college basketball,” said Head Coach Leonard Perry. “The world will be watching, and people everywhere will know about Pacific. We are working to reach the big dance (NCAA Tournament), one game at a time. You must approach each game knowing that if you lose, you are out. In every game, we are fighting for another 40 minutes.”

Pacific’s women’s team is playing its best basketball of the season heading into the tournament. If the Tigers face St. Mary’s, it will be a rematch of the season finale, won by Pacific, 68-53, on the road.

“As evidenced by the uncertainty of the tournament seeds headed into the final weekend of the season, it’s our mindset that anything is possible, and our team is one of the teams that can make a run in March,” said Head Coach Bradley Davis. “We have played better the second half of the season with more consistency in our lineup. We feel good about where we are as we enter this exciting phase of the season.”

Junior Liz Smith is the top scorer with 13.7 points per game. Sophomore Anaya James (11.1 ppg) and senior Sam Ashby (10.7 ppg) also can score from multiple places on the court. 

Picked ninth in the preseason poll, Pacific was looking to bounce back from a 6-23 season, including a 3-14 WCC mark in 2021-22. The Tigers picked up five more WCC wins this year and seven more overall victories.

"This year has been different for us in the best way possible, and that goes beyond improving our season record,” said Smith. “We have stuck together through all the adversity we’ve faced and leaned on each other when times were tough. As a program, we are extremely excited heading into the tournament.”

Thursday and Friday games plus the women’s games on Saturday and Monday will be carried on regional sports networks in the WCC footprint plus BYUtv. The men’s quarterfinal and semifinal games, plus the men’s and women’s championship games will be on the ESPN family of networks. Fans can find the details on broadcast partners on the WCC website.

Fox Sports 1280 radio will broadcast both the men’s and women’s games in Las Vegas with Zack Bayrouty calling the action.

The university will host game watch parties open to students, faculty, staff and the community at The Lair on the second floor of the DeRosa University Center on the Pacific campus. There is no charge to watch the games at the pub-style gathering spot.