Stockton, Calif. - Making a splash in his season-debut, senior Alec Kobre came up with a career-best 24 points on Friday night but saw his return spoiled as UC Irvine stole the contest late, 70-67, at the Alex G. Spanos Center. The late game loss marked Pacific's (1-6) third heartbreaking loss at home to start the year while the Anteaters (6-2) won for the first time in Stockton since 2012.
Learning the fate of their sharpshooter just hours before tipoff, the Tigers got a key piece to their offense back in uniform on Friday night with the return of Kobre after missing the first six games of the season. Despite the lost time the senior showed no rust in his game as Kobre poured in a career-best and team season-high 24 points against the Anteaters as the sharpshooter went 9-of-14 from the field and 4-of-9 from behind the arc to lead the attack. However, despite Kobre's best efforts, the Tigers could not hold off the Anteaters late as missed free throws and critical mistakes in the waning moments of contest allowed UC Irvine to steal the game out from under the Tigers.
UC Irvine used a 7-0 run over the final 2:31 of the second half to come away with the victory after the Tigers lead by as much as 14 points midway through the half. Even after trading baskets with the Anteaters, the Tigers lead by 10 with just under seven-minutes to play in the game, but finished just 2-of-6 in the final 6:45 of the game while missing a pair of front ends at the line and committing a pair of turnovers in the final 1:30.
For Pacific, the end of the game proved to be particularly frustrating as the Tigers held the advantage for nearly 30 minutes after taking their first lead of the night with 11:21 to play. The Anteaters would not lead again until Mamadou Ndiaye scored the go-ahead basket for UC Irvine with 1:27 before a layup off a Tiger turnover with :29 seconds to play sealed the win.
Early on it was all Anteaters as UC Irvine built a nine-point lead in the first five-minutes of the game behind eight early points from Mike Best. Despite the early deficit, the Tigers stormed back thanks to Jacob Lampkin as the sophomore scored six-straight in just over a minutes time despite giving up nine inches to the 7-6 Ndiaye inside. Lampkin's scoring drew the defense his way opening up the underneath for the freshman, Anthony Townes, as the youngest Tiger put Pacific ahead with an and-one before going on to finish the half with 11 points on 5-of-6 attempts from the floor.
After netting seven points in 10 minutes in the first half, Kobre caught fire in the second half as the senior went off for 17 points including knocking down a trio from downtown. Despite Kobre's offense, the Tigers could not muster the same work underneath as Townes was held to just one shot in 10 minutes while Lampkin scored four points after eight early first half tallies. Additionally, the Tigers got into foul trouble as UC Irvine was able to get to the line 17 times in the second half, knocking down 12 of their free attempts. The biggest beneficiary of change in the flow of the game was Alex Young who netted nine of his 10 second half points from the stripe while Jaron Martin came up with 10 points, seven of which came in a two-minute span when he knocked down three-straight shots for the Anteaters to cut Pacific's lead to two with 3:36 to play.
In all, Kobre's 24 points led three Tigers' in double figures as Townes ended his night with 13 points while Lampkin netted 12. Townes' 13 marked the first time in his young career that the freshman scored in double-figures while Lampkin matched his career best in points for the third time in four games.
Ndiaye led four in double-figures for the Anteaters with 19 points while also coming up with a game-high 14 rebounds to post the double-double. Martin's 10 in the second half led him to 16 points for the game while Best and Young each finished with 11 points.
The Tigers shot a season-low nine free throws while making just five. UC Irvine ended 15-of-21 from the line.
The meeting was the 82nd meeting between the two teams as they have met every season since 1978, marking the longest uninterrupted series for Pacific versus any of team. The Anteaters have won each of the last two contests between the two sides, but Pacific still owns a 43-39 advantage over their old Big West foe.
The Tigers will look to get on track in their final road trip before the start of conference play when they travel to Fresno State on Dec. 12 to take on the Bulldogs at the Save Mart Center. The game is scheduled for 4:00 pm and is the first of two on the road for Pacific before heading into WCC play on Dec. 21 at home against Santa Clara.