Fresno, Calif. - For the first time in three seasons the Tigers fell to Fresno State as the Bulldogs came up with a 71-52 win at the Save Mart Center in Fresno on Saturday night in the first of two road games for Pacific before conference play. For the Tigers (1-7) the loss evened their record on the home court of the Bulldogs at 3-3 since the 2003 season when the Save Mart Center opened while the win for Fresno State (7-3) snapped a two-game skid.
The game marked the 158th meeting between the two teams dating back to the 1923 season.
Getting off to a fast start in the contest, the Tigers jumped out front of the Bulldogs early holding a three-point lead at 10-7 just four minutes into the game thanks to a pair of three's from junior T.J. Wallace. However, the hot start would stall out for the Tigers after the first media as Pacific went 3:00 minutes without a score allowing the Bulldogs to push ahead for the first time. They would not trail again the rest of the way.
Sophomore Ilias Theodorou was able to break up the drought for the Tigers with his first bucket from behind the arc, knocking one down from the left angle to snap a 7-0 run by the Bulldogs. He would hit his second three a few minutes later to get Pacific back within three after a second scoreless stretch for the Tigers allowed the Bulldogs to go up by six with 9:36 remaining in the half. For Pacific, the three-point deficit with 9:22 remaining in the half would be the closest the Tigers would get from there on out.
The two early scores from deep kicked off a 10-point half for the big Greek as the sophomore from Athens hit the double-digit mark in scoring for the first time in his young career. Despite the efforts of Theodorou the Tigers went cold from the floor to end the first half, scoring on just two of their final 10 shots. With the lid on the Tigers' basket, the Bulldogs took control of the game, running out to a 12-point lead by half time.
For Pacific, just three Tigers came up with points in the opening half led by Theodorou's 10 while Wallace finished the half with eight and junior Tonko Vuko chipped in four before heading to the bench with foul trouble.
Out of the break Pacific began to find an offensive rhythm led by five quick points out of senior Alec Kobre including a three from the right angle. However, with every Tiger basket the Bulldogs had an answer of their own as Fresno was able to keep Pacific at arms length. Again, just as in the first half, the Tigers' start slowed, this time due to the Bulldogs' interior defense that came up with three blocks including two on one possession out of Karachi Edo.
The lack of offense enabled the Bulldogs to push their lead to 18 as Pacific went nearly six minutes in between field goals while scoring just a handful from the line. Vuko would finally stop the bleeding with an open layup set up by sophomore Maleke Haynes but the damage was already done. From there, the Bulldogs would extend their advantage behind a slew of Tiger mistakes while taking control of the paint on the offensive end.
For the Bulldogs, the bigs on the offensive end scored 24 points in the paint. Along with three blocks, Edo led the way offensively with 14 points and 10 rebounds while Torren Jones finished with 11 and seven rebounds. Finishing at the top of the scoring was Paul Watson who came up with a game-high 15 points including going 5-of-6 from the line.
Wallace would finish with a team-best 13 points to go with five rebounds while Theodorou ended his night with 10 points, all from the first half.
Pacific turned the ball over 20 times, one shy of a season-high, that turned into 16 points from the Bulldogs. The 52 points marked a season-low in scoring for the Tigers as they shot just 33.3% from the floor.
The Tigers head half way across the country to Green Bay, Wisconsin to take on Wisconsin-Green Bay on Tuesday, Dec. 15 at 5:00 pm PST. The game is the final warmup for the Tigers before West Coast Conference play begins on Dec. 21 against Santa Clara.