STOCKTON — There are good days on the court. Then, there are the kind of Saturday the Pacific women’s basketball team had against visiting San Diego.
A 9-0 run to start the game gave away to an 18-5 advantage, which in turn gave way to a 28-11 lead for the Tigers at the end of a quarter of play. They never looked back, snapping a two-game losing streak with a 79-47 win over San Diego at the Spanos Center.
Pacific (10-5, 3-2 West Coast Conference) shot 49.2 percent from the field, forced 20 turnovers on defense and channeled them into 27 points off takeaways. Valerie Higgins had a 17-point, nine-rebound game, with teammate Ameela Li putting up 12 points, seven assists and eight steals.
Li's thefts were the most by any Tiger in a game since 1996.
Brooklyn McDavid also had 12 points and seven rebounds, and the trio of Isabel Newman, Jessica Blakeslee and Lianna Tillman scored nine apiece.
A three-pointer from Newman kicked off the opening run, and Higgins had six of the Tigers’ first 13 points. According to head coach Bradley Davis, a stout defensive effort was the reason behind the early outpour.
For evidence, look no further than Li, who had four steals and — not coincidentally — six assists in the first period.
“We were focused on our defensive intensity,” Li said. “We thought the last few games, we dipped a little bit in that category.To start the game today, we really picked that up.”
Davis noted that Pacific started hot in games against Portland and Gonzaga, only to allow both teams back into the contest. Then, against BYU on Thursday, the Tigers started slow but fought all the way back, though it wasn’t quite enough.
On Saturday, Davis said, the Tigers got the best of both. Pacific led 50-26 at the half, and the avenue back into contention never came for San Diego.
“We were like, ‘We can’t play like we’re up 20. We have to play like we’re down 10,’ ” Li said. “That really helped our mentality to stay focused, and not let them make a comeback.”
Here's how the first half ended.@Pacific_Hoops leads 50-26 at the break over San Diego.pic.twitter.com/J9wb4y6UTT— Nick Woodard (@nwoodard25)January 12, 2019
The large lead also allowed Davis to let his young rotation soak up meaningful minutes. The fourth-year coach said the Tigers start three sophomores and bring a handful of underclassmen off the bench; getting them experience midseason against conference opponents should bode well down the road, especially when Pacific will need its supporting cast for a spark.
Tillman, a sophomore and Stockton native who graduated from Lincoln High, got a healthy applause when she entered the game. She proceeded to notch 19 minutes running the offense, collecting four rebounds and three assists along the way.
“For me it’s just facilitating, trying to my teammates baskets and taking mine when they’re there,” said Tillman of her focus on the court. “And, just focusing on defense and playing hard for my team.”
Here's (most) of the end of the third quarter, with@TrojansLHS alum Tillman hitting a 3-pointer near the end.
After 3,@Pacific_Hoops leads 67-35.pic.twitter.com/CyogbdTfTi
With 13 games remaining in the regular season, Pacific is officially past the halfway marker of the year. Davis said the Tigers thought they had the potential to be a solid team in this conference, and so far they have been.
At the same time, Davis said, this campaign is about growth and continuing to improve as a group. The coach said he thought Pacific did so this week, and the plan moving forward is to keep building from that.
“For us, we just want to keep growing and getting better,” Davis said. “We know this year is about growth, from game one at Davis all the way through to the last one. We just want to keep getting better.”
FINAL:@Pacific_Hoops 79, San Diego 47.
Decisive win for Tigers to stop a two-game skid.pic.twitter.com/QbJFsp8rwz
Contact reporter Nick Woodard at (209) 546-8272 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter@nwoodard25.