Matadors defeated by Tigers 78-73

Alonso Tacanga

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(Ed. Note: Parts of this report were compiled from the CSTV broadcast.)

Sometimes the ball doesn’t bounce your way.

Tigers’ guard Michael Kirby came up with a loose ball and made a leaning jumper at the buzzer to send the game into overtime and Pacific escaped with an unlikely 78-73 win over the Matadors Thursday night at the Spanos Center.

Down 69-67 with 1.5 seconds left in the game and after a couple of timeouts, the Tigers had to inbound from their own end of the court. The ball was heaved across the length of the court and batted down just inside the three-point line by two Matadors. It bounced right to Kirby, who bent forward and buried the shot just as the clock read zero.

Jonathan Heard missed two game-icing free throws just before the play.

“We gave it away,” said Matador head coach Bobby Braswell. “It’s a tough loss. We could have really put some distance between ourselves and everybody else (in the conference).”

The Matadors, who have never won at Pacific, managed only four points in the extra period. They were tied at 73 after Deon Tresvant’s three-pointer rattled around and went in, but with 1:20 left in the overtime, Pacific made 5-of-6 free throws to hold them off.

The loss was the second consecutive in conference play and dropped the Matadors into a tie with Pacific for first place in the Big West.

Northridge trailed by as many as 14 points in the first period before battling back for a 46-38 halftime deficit. Chad Troyer had 22 of Pacific’s points before the intermission, but only added eight more from then on as the Matadors tightened up defensively.

“It was a great effort in the second half,” Braswell said. “I told the team at halftime that Pacific gave us their best shot ? they can’t play any better. We needed to take some personal pride in our defense, and our kids really responded. I’m very proud of that effort.”

Northridge began the second half with a 17-7 run to go up 55-53 and force a Tigers’ timeout. Pacific responded with a three-pointer to regain the lead, and then a back-and-forth battle ensued.

Tremaine Townsend made a layup at one end, but Pacific got the lead back again. Townsend then hit a rare trey and Rob Haynes banked in a shot to give the Matadors a 62-58 lead, their biggest of the night, with 6:45 left in the half.

The Tigers fought back, but were still down 69-67 after Josh Jenkins made a layup with a minute to go. Pacific’s seemingly final chance at tying the game was lost in a missed layup as Heard got the loose ball and was fouled with less than two seconds to go. He couldn’t extend the advantage at the line, setting up the stage for Kirby’s improbable shot.

The Matadors shot 47.4 percent from the field in contrast to the Tigers’ 39. They missed more than half of their free throw attempts, which proved to be dooming. Tresvant once again carried the scoring load and had 19 points. Townsend and Jayme Miller chipped in 12 apiece.

Pacific outrebounded Northridge 44-35, the second time in as many games where the Matadors have seen themselves down in that category. Townsend, their leading rebounder, had 13 of them, but Calvin Chitwood and Miller, both plagued by foul trouble, only combined for four.

Anthony Brown had 11 points and 19 rebounds for Pacific.

With Paul Wayne unavailable due to personal reasons and Josh Jenkins in foul trouble, Northridge relied on reserve guard Rai Colston for much of the first half. Jenkins came back, but had a rough night from the field and finished with eight points and eight assists.

Steffan Johnson contributed 13 points for Pacific.

The Matadors continued their road trip for a game at UC Davis on Saturday night. Game results were not available at press time.