Pacific A-Salts Banana Slugs For Sixth Straight Victory
FOREST GROVE – Riley Grandinetti's (Jr., Murray, Utah) three-pointer with 14 seconds left quelled a spirited UC Santa Cruz rally Sunday night and lifted Pacific to their sixth straight win with a 62-60 victory over the Banana Slugs in men's basketball action at the Stoller Center.
The Boxers led by as many as 13 points midway through the second half, but the Slugs scored 14 unanswered points over the next seven minutes to take a 57-56 lead with two minutes to go. UCSC owned a 60-58 lead on Jared Ponce's three-pointer with 1:14 left. Zitani then made one of two free throws on the Boxers' next possession before Grandinetti converted his third three-pointer for the game-winner.
With the victory, Pacific (7-2) is off to its best start since the 2011-12 season and extended its win streak to six games, the team's best since a six-game win streak during the 1999-2000 season. UC Santa Cruz fell to 2-13 on the year and is in the midst of a 12-game losing streak.
Daniel Zitani (Sr., Oakland, Calif.) led Pacific with 19 points and nine rebounds to go along with three steals and a block. Jordan Batey (Jr., San Antonio, Texas) came off the bench to score 12 points while Grandinetti's nine points all came from beyond the three-point arch. Pacific finished the night shooting 44.2 percent from the field (23-52), but just 36.8 percent from three-point range (7-19) and 9 of 14 from the free throw line.
James Townsend led UC Santa Cruz with 19 points, connecting on 8 of 14 from the field. Ponce added 18 points on 6 of 9 from the field and 4 of 6 from three-point range. The Banana Slugs finished shooting 42.1 percent from the field (24-57) and 7 of 16 from three-point range.
Pacific came out ahead in a sloppy start to the game for both teams, with a Zitani three-pointer opening up an 11-2 Boxers' lead at the 14-minute mark. The Banana Slugs rebounded to come within two on Townsend's lay-up with 7:52 to go. Pacific went back up seven on Coby Proctor's (Jr., Sublimity, Ore.) with 4:06 left, but the Slugs scored the next seven points to come back within one with 3:07 left. Pacific succeeded in holding on to a 33-31 halftime lead.
UC Santa Cruz opened up the second half by taking their first lead of the game as Ponce hit a three-pointer 45 seconds into the stanza. The advantage was short lived as the Boxers would lead 42-40 with 12:22 to go before going on a 14-3 run to build their biggest lead of the game. Batey's two free throws with 9:21 to go put Pacific up 56-43.
The Slugs found some fire at that point, with Ponce's jumper with 7:28 left igniting a 14-0 run that made the game close late. Spencer Wells tied the game with a lay-up with 2:38 to go and a three-pointer by Ponce allowed the Slugs a 60-58 lead with 1:14 left.
Zitani made one of two free throws on the Boxers' next possession and a turnover by Townsend with 25 seconds gave Pacific at least one final look. Grandinetti did not wait long to line up his three-pointer from the corner to up the Boxers up 62-60. Matthew Ponce had a look at a three-pointer for the win, but the attempt rimmed off and Pacific escaped with the win.
The Boxers now turn their attention to Northwest Conference play, opening against the two toughest teams in the league. Pacific will host defending NWC champion Whitworth on Friday at 8 p.m., followed by Whitman on Saturday at 6 p.m. Both games will be available via a live video webcast a GoBoxers.com.