Pacific and UC Irvine met for the first time more than 35 years ago, Jan. 26, 1978, in the first of 79 meetings as rivals in first the Pacific Coast Athletic Association and its later iteration, the Big West Conference.
Pacific, after beating UC Irvine for the Big West tournament title and a bid in the NCAA tournament, bolted to the West Coast Conference this season, a conference the Tigers belonged to in its various forms from 1952-71.
Pacific (2-0) held off the Anteaters (0-2) for an 84-79 win at the Spanos Center. Ross Rivera came off the bench to lead the Tigers with 21 points—17 in the first half as Pacific rallied after UC Irvine scored the first nine points of the game and led at one point 18-6.
Sama Taku took control after intermission, scoring 11 of his 20 points in the second half. Rivera and Taku also led the Tigers with eight rebounds each. Andrew Bock added 13 points and Khalil Kelley had 11 for Pacific.
Alex Young paced the Anteaters with 17 points. Chris McNealy added 15, Will Davis II had 12 and Luke Nelson came off the bench to score 11.
One of the keys to the win was Pacific’s solid free-throw shooting. UC Irvine actually had more free throw attempts, 40, than Pacific’s 37, but the Tigers made 31 of theirs (83.8 percent), while the Anteaters hit just 25 (62.5 percent).
With the win, Pacific improved to 43-37 all-time against UC Irvine.
The Tigers are home again on Sunday afternoon for a 2 p.m. tip against Western Illinois (0-2).