ANAHEIM — In the end Long Beach State just couldn’t make enough shots Friday night.
The ‘Niners (15-15) went more than 10 minutes without a field goal in the second half and couldn’t hold off the Pacific Tigers, dropping a 65-60 decision in the Big West Conference semifinals in front of 2,875 fans at the Anaheim Convention Center.
No. 2 LBSU was trying to defeat No. 3 UOP for a third time after sweeping the regular-season series.
Long Beach cut the deficit to one with 15.7 seconds left after a Maurice Clady steal — one of three in the final minute — and a T.J. Robinson lay-in.
“I’ve never seen a team take the ball away from us like that … without fouling,” Pacific head coach Bob Thomason said.
But they couldn’t come up with another big play. Bryan LeDuc made four free throws in the last eight seconds to ice the game, as a Donovan Morris 3-point attempt to tie the game with three second left was no good.
“If I had time for one more dribble …,” Morris said.
Chad Troyer led all scorers with 22 points, making 6-of-9 from 3-point range and continually pushing the Pacific lead up when the ‘Niners were threatening. LeDuc and Michael Kirby both added 13 for Pacific.
“Most of our shots didn’t come off set plays,” Troyer said. “We just moved the ball and things came our way.”
UOP (19-11) made just eight 2-point field goals but shot 55 percent from 3-point range (11-of-20).
“We fought, scratched and clawed our way back. Pacific played better than we did,” head coach Dan Monson said. “They were more composed offensively and the difference was behind the 3-point line.”
The ‘Niners turned the ball over just eight times and knocked down 16-of-22 from the free-throw line but made only 20 percent of their 3-point tries (4-of-20).
Robinson scored 21 and grabbed six rebounds while Morris, making his first start in more than six weeks, added 13 points for LBSU.
The Tigers came into the game second in the Big West in scoring defense, surrendering just 61.9 points per game and The Beach wound up short of that.
Pacific led 29-26 at the half, but was up as many as nine.
Anthony Brown and Troyer paced the Tigers with six points. Robinson led all scorers with eight while Morris added seven.
The Beach struggled from outside, making just one of its nine attempts from 3-point range but made 9-of-14 from inside the arc to keep it close.
Pacific knocked down five first-half 3-pointers on 10 attempts and won the battle on the boards, outrebounding LBSU, 17-12.
Despite the low score, the teams combined for just eight first-half turnovers.
Pacific lost to No. 1 Cal State Northridge in the finals of the Big West Tournament Saturday night. The Matadors received an automatic bid and No. 15 seed in the NCAA Tournament’s West region. They will face No. 2 Memphis Thursday in Kansas City, Mo., at a time yet to be determined.