<
>

Pacific chalks up 19th consecutive victory

STOCKTON, Calif. (AP) -- Bob Thomason was the last man up the
ladder, cutting the final strand in the net while his Pacific
players and their fans cheered.

The Tigers added another Big West Conference championship to
their national ranking and 17-game winning streak -- and this time,
they don't have to share the league title with anybody.

Guillaume Yango scored 16 points and Christian Maraker added 14
points and eight rebounds as No. 19 Pacific beat UC Santa Barbara
79-56 on Wednesday night.

Jasko Korajkic scored 12 points for the Tigers (21-2, 15-0 Big
West), who scored 16 consecutive points in the second half of their
28th straight conference victory.

Pacific clinched the outright Big West title with three
conference games remaining, and the players donned celebratory
T-shirts before cutting down the nets.

"You never get used to that," said Thomason, who's on the
longest winning streak of his 17 seasons coaching his alma mater.
"You always want to play well before a crowd like that. They
pushed us on. I'm glad we broke the game open and played well for
them."

Last season, Pacific shared the conference title with Utah State
despite going 17-1 in league play.

"This is a great thing," Maraker said. "Finally, we are
champions by ourselves."

The Tigers got their fourth straight win over the Gauchos (8-14,
5-8) with more of the creative passing and accurate shooting that
has propelled them onto the national scene one year after upsetting
Providence in the NCAA tournament. Pacific's towering multinational
front line also outrebounded tiny Santa Barbara 41-22.

Pacific never trailed in the second half, but Santa Barbara cut
the lead to 48-44 with 12 minutes to play. The Tigers responded
with 7½ minutes of scoreless defense and more of their exciting
ball movement, punctuated by Korajkic's two-handed, behind-the-head
dunk on an alley-oop from Marko Mihailovic.

"Right now, we're just cruising," Korajkic said. "We knew
they were going to wear out after a while. We just stayed after it
and did our job, and we just broke it open once they got tired."

Joe See and Alex Harris each scored 16 points for Santa Barbara,
which kept it close with eight 3-pointers in the first 28 minutes
in front of a hostile crowd at the Spanos Center. But when the
Gauchos lost their shooting touch in the second half, they were
doomed to their 11th straight road loss.

"It's pretty indicative of the firepower they have," Santa
Barbara coach Bob Williams said. "It's also pretty indicative of
the state of where we are right now. We have five walk-on players
out of the nine that are playing, so you wear down."

Pacific hasn't lost since a home game against San Francisco on
Dec. 18. The Tigers have roared through their Big West schedule,
beating every club except talented Utah State by an average of more
than 12 points. Last weekend, they rallied from an eight-point
deficit in the final 37 seconds for a one-point road victory over
Utah State.

That win propelled Pacific to the highest ranking in school
history, just a week after entering the AP poll for the first time
at No. 24.

"Their run in the league has been phenomenal," Williams said.
"They have great size. They have big guys who can shoot it. They
have really good guard play, and they have a lot of depth."

David Kennedy had a rough night for the Gauchos. The seldom-used
sophomore, forced into 21 minutes because of injuries, airballed
two free throws and later got a technical foul.

Before finishing up their conference schedule with a chance to
become just the eighth Big West team to go unbeaten in conference
play, the Tigers will face UTEP in a Bracket Buster game Saturday
night.