The UP Men’s Basketball team returned to Chiles on Jan. 27, with a win against the Pacific Tigers for their first home game since Dec. 17, 2021.
This is the Pilots’ second conference win this year — the most conference game wins in three seasons.
Forward Moses Wood made an immediate impact. Wood won the jump ball, giving his team possession to begin the first half. He found himself open on the wing, and nailed a three pointer.
“My coaches always tell me I'm a good shooter,” Wood said. “I put in the work to be able to shoot at the level I do. So that's where my confidence comes from.”
The Pilots were strong defensively, starting with a 7-0 run and holding the Tigers to zero points in the first few minutes of the game.
Pacific began to pick it up on the offensive side, and the game went back and forth for the rest of the half as the Pilots struggled on offense.
“We weren't shooting the ball well in the first half,” guard Chris Austin said.
Despite the offensive struggle, the Pilots went into halftime down 25-24. Head Coach Shantay Legans went into the half giving his team credit for the positive aspects he saw throughout the first half.
“We really told them to make sure they did a good job rebounding, I think we out rebounded them and that was huge in this game obviously,” Legans said.
The Pilots came back from halftime aggressive offensively and defensively, forcing a Pacific turnover on the first play of the second half. Freshman forward Chika Nduka took advantage of the turnover and made a shot inside the paint, putting the Pilots back up by two.
Sophomore guard Chris Austin brought strong offense in the second half, scoring 13 of his 15 points, which helped maintain the Pilots' lead.
“Coach told me in the first half that I was just settling for jump shots,” Austin said. “And in the second half, I had to make it a point to just get to the basket and I think that, coming off the dribble I’m quick enough and I'm strong enough to get by my man and I think one of my roles on the team is to put pressure on the defense, attacking the paint.”
Pacific jumped to a one point lead midway through the half, but the Pilots never waivered. They continued to play team defense, and were pushing the ball offensively to force Pacific players to foul.
The Pilots forced Pacific into foul trouble, sending the Pilots into the bonus — meaning the Pilots earned extra free throws every time someone was fouled.
Forward Tyler Robertson and Austin found themselves at the free throw line in crucial moments towards the end of the game.
Taking advantage of the bonus, the Pilots made their free throws to solidify the win, pushing the score to a final of 64-56 in favor of the Pilots.
The Pilot's head to Spokane on Saturday to face Gonzaga, the 2nd ranked team in the country.
Legans goes into this game with a confident mentality.
“They're the number two team, but our guys are up for the challenge,” Legans said. “We play a good game, I think we could win. They're obviously really good, but anybody can beat anybody in 40 minutes.”
Colby Wilson is a Sports Reporter for the Beacon. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.