Despite his team’s shooting struggles for much of the game, San Francisco coach Rex Walters had no doubt a 3-pointer by Kruize Pinkins from the top of the key was going to fall as soon as the senior released the ball.
He was right.
Pinkins knocked down the jumper, and Chris Adams followed 35 seconds later with a 3 from the corner as the Dons finally gained separation before holding on for a 62-58 win over Pacific in an opening-round game of the West Coast Conference basketball tournament at Orleans Arena on Friday night.
San Francisco (14-17) had hit only 5 of its first 23 3-point attempts before the back-to-back shots fell to make the score 53-45 with 5:33 to play. It was the biggest lead of the game to that point for the Dons, and the Tigers couldn’t recover.
Pinkins had missed his first two attempts from beyond the arc, while Adams was only 1 of 7 at the time.
“To me, it’s about quality shots,” Walters said. “I thought we were shooting average shots in the first half. Kruize had an open 3. If I had my life on the line, I’d say he was going to make that shot. When he shot that, I had my hands up (signaling a made 3-pointer) on the sideline. I knew it was going in.
“Those were two big plays, no question, and I thought the quality of those shots were really good and we had really good shooters shooting them.”
The Dons advanced to today’s quarterfinals, where top-seeded Gonzaga (29-2) awaits at 6 p.m. Walters doesn’t make it sound like much of a reward.
“There will probably be a pretty good contingent of Gonzaga fans, and that’s OK,” he said of the nation’s No. 7 team. “They’ve got six guys on the first or second (all-conference) team. They’ve got the all-defensive team. They’ve got the player of the year, the coach of the year, the newcomer of the year.
“They’re a good team.”
Fortunately for Walters’ team, those accolades won’t count for any points when the teams take the floor tonight.
“The bottom line is that all that stuff doesn’t mean a hill of beans. It’s the team that plays better (tonight),” he said. “That’s what we’re going to try to do.
“It’s a heck of a task.”
Pinkins and Tim Derksen each scored 14 points for San Francisco. Matt Glover had 10 rebounds, and freshman point guard Devin Watson had 13 points and six assists.
Pinkins began to feel confident in a victory after he and Adams knocked down their shots.
“I felt really good after that,” Pinkins said. “(Derksen) made a great play and found me at the top of the key. Coach had said we needed to play aggressive, so I shot it aggressively and it went in. Chris hadn’t been shooting well the whole game, and he finally got one to go in and it was a big one.
“It’s very exciting to win a tournament game, but you can’t just rely on that first game. You know you’ve got to come out and play aggressive again because it’s win or go home again. We’re going to come out (tonight) and play our game.”
T.J. Wallace had 14 points and six rebounds for Pacific (12-19).
Walters was pleased with the victory, but knows there’s little time to celebrate.
“That’s a lot to be proud of. We’re proud of the fact we’re one of eight teams that has a chance to get that auto-bid,” he said. “One day at a time. Let’s go get the Zags.”
In Friday’s other opening-round game, Brandon Clark and Jared Brownridge each scored 19 points to lead Santa Clara (14-17) to an 85-54 victory over Loyola Marymount (8-23).
The Broncos will play Brigham Young (23-8) at 8:30 p.m. today.
Saint Mary’s (21-8) takes on Portland (16-14), and Pepperdine (17-12) plays San Diego (15-15) in the early quarterfinal session today, with the doubleheader beginning at noon.
Contact reporter Adam Hill at email@example.com or 702-224-5509. Follow him on Twitter: @adamhilllvrj.