It was exactly what Cal State Northridge wanted in this Big West Conference tournament: another chance at Pacific to make amends for a heartbreaking defeat that kept it from the NCAA tournament last season.
But the rematch in Friday night's semifinal followed the same script. A mistake-filled first half, a remarkable comeback and a controversial foul call that resulted in the decisive points coming at the free-throw line.
Pacific survived another threat to its nation-leading winning streak. Tyler Newton made two free throws with 22 seconds left to give the Tigers the lead and they again withstood Northridge's frantic rally for a 63-61 victory at the Anaheim Convention Center.
The 18th-ranked Tigers (26-2) sealed their 22nd consecutive victory only when Northridge's Joseph Frazier didn't draw iron on a buzzer-beating three-point try.
It was reminiscent of last year's Big West final in which Davin White missed a game-winning three-pointer, allowing Pacific to escape with a 75-73 win.
"I'm just glad that Northridge can't hit a three at the end of the game," Pacific Coach Bob Thomason said. "They played a sensational second half."
Northridge (18-13) pulled itself out of a horrific first 20 minutes with Ian Boylan seemingly shouldering the entire load. His teammates made only eight other field goals, but Boylan scored a career-high 32 points, grabbed six rebounds and tied a career-high with seven steals.
"That about sums up his career," Matador Coach Bobby Braswell said. "I wish it would have ended up differently for him."
Boylan, the tournament's most valuable player last season, was also involved in the decisive play. He was called for reaching in on Newton as he drove to the basket. Newton's foul shots gave Pacific a 62-61 lead.
"It's frustrating," Braswell said. "That's all I can say about it. I always believe the players should finish games off and that's two years now where that hasn't happened."
Northridge called timeout with 19.1 seconds left. Boylan wanted the ball and got his opportunity, but his shot in the lane with 9.8 left hit the back of the rim and came out.
"Unfortunately all your shots don't fall," Braswell said. "It just didn't roll for us."
Thomason all but called out his team, particularly point guard David Doubley, for its poor play in the second half. Pacific committed 23 turnovers against the Matadors' aggressive 1-3-1 zone defense.
Frazier gave Northridge its last lead, 61-60, when he stole the ball from Mike Webb at midcourt and went in for a layup with 1:03 remaining.
"We made some mistakes and we got away with it," Thomason said. "Maybe we'll have one more good game in us [tonight]."