Pacific coach Bob Thomason will ride off into the sunset with one last NCAA Tournament appearance.
His second-seeded Tigers made sure of that Saturday evening in the Big West Conference championship game at Honda Center, vanquishing No. 4 UC Irvine 64-55 in front of 6,795 fans.
It was the 436th win in a 25-year career for Thomason, who will take Pacific (22-12) to its fifth NCAA tourney on his watch. The Anteaters (20-15) were denied their first NCAA berth a night after eliminating regular season champion Long Beach State.
Tony Gill came up big off the bench again, leading the Tigers with 19 points after a 20-point effort in Friday night's semifinal win over Cal Poly. Senior guard Lorenzo McCloud contributed 16 points and seven rebounds.
UC Irvine received 19 points from Daman Starring and 12 from Chris McNealy, but couldn't consistently find the range against its defensive-minded foe. The Anteaters converted just 36.5 percent of their field goal attempts, including a miserable 6-of-24 on 3-pointers.
Pacific led 31-20 at halftime and sealed the game with excellent foul shooting in the second half, canning 17-of-22.