Adjustments for Pacific With T.J. Wallace Injured


The reality of life in a mid-major conference like the WCC is that teams rely heavily on a small core of players. If you aren’t Gonzaga or BYU, you probably don’t have a full lineup of stars plus multiple elite bench players. Most of the teams in the middle and lower tier are lucky to just have 2-3 really solid core players and some quality supporting pieces they can place around them.

Because of this it’s huge when something bad happens to a core player because there isn’t much to replace them with if they struggle. The Pacific Tigers are suffering through this right now as T.J. Wallace is battling a sprained toe, an injury popularly known as turf toe. The issue has been lingering for a while, but it hadn’t stopped Wallace from being the leading scorer for the Tigers and carrying them through a lot of games.

It was only recently that the injury appears to have flared up and started causing more issues. Wallace continues to appear in every game, but his minutes have been limited and he has been highly ineffective. After scoring 26 points against San Francisco in the Tigers’ conference opener, Wallace has struggled with 2, 6, and 2 points over his past three games. Not surprisingly, the Tigers have struggled over that span going 1-2 with their only win against last place Loyola Marymount.

With the Tigers being decimated by losses to graduation and transfers during the offseason, a lot was riding on Wallace as the only returning player with much game experience. He has lived up to the expectations, but has gotten very little consistent support around him. With him now being limited, the pressure for others step up is even greater. Even when Wallace was doing well the Tigers had a hard time winning big games with no support. Now that support by take on a main role and allow Wallace to step back and be in a secondary role while he tries to recover enough to return to form.

The obvious candidate to take on a main role and try to replace Wallace is Dulani Robinson. He was coming on very strong before Wallace’s injury flared up as a legitimate second option for the Tigers, and he is the only other Pacific player averaging double-digit points. Robinson has putting up similar numbers to Wallace including being a consistent source of rebounds and assists. He is also among the top players in the WCC in three pointers. His versatility should be perfect as a centerpiece of the team’s strategy, and his consistent with only an occasional hiccup will help the Tigers have a reliable anchor to replace Wallace.

The pressure on other supporters stays the same as the team has a number of players with potential who just haven’t put it all together yet. Forwards Gabriel Aguirre, Eric Thompson, and David Taylor have all been putting up consistent numbers and could move up to become double-digit scorers as they have all flashed that potential with big performances. Taylor in particular is looking very impressive with double-digit points in the past two games including 20 in the win over LMU. Improved play from the frontcourt would help take the pressure of the guards trying to replace Wallace.

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In the backcourt, Alec Kobre is probably going to be the guy who needs to step up along with Ray Bowles. They will be anchoring the backourt along with Robinson. Kobre is a strong three point shooter, so if he and Robinson can get going and shoot well there’s potential for strong offense. Bowles could be a huge catalyst if he can improve his decent assist numbers and free up Robinson, Kobre, and the forwards to provide the offense. He can remain a single-digit scorer if he does that.

The talent and structure is there to be fine without Wallace, but it’s been there all year and hasn’t come together. But if the Tigers are strong in the locker room, they can use this to rally together and start to figure out how to play better team ball. If they develop that chemistry and then Wallace returns to better health, they could be very good and end up for this having happened.