Men’s Basketball Team Wins Third Straight PacWest Title, Women’s Basketball Team Has Regional Appearance

PLNU versus FPU game on March 8. Number 15 Eiley Tippins shoots the ball. Photo credit to Micah Cunningham courtesy of PLNU SmugMug.

Point Loma Nazarene University basketball seasons have come to a close. The men’s team captured its third-straight PacWest championship, and the women’s team had its 24th-straight winning season, finishing in the first round of regional play. 

The men’s team bested Academy of Art 60-57 in its regular-season finale to secure a share of the conference title and No. 1 seed in the PacWest tournament. After a first-round bye in the tournament and a second-round victory over Hawaii Hilo, the Sea Lions fell to Azusa Pacific 78-66 in the tournament championship game on March 9. 

Despite the loss, the Sea Lions men’s squad finished with a record of 21-9, its sixth-straight 20-win campaign (not counting 2020’s shortened season due to COVID-19). 

Championship game PLNU versus APU on March 9. Number 13 Zack Paulsen shoots the ball. Photo credit to Trenton Hernandez courtesy of PLNU SmugMug. 

The men’s team was not selected for an at-large bid into the NCAA regional tournament. Head coach Justin Downer expressed his displeasure about the NCAA selection committee’s decision and the pride he felt for the way his team performed this year. 

“We are very disappointed with the committee’s decision as a conference champion, 21-win team, and making the conference tournament championship game,” said Downer. “The expectation is to compete for a region championship every year, and so we will regroup and shift our focus to leaving nothing to chance next year. The goal is always to win a championship, but what this team represents and the adversity they overcame to clinch it is a different kind of special.” 

In addition to bringing a third-consecutive PacWest trophy home to The Point, several men’s players also received honors from the conference. First-year guard Tyce Paulsen (11.6 ppg) was named PacWest Freshman of the Year, while his older brother, third-year guard Zack Paulsen was named PacWest Newcomer of the Year after averaging 15.4 ppg on 48.5% shooting. Zack also led the conference with 37 minutes per game. 

Third-year forward Wynton Brown and third-year guard Coby Barnes joined Zack on the All-PacWest team on top of this.

The women’s team also had three players earn All-Conference recognition, with fourth-year guard Ellie Turk (First Team), fourth-year guard Tavia Rowell (Second Team), and second-year center Eiley Tippins (Third Team) being named All PacWest. The efforts of these three paired with the rest of the team and coaching staff was an 18-12 record and a third-place finish in the PacWest. The Sea Lions also made the semifinals of the PacWest tournament after a first-round victory over Biola on March 7. 

The selection committee awarded the PLNU Sea Lions women’s team the No. 7 seed in the West Region, setting up a bout with No. 2 seed Cal State San Marcos on March 15. 

Head coach Charity Elliott said she feels the team was playing its best basketball down the stretch, and she believes the team earned its spot in the coveted March dance regardless of the outcome. 

Although PLNU fell to No. 2 seed CSU San Marcos 82-61, Elliot and the Sea Lions are optimistic about the future of the program.