A timeout was called with 17.1 seconds left. SFU’s last point — a lay-up by Andrew Williamson — was 1:18 ago, while Lindenwood University just scored two free throws to put themselves within one.
What followed was a long 17 seconds, drawn out by stoppages of play. Hidde Vos was fouled, and had chance to cushion the lead by one with a free throw, with seven seconds left. He missed.
Lindenwood picked up the defensive rebound and ran it down to the other side of the court. There, Jackson Price had a chance to end it in their favour with a three pointer. It would be a crushing buzzer beater against SFU.
But he missed too. SFU won 73–72, the team’s second win of the year and its second consecutive win, sweeping the Lindenwood Lions in a pair of back-to-back games.
“I’ve been in a few games like that before, where it’s back-to-back, you’re playing the same team, you kind of the know the other team’s stuff,” said head coach Steve Hanson. “I just felt it was going to be a down to the wire type of game.”
In just their fourth game, SFU has two wins against National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division II competition. Last year, SFU only mustered one win against Division II competition, and it didn’t come until February 11. While SFU had two wins last year, that counted a Douglas College matchup that this year was deemed exhibition play. SFU already has a better record than they did all last year, regardless of where they go from here.
To make it all the more impressive, this was with a shortened bench with five players — Bowen Bakken, Vinnie Safin, Kedar Wright, Gibran Sewani, Aleks Vranjes — not dressed. Freshman Bongani Moyo did not see any minutes.
A big part of the team’s success was players who don’t usually score stepping up.
Sophomore Tyrell Lewin, who had only put up double-digit points three times last year, put up a career-high 14 points, and was noticeable right from the start.
Catching the ball on the opening tip-off, he started the give-and-go that resulted in Graham Miller opening the scoring just five seconds in. He then put up four of the next six SFU points.
“I just felt it was going to be a down to the wire type of game” – head coach Steve Hanson
“I was really just trying to look for teammates every time I caught the ball, but they were just laying off me, so I figured, ‘Why not?’ So I just went to the rim and worked it,” said Lewin.
He was also good on the rebounds, taking six — four of them defensive.
“He was aggressive in the first half, offensively, which we haven’t seen much. The guys looked for him in the second half. He got some nice easy two-foot lay-ups,” said Hanson. “I think he’s just doing things to keep himself on the court defensively, he’s a smart player, and [it’s] good to see him score.”
It seemed like a breakout game for Lewin, who, having been a pure freshman (straight out high school) last season, struggled at times.
“It’s pretty difficult [jumping from high school to university] because the skill level — pretty much everybody is the best player on their high school team,” said Lewin. “The spacing, the speed, and the knowledge — as soon as you’re not in the right position, a good point guard is instantly going to know where the open man is. You have to always be in the right frame of mind,” he explained.
What did he work on?
“Just mentally trying to get in the zone and know where I had to be on offence, where I had to be on defence, and just kind of letting the skills and the talent fall second to the mental, because I feel like if I’m in the right position, and I’m always doing the right things, then good things are going to happen, and the ball will start to drop eventually.”
Lewin, who started the game, however, credited much of the win to the bench — specifically Andrew Williamson and Hidde Vos.
“We just banded together as a team, a lot of guys who don’t usually get minutes, stepped up really hard, and I know Andrew and Hidde came on and they were huge for us in the second half, getting downhill, creating drives, getting open shots for guys, and without that, I don’t think we would’ve won tonight.”
Vos, who before the season Hanson said he expected a big year from, put up some big threes in the second half, going two for five on the night.
“He took three really good shots in the first half. They didn’t go down, and that’s kind of a shooter’s life,” explained Hanson. “I just keep telling him, ‘You’ve got to keep shooting them, you’ve got to keep shooting the ball,’ and he shot two big ones in the second half.”
After a quick start to the game, SFU gave up the lead with 1:59 and did not take the lead or tie it — down by as much as eight — until 5:58 left in the second, when Michael Provenzano sank a three to put SFU up 63–62. SFU only surrendered the lead once more, for a period of 16 seconds.
Provenzano shared the lead with Lewin with points with 14, and had six rebounds too, while redshirt freshman Izaiah Sherman-Newsome was the only other player with double-digit points with 10, and led in rebounds with eight.