Thursday night proved to be the men’s basketball team’s worst effort this season — at least on the scoreboard. They lost by 41 points — their largest deficit — and surrendered a triple digit score for only the second time this season in a 107–66 loss to the Montana State University Billings Yellowjackets in their conference home opener. Aside from tying it up at 4–4 near the two minute mark, the Clan were never really in it.
You could possibly chalk up the game to the holiday break — there’s usually a drop off in play after Christmas, and into January — but the team didn’t go into this one feeling rusty.
“You know what?” said head coach Steve Hanson. “We actually had two pretty good practices this week, so we expected a much different effort, and a different result. We showed up expecting to win this game.
“We’re just not as good as we think.”
The big difference between the two teams was finish. After SFU tied it at four, they surrendered eight consecutive points to the Yellowjackets, who took the lead and never looked back. And it wasn’t for a lack of chances for SFU — they just weren’t completing plays.
The Yellowjackets made 59.3% of their attempts on the field (the best Great Northwest Athletic Conference (GNAC) team, Western Washington, averages 50.6%) and were startlingly accurate in their throws. However, SFU struggled to put the ball in the basket. Both teams made a similar amount of attempts, with the Yellowjackets slightly edging out the Clan in field goal attempts 59–57.
“We have missed a lot of gimmes this year, and I don’t know how to explain it other than just a mental focus and we’re just not as tough as we need to be,” explained Hanson. “That shows in how we don’t get to the free throw line, we’re not tough enough to get to the free throw line, and we’re missing a lot of easy stuff.
They’re well coached. They run their stuff extremely well and they shoot the ball, the stats have shown that. We just couldn’t keep pace, and when the going got tough, we just caved in, and that’s not a good sign.”
To make matters worse, SFU only completed three three-pointers, and only attempted 12. On the other hand, the Yellowjackets made 14.
Turnovers were an issue as well, with the team giving up the ball 23 times. Michael Provenzano had a particularly tough night in that regard, surrendering the ball seven times.
Provenzano has had a bit of trouble with turnovers this season. He has 46 on the season — the most on the team — but he has been thrust into a large role on the team in his first season of play. Playing for 29 minutes Thursday — also the most on the team — is actually a below average night for him. He has quickly become one of the team’s leaders on offence, putting up 12 points Thursday.
Kedar Wright led the team on offence with 14 points, while also leading the team in rebounds with eight. Five players put up double-digit points — Wright, JJ Pankratz, Provenzano, Izaiah Sherman-Newsome, and Othniel Spence.
“We just couldn’t keep pace, and when the going got tough, we just caved in, and that’s not a good sign.”
– Steve Hanson, head coach
One of the few positives Thursday night was Spence’s performance. The freshman saw a bit of an expanded role, playing 18 minutes, and made some good plays on both defence and offence. His 10 points is a career best.
Freshman Bongani Moyo saw his first minutes of the regular season against the Yellowjackets. Though he played a little in exhibition play, he has been treated more like a redshirt up until now, not travelling with the team and sitting on the bench without playing. He was put on the court for the last four minutes of the game, and had four free-throw attempts, but did not make any.
“He’s not a travel player. He doesn’t get to travel with us and I thought there was a lot of guys who didn’t give us great energy. And I thought Bongani could come in and give us some positive energy,” said Hanson of his decision to put him in. “He’s pretty raw, he doesn’t have a lot of games under his belt, so in a game where the result is kind of already determined when he came in, it’s a good time to get him in.”
Aleks Vranjes saw his first meaningful minutes of the season. The redshirt freshman was injured to start the season and played in Las Vegas, but only played one minute in the second game and didn’t appear to play the first. He was on the court for nine minutes and had one attempt from the field.
The Clan were short two players. Gibran Sewani was not in attendance due to a personal matter, and will not play tonight, but is expected to play in next week’s games. Graham Miller did not play due to injury.
“In practice this week, he fell to the ground during a drill and has a little bit of a concussion and busted up nose, but it’s just more precautionary at this point. We really missed Graham tonight,” explained Hanson.
TONIGHT: The good news is that the Clan will be able to get over last night’s game pretty quickly — they play tonight. The bad news is that they’re facing Western Washington, who leads the GNAC with an 8–2 overall record and are ranked nationally. Western Washington is undefeated in conference play.
“[We need to] just compete. We didn’t compete for 40 minutes and if we don’t compete, it’s going to be a lot worse [tonight],” said Hanson. “We’ve got to get better. We don’t have much time to turn around, [. . .] and [Western Washington are] going to be as tough, if not a lot tougher. We’ve just got to get mentally ready, got to leave this behind us and move on.”
Western Washington may not score the most in the conference, nor are they best defence (surprisingly, they’re seventh in scoring defence in the GNAC), but they are the most accurate shooters in the conference, leading the conference in both field goal percentage and three-pointers.
Tipoff is at 6 p.m in the West Gym.