Well, at least it was an entertaining finish.
But the 225 fans in attendance — the ones cheering for SFU — probably would have preferred the dull march to a 20-plus point victory that seemed guaranteed at halftime. Instead, SFU gave up a 22 point halftime lead and surrendered 60 points in the second half to a team that had seemed utterly defeated in the first.
What had seemed like an easy victory earlier in the game became an 88–83 loss to the University of Alaska Fairbanks Nanooks Saturday night in the West Gym.
While the Nanooks seemed to score on nearly every drive, nearly certainly drawing a foul if they didn’t, SFU seemed rattled, missing shots they normally would make. On a free throw attempt when the game was tied 78–78, when SFU needed to score pretty much every drive to keep up with Fairbanks, Kedar Wright went 0 for 2. In the last few minutes, it seemed like SFU couldn’t buy a three.
“We were just getting frustrated with what we were doing, and shots weren’t going down as we wanted it to go down,” said freshman Othniel Spence.
Was the collapse a matter of confidence? Head coach Steve Hanson didn’t think so.
“I don’t think it has anything to do with confidence. It’s just that good players step up when it’s time to step up,” he explained. “We knew they were going to push back and play with some pride, but we just had chances to seal it.”
Instead, he pointed to the team’s rebounding.
“The biggest thing was defensive rebounds. We were terrible. They must’ve had 20-plus points off of defensive boards today,” he said. “Rebounding is just effort, it has nothing to do with height or talent, it’s just effort. They out-willed us down the stretch and that’s what better teams do.
“Rebounding is the game of basketball. We’re not very good at it right now.”
SFU were out-rebounded 36–28, and they only recorded eight in the second half.
After recording a below average 47 points the previous game, however, the game started off great for the Clan. JJ Pankratz, who shared the team lead in points, opened the scoring. Before long, SFU had built a sizable lead.
“Everything was going our way,” said Hanson.
There were some fun plays. On one, Spence stole the ball, ran end-to-end, and nearly dunked it, only to be swatted. However, Wright was able to get the two points on the rebound. Hidde Vos was able to sink a buzzer-beating three to end the half, and put SFU up 50–28.
“They out-willed us down the stretch and that’s what better teams do”
– Steve Hanson, head coach
All signs pointed to the Clan getting their first conference win of the year. It was the most dominant performance fans had seen all year, outside of maybe one of the exhibition wins — and even then, were on pace for a better offensive game than either of those results.
But the feeling was instantly different in the second. Fairbanks started the half with a seven point run. SFU went 2:15 without a point in the half, and didn’t make a field goal until 3:26 in.
By the 10-minute mark, Fairbanks had cut the SFU lead to seven. The Nanooks tied the game with 3:48 left. After that, the game was a nailbiter.
Fairbanks only missed three free throws (16 for 19, 84.2%). One of those missed attempts came in one of the two attempts they got for Tyrell Lewin’s technical foul for language.
After Fairbanks had taken the lead, SFU couldn’t keep pace offensively. With 1:05 left, Tyrell Lewin’s two free throws put SFU back within one, but by then, the game was in the Nanooks’ hands.
With the score at 84–83 after the Nanooks collected an offensive rebound with 32 seconds left, Michael Provenzano had to take a foul to stop the clock. Fairbanks was successful on both attempts. By then, a three point lead was too much to overcome, and Alaska sunk two more free throws to win by five points.
“We’ve got to be a lot tougher. I mean, a lot of the habits we’re seeing in the games are what we’re letting slip in practice everyday, so we have to be more disciplined in practice,” said Hanson.
Pankratz and Provenzano shared both the lead in minutes and points with 36 and 19 respectively. Pankratz also led in rebounds with seven. Wright followed with 16 points.
Graham Miller and Aleks Vranjes were both not dressed. Miller has not played a game in the four-game homestand, while Vranjes has missed the last three. Bowen Bakken, Vinnie Safin, and Bongani Moyo were dressed, but did not log any minutes. Bakken and Moyo have not come off the bench in the last three games, while Safin had played Thursday night.
NEXT WEEK: After completing a four-game homestand, SFU now goes on the road to Oregon, where they will look for their first conference wins against Western Oregon on Thursday and Concordia on Saturday.
“They’re going to be tough. They’re two very tough places to play, two teams that we can definitely compete with, and it’s frustrating. And we wanted to go into those road trips with some momentum, I thought we built some in the first half today, and just couldn’t toughen up at the end,” explained Hanson.
Last year, SFU’s only conference win came against Concordia on the road, a 90–70 result, and were competitive in a 76–72 loss at home. Concordia sits only two spots ahead of SFU in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference, and that should be a winnable game. Concordia is in the midst of a three-game losing streak.
First, SFU will face Western Oregon. SFU also fared better against Western Oregon on the road last season, falling by a score of 76–67 (at home, they lost 90–67). The Wolves are slightly above average defensively, but are ranked ninth in scoring offence — a good bet is that the winner’s score will be in the 70s.
Tipoff is at 7 p.m. for both.