Nearly a week removed from a close 103–98 loss to the nationally ranked Western Washington, their best offensive output of the season, the SFU men’s basketball team had reason to be optimistic. This is a team that can compete.
But that was not the case Thursday night, as the Clan fell 77–47 to the University of Alaska Anchorage Seawolves in the West Gym. It was pretty much the exact opposite of last Friday’s game.
SFU followed a nearly triple-digit offensive output with their lowest scoring game since November 2, 2012, when they put up 36 points — but that was an exhibition game against a Division I team. In their time in the National Collegiate Athletic Association, they’ve only shot less than 50 points four times, and two of those were in games against Division I teams. As it stands, 47 points is their second-lowest total they’ve ever put up since joining Division II — and their worst against Division II competition.
“Western [Washington] was not as strong defensively as Montana and Anchorage, that’s for sure,” said head coach Steve Hanson.
He does have a point. Western Washington, despite leading the Great Northwest Athletic Conference (GNAC), is ranked ninth in scoring defence — in other words, how many points they allow in a game — out of 11 teams.
On the other hand, Alaska Anchorage leads the GNAC in scoring defence. By a wide margin, too. Going into the game, they were only allowing 61.1 points per game (now only 60). The next best team is at 70.2 points per game.
Although 47 points is a historically bad performance, it is against a team that is in a league of their own in defence. This is the third consecutive game that Alaska Anchorage has held a team to less than 50 points. And they’re not just skilled in context to the GNAC — they’re third in the entire Division II.
They’re also the top rebounding team in the conference. They have the best free thrower — Spencer Svejcar — who went seven for eight, and had 31 points. Though their record may not yet say so, Alaska Anchorage is probably the best team in the conference.
“There was just some stretches where we let it get away, and offensively, we’ve just got to be a little bit more solid in our principles”
Still, a 47 point effort is a tough one to swallow.
SFU couldn’t manage a point until 3:42 in, when Izaiah Sherman-Newsome put up a three on the board. By then, Alaska Anchorage had already put up eight points.
The Seawolves looked like they were going to run away with the game early, as they had built up a 20–6 lead, and SFU had gone nearly three minutes without a point.
However, an impressive layup by freshman Othniel Spence, with little time on the shot clock, ignited a 10–1 run in less than two minutes that put SFU within only five points of the lead.
The illusion of a close game did not last long though, as the Clan were only able to put up six more points in the remaining 8:52 of the half, dropping the half 39–22.
“There was just some stretches where we let it get away, and offensively, we’ve just got to be a little bit more solid in our principles,” said Hanson. “There was some times where we had a chance to attack offensively and we missed some shots and confidence kicks in, and we started passing up stuff we normally take.”
The second half, SFU put up a slightly better offensive effort, putting up 27 points. There were long stretches without scoring from either team, including a nearly two minute stretch around the five minute mark of the second half.
Michael Provenzano, who has been a consistent offensive presence all year, was held to only six points. Kedar Wright and Izaiah Sherman-Newsome put up 10.
The lone bright spot of the game was freshman Othniel Spence’s performance. Recently, his play has been noticeable, and the coach is noticing too, giving him more minutes. Tonight he put up a career high 16 points and 24 minutes.
“With Othniel, we tried him a lot at the point, because he played the one-two in high school and I think being the off-guard is a little more where he needs to be,” said Hanson. “When he can just play with his instincts, he’s a lot better, doesn’t have to worry about leading the team — that’s tough to do as a freshman. So we just let him play with his instincts and he brings a lot of positive energy for us.”
A player in his first year out of high school, Spence is certainly a player to watch.
Bowen Bakken and Bongani Moyo were dressed, but did not receive any minutes Thursday night. Aleks Vranjes was not dressed for play.
SATURDAY: SFU will conclude a four-game homestand against the other Alaskan team — the Alaska Fairbanks Nanooks.
The Nanooks are another strong defensive team, allowing the third-least amount of points per game in the conference with 72.2.
“They’re going to zone us a lot, so we’ve just got to get back to the gym, we’ve got to shoot the ball. When you’re not feeling it from the three-point line, there’s only one way to do it — get back in the gym,” said Hanson, after yesterday’s game. “Shooters gotta shoot and that’s what we told our guys and we’re going to get back at it tomorrow and get better.”
The Nanooks, however, are in the midst of a three game losing streak and are the eighth ranked offence in the conference. This game should be more competitive.
Tipoff is at 7 p.m. in the West Gym.