The Simon Fraser Clan travelled to Central Washington University on Saturday night to face the struggling Central Washington Wildcats. Coming into the game, the Wildcats lost eight straight. After allowing Central Washington to score 97 points in the first game between the teams this season, the Simon Fraser defense had no answer once again for the Wildcats’ attack. Currently, the Wildcats’ attack is ranked second in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference (GNAC).
A JJ Pankratz three put the Clan up 3–2 to start the game, and marked the only lead that Simon Fraser had in this one. In the tenth minute, Pankratz’ second three of the half made the score a respectable 20–17 for the opposition, before the Wildcats offense began to find its rhythm. A Fuquan Niles dunk with 1:40 to go in the half capped off a 21–6 run by Central Washington. By the end of the half, Central Washington extended their lead to 15, and the teams went into the break with a score of 51–36.
The main issue was Simon Fraser’s inability to keep the other team from getting into the paint, as they scored multiple layups and open three-pointers. This was very similar to the last time these teams faced, where coach Steve Hanson believed that that was the main reason for the team’s defeat.
Michael Provenzano joined Pankratz with eight points to lead the Clan in the first half, while Wildcats player Dom Hunter led all scorers with 15 points in 14 minutes. Interestingly, Naim Ladd came off the bench in this one, after starting in the last meeting between these two teams and torching the Clan for 33 points. He was a non-factor in the first half, scoring only two points on one-for-two shooting.
The Clan played much better in the second half, although their first-half struggles proved to be too much to overturn. After getting down by as much as 18 — the biggest deficit of the game — Simon Fraser competed down the stretch, closing the margin to as little as eight after a Pankratz jumper. While they would eventually lose by a score of 90–76, they actually outscored their opponents in the second half 40–39.
The main contributor was the Clan’s ability to win extra possessions, as they got 11 offensive rebounds compared to Western Washington’s two, and won the turnover battle 8–3. The Clan needed these extra shots, however, as they shot only 40% from the field, compared to the Wildcats’ sizzling 64%.
Pankratz led the team with 19 points, including three three-pointers and three steals. Provenzano was the only teammate to join him in double-digit scoring, as he had a line of 11 points, five assists, and zero turnovers. Off the bench, backup point guard Othniel Spence contributed with nine points in 17 minutes. On the other side, Hunter added to his strong first half and finished the game with 27 points on 10–15 shooting, including six three-pointers. Niles played big again for the Wildcats, finishing with a double-double that included five blocks.
With only two games to go, the Clan are now 1–17 in conference play and are dead last in the GNAC. As their remaining two games are home games, Simon Fraser will finish the season without an away victory and are now 0–10 in conference games where they were the visitor. They have a 3–23 overall record.
Next Game: Simon Fraser will host the Saint Martin’s University Saints on Thursday, February 23. The Saints are tied for fourth in the GNAC with a 9–9 conference record, and sport the third-best offense, averaging 81.3 points per game.
Tip-off is at 5:15 p.m.