While most teams — the coaches, at least — hate the term “moral victory,” if there ever was one, it happened Friday night in the West Gym.
After suffering a 41 point loss the night before to the Montana State University Billings Yellowjackets, the result didn’t look like it would be much better for the men’s basketball team on the second night of a back-to-back. The Clan, who sit in last in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference (GNAC), were taking on the conference-leading Western Washington Vikings, a nationally ranked team.
The night before the battle with Western Washington, SFU was never in the game, and an effort like that would have likely had a much worse result against Western Washington.
“After last night I didn’t know what to expect,” head coach Steve Hanson told The Province.
Instead, SFU fell just five points short of handing the 19th-ranked Vikings their first conference loss, with a score of 103–98. While the game marked the second-most amount of points scored against SFU, it also marked their best offensive game this season, even better than exhibition games where SFU was the dominant team.
The game didn’t always look that close. While the game started out with the two teams trading leads for much of the first four minutes, Western Washington took control, building up a 19 point lead with just over three minutes to go in the first half. It was beginning to look a lot like the night before.
However, 11 consecutive points and a three-pointer with four seconds left in the first half by Othniel Spence put SFU within seven at halftime. Spence, though limited to 11 minutes, put up two threes on the night.
Throughout the second half, SFU was able to hold the Vikings off of rebuilding their lead, and slowly eroded that lead before tying the game at 93–93 on a pair of free throws by Kedar Wright at the three-minute mark.
However, the Clan were unable to sustain the momentum and allowed Western Washington to build a slight lead. They fell by five points.
Still, it was an effort the team can be proud of, especially after the night before. It showed that this team can compete, even if they don’t put up the most wins. If they can play like this more consistently, there will be a few more wins.
SFU had some bona fide offence with the team going 34 for 60 (56.7%) from the field, and eight for 13 (61.5%) from the three-point line. They also made the most of free throw opportunities, going 22 for 30 (73.3%).
Kedar Wright put up a career high 28 points to lead the team, in addition to five rebounds. Four players — Wright, JJ Pankratz, Michael Provenzano, and Izaiah Sherman-Newsome — put up double-digit point totals. Sherman-Newsome notched a double-double, recording 12 rebounds and 15 points.
NEXT WEEK: SFU continues a four game homestand with games Thursday and Saturday in the West Gym against University of Alaska Anchorage and University of Alaska Fairbanks.
Both teams are some of the best defensive teams in the GNAC, sitting at the top in scoring defence. Anchorage allows only 62.2 points per game, while Fairbanks is a distant second, allowing only 71.4 points per game (tied with Northwest Nazarene). For reference, SFU allows 87.5 points per game.
Anchorage sits in second place in the GNAC with a 2-1 conference record, and an 8-3 overall record. Fairbanks is one of four teams with one conference win and has a 6-6 overall record.
Tipoff is at 7 p.m. for both games.