Othniel Spence flies with career-high 29 point game despite loss

Spence’s 29 points were the highest recorded in a single game by an SFU player all season.

While he had a couple of good threes in the first half, that was all Othniel Spence had on the board in six minutes of court time in the first 20 minutes. Few would have expected him to explode as he did in the second half.

He finished the game with 29 points. That’s the best individual point total anyone on the team has put up all season. He was just everywhere in the second half, putting up confident and exciting plays. His 23 second-half points came in 18 minutes of playing time, a remarkably efficient performance.

As a freshman straight out of high school, whose minutes can vary game-to-game — maxing out at 24 minutes to sometimes sitting the entire second half — it’s a very promising sign of one of the Clan’s futures.

“Othniel plays with a lot of speed, and in our offence, a guy like Othniel can really succeed. He’s been putting in a lot of time in the gym — a lot of extra time in the gym — in the last month and it’s really paying off,” said head coach Steve Hanson.

In the end, Spence finished the game 11-for-15 (73.3%) from the field and six-for-seven (85.7%) from the three-point line.

Despite the remarkable offensive outburst by the 6’1” point guard, SFU was unable to beat the Saint Martin’s Saints in their penultimate home game, falling 102–78. SFU put up some decent offensive numbers, but were unable to stop the Saints — who were playing for their playoff lives — and unable to go drive-for-drive against the Lacey, Washington-based team.

The lopsided loss is all the more disappointing after a stretch of four relatively close games, including a win, where SFU seemed to make definite progress.

“I said [before the game], ‘We’re playing a desperate team and we’ve got to come out hard,’ and we didn’t. So that’s really disappointing,” said Hanson. “What was tough was when we did get a couple of stops, we just missed. Too many mental mistakes; we looked like the team back in early December tonight, unfortunately. We regressed tonight, for sure.”

Saint Martin’s jumped out to a 10–0 lead before SFU put up their first two points 3:14 in. It didn’t take long for the Saints to further build that lead up to 18–4.

SFU was able to go on a 13–5 run to get the game within six points, but just as quickly as SFU was able to get back into contention, Saint Martin’s was able to pull away.

The half finished 54–36 in the Saints’ favour. Saint Martin’s was shooting at an incredible rate, sinking 69.9% of their shots from the field — a trend that slowed only moderately in the second, as they finished with an overall 66.0%.

Graham Miller got to see some action in the first, putting up 12 points in 10 minutes of play. Despite some mistakes, his offensive performance showed potential.

“[There were] too many mental mistakes; we looked like the team back in early December tonight, unfortunately.”

“Now that his concussion’s gone and he’s just getting back to the swing — it’s really tough when you sit almost a month with an injury — he’s been looking a lot better in practice,” Hanson said about the 6’7” redshirt freshman. “The game speed is not there, his foot speed is not there for games, but we know he is going to be good in a couple of years, so we give him some minutes.”

While he didn’t put up any more points, Miller saw a further seven minutes of action in the second.

In the second half, Saint Martin’s played sloppily at times, and despite their high shooting percentage, left some drives without a shot. SFU looked like they might be able to take advantage of this, at one point reducing the deficit to 12.

However, SFU was unable to sustain the momentum.

Outside of Spence, Miller and Michael Provenzano, who had 11, were the only players with double-digit point totals. Spence also led in rebounds with four, three of them defensive.

The typical big-minute players saw their time on court reduced, with Provenzano playing only 25 minutes and Kedar Wright only 22 minutes. Wright finished with six points and two defensive rebounds. Vinnie Safin, Bowen Bakken, and Bongani Moyo — who have been used sparingly — received minutes.

Next Game: It’s the last game of the year for the men’s basketball team. More importantly, it’s the last game of seniors Hidde Vos’ and Gibran Sewani’s careers.

While they aren’t fighting for anything in the standings, and the win total will still be low, it would be huge to send off Vos and Sewani with one last home win, in front of what’s probably going to be a big, loud crowd.

It won’t be against an easy team. Despite being ninth in the conference, and having lost their last game, Seattle Pacific has won three of their last five games.

“They’re a big physical team. There [are] not a lot of guys on our team physically that can match up with them,” said Hanson. “When we played at SPU, they were in a different world. I mean, a lot of senior leadership, a lot of big, strong kids they have, and they took it to us the first game of the season.

“We’re going to see what we’re made of Saturday, because we’ve got to play with some pride and I told our seniors, ‘You’ve got to go down swinging.’”

Hanson emphasized the importance he stressed to Vos and Sewani about shooting more — even if it means more misses.

“[I told them,] ‘Hidde, if you’re one-for-five, let’s go two-for-ten, take shots, and Gibran same thing,’” he explained. “I’m excited for them Saturday, and we’ll see how we bounce back.

“I just want to see — regardless of the score — how hard we compete against them.”

Seattle Pacific’s Tony Miller is fifth in scoring and third in rebounding in the GNAC.

Tip-off is at 7:30 p.m.