By: Austin Cozicar
The SFU men’s basketball team struggled on the weekend, as they lost both games on their California road trip, falling 66–56 to Azusa Pacific on Friday and 79–55 to Point Loma Nazarene on Saturday.
In a way, it was a test of sorts. SFU had headed into the weekend with a 4–0 record, but two of those victories were really exhibition matches (last year, the Quest University game was called an exhibition game, and Capilano is at the same level). They did put up two dominant victories against National Collegiate Athletic Association Division II teams, but those two teams have both struggled in non-conference play and finished last year in the bottom half of their conference’s standings.
In California, the Clan faced the teams which had taken the last two playoff spots in the PacWest conference — probably a comparable level to the teams SFU will need to beat to make the playoffs in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference (GNAC).
Friday’s game against Azusa was the closer of the two. The Clan actually held a 35–27 lead at halftime.
Azusa, however, held SFU to just 21 points in the second half, and put up 39 points of their own. Michael Provenzano and N’Kosi Kedar Salam were the only players to hit double digits, hitting 24 and 16 points, respectively. Even their offence was limited in the second half, as Provenzano put up eight and Salam put up five in the second.
SFU went just six-for-11 on free throws.
On Saturday, the Clan was without JJ Pankratz, who had injured his ankle in Friday’s game. In for Pankratz was Othniel Spence, who started his first game of his collegiate career.
The first half against Point Loma was a difficult one for SFU. They surrendered 47 points to Point Loma — 20 of those coming from one player, Ziggy Satterthwaite — while only putting 25 on the board.
The second half was a much tighter affair, with Point Loma having the slight edge 32–30.
Spence led the team with 20 points, while Salam and Iziah Sherman-Newsome also hit double digits in scoring. Tyrell Lewin led the team in rebounding with four. SFU was outrebounded 39–14.
From here, it’s conference play — aside from a Division I exhibition match and two games against BC colleges in December.
After a November against non-conference teams, we still don’t know who exactly the men’s basketball team is. In Bellingham, they put up two convincing wins against, admittedly, lower-tier teams, but they were games in which they did the right things and were able to find offence. In California, they struggled to play a full 40-minute game, putting in two decent halfs, but not enough for a win in either contest.
Regardless of the takeaways, they’re going to need to score more than 56 points a night to win.
The real test, and when wins start to really count, begins this Thursday against Western Oregon. Last season, Western Oregon was third in the GNAC — one of three elite teams in the conference, who sat high above everyone else in the standings, while fourth to 10th had only two wins separate — and look to continue at the top, with a GNAC-best 6–0 non-conference record.
But one thing about sports is that they can be unpredictable. Last season, after dropping their first meeting 85–60 on the road, SFU achieved their first conference victory against Western Oregon, a 68–63 result.
Tipoff is at 7 p.m. in the West Gym.