By: Austin Cozicar
It started out the way the way SFU wanted — they were playing the kind of basketball they needed to play.
Kedar Salam had scored the first five points of the game — a jumper and a three — and SFU held that lead for much of the first 11 minutes.
But with about eight minutes left in the first, Western Oregon put up nine straight points, showing how they won six straight non-conference games and why they’re ranked 13th nationally.
While SFU did manage to take back the lead 45–43 with 1:45 left in the first half, they ended it down 50–45. The second half wasn’t any better.
The Wolves’ aggressive style was tough for the Clan to match.
“We got a little bit tired. They’re a little bit deeper than us and we needed to come out in the second half and get some stops,” said head coach Steve Hanson. “And we didn’t.”
It didn’t help that, in the second half, Western Oregon seemed to sink nearly every three-point shot, connecting on 10 of 15 attempts (66.7%) in the frame.
In the end, the Wolves built a 25-point lead and ended the game 96–71.
It was, perhaps, not an unexpected result facing one of the conference’s toughest teams, but considering the competitiveness and the skill SFU showed in the first quarter of game action, it was all the more disappointing.
SFU shot quite well in the first half, going 18-for-31 (58.1%) from the field and five-for-seven (71.4%) from the three-point line, but struggled to find that success in the second.
“We just couldn’t put two good halves together, and [the Wolves are] a powerful team, they shoot the ball very well, and they made us pay,” said Hanson. “I was a little disappointed we didn’t hold them to a little closer, but [. . .] as much as we’re disappointed in the result tonight, we’ve just got to forget it and get ready for Concordia [on Saturday].”
SFU were also outrebounded 40–30.
“We’re struggling a little bit rebounding now, and it’s a little bit frustrating, but we’ve just got to keep working on it every day, and rebound by committee and get rebounds from different guys,” explained Hanson. “That’s just discipline in practice.”
Salam led the team on the scoresheet, putting up 20 points. He was one of three players to put up double digit points, along with JJ Pankratz (14) and Michael Provenzano (10).
Pankratz, Hanson explained, has been limited by an ankle injury that was suffered on the California road trip at the beginning of the season. “So he’s playing on one leg; we’ve got to get him healthy. When he’s healthy, he’s a big difference maker for us.”
Salam appeared to have injured himself just over five minutes into the second frame, after losing his footing while running back to his own zone. After subbing out, he only played one more shift after that, lasting 2:43. He played the entire first half.
Pure freshman Matthew O’Brien looked good in limited action, putting up five points in 12 minutes of court time.