Men’s basketball lose 78–73 against Montana State University Billings

For the second time this week, second-half struggles cost Clan the game

N'Kosi Kedar Salam is averaging over 28 points per game in his last four contests. (Photo courtesy of SFU Athletics)

The Simon Fraser men’s basketball team travelled to Montana on Thursday night to take on the Montana State University Billings Yellowjackets. For the second straight game, however, the Clan was unable to play a consistent 40 minutes of basketball, ultimately falling 78–73 on the road.

Although they ended up losing, SFU came out of the gate strong. A 9–0 run gave the team a 15–7 lead early, after forward Tyrell Lewin finished off an and-one with a good free throw. The Yellowjackets would bounce back to take a 23–22 lead, before SFU went on an impressive 18–5 run to end the half, with N’Kosi Kedar Salam finishing two nice baskets at the rim within the last minute before the break. The teams finished the second half with a score of 40–28 for the good guys.

Salam led all scorers at the break with 12 points, something that has become a regularity as of late. He also played all 20 minutes of the half, as SFU relied on his scoring throughout the frame. Also notable was the play of Lewin, who had 11 points on a perfect 5–5 from the field and 1–1 from the line. Simon Fraser’s Michael Provenzano had a strong half as well, with eight points and four assists in 17 minutes. At this point, all things were going right for the Clan.

In the second half, however, SFU had a tough time defending Montana State, particularly from behind the arc. It took less than five minutes for the Yellowjackets to erase their 12-point deficit, after a three from Daniel Shedden gave the home team a 43–42 lead. In fact, it took SFU over seven minutes to get their first field goal of the second half, scored by none other than Salam on a fastbreak.

While buckets would come easier for the Clan for the rest of the half, so too would they come for the Yellowjackets. Montana would go up by as much as 10 with a 70–60 lead with four minutes to go, before SFU went on a 9–0 run capped off by an athletic and-one by Salam on a fastbreak. Unfortunately, that was as close as the Clan would come, as they eventually fell 78–73 in yet another game which they will feel they could’ve won.

“Our guys have improved so much from last season, but not finishing games is unacceptable.  If we finished the games we led, we would be 5–3 right now,” said head coach Steve Hanson after the game.

The main difference of the second half was the disparity between the teams from three. Montana State shot 8–14 from behind the arc, while Simon Fraser shot a dismal 2–13. Tyler Green caught fire for the Yellowjackets, scoring 16 points in the second half alone, including four threes. Othniel Spence channeled his inner Lou Williams off the bench in the second half for the Clan, scoring 11 points, including two threes.

Salam and Green both had 22 points in the game. Thursday night marks the fourth straight game that Salam has either led all players in scoring, or been tied for the lead. Unsurprisingly, he is the leading scorer for the Clan this season averaging 18.8 points per game on an impressive .504 shooting from the field.

After the game, Hanson had this to say about Salam: “Kedar is playing well and we feel he is one of the most deadly offensive weapons in the GNAC. I am happy he is displaying what we see in practice each day and showing the conference what he can do. Without a doubt, Kedar’s confidence is earned and he puts a lot of time outside practice working on his craft.”

With the loss, SFU are now 2–6 in conference play this season, and 8–8 overall. They will have the weekend off before travelling to Alaska to play the University of Alaska Anchorage on Thursday night. Tipoff is at 8 p.m.