On Thursday evening, the Simon Fraser men’s basketball team took on Seattle Pacific University (SPU) in front of a packed house on Whiteout night. The fans were not disappointed, as the home team won an action-packed game aided by clutch play down the stretch.
That being said, the Clan did have some struggles in the first half. A 10–0 run by SPU gave the visitors a nine-point lead with 6:22 to go in the half, taking a lot of the energy out of the building. SFU then focused their attack on getting into the paint, as three straight layups by N’Kosi Kedar Salam and JJ Pankratz cut the lead to four before the Falcons got the last bucket of the frame to go up 36–30 heading into the break.
While SFU’s defence was solid, only allowing the opponent to shoot 35.5% from the field in the half, they had a tough time competing on the boards, as they were outrebounded 28–11 before the break. They were also dominated from the free throw line, as SPU went 14–15 from the charity stripe, while the Clan shot a measly 2–5. Salam kept the team afloat throughout the half, with his 10 points leading the team at that point. It was in the second half, however, that him and the Clan really showed the home crowd what they were made of.
Salam came out of the break firing, scoring SFU’s first 11 points of the second half, highlighted by a four-point play that got the crowd on their feet. His offence also got the team going, but as well as they played on that side of the ball, Seattle Pacific kept battling back. There were five lead changes in the first nine minutes of the half alone. From then on, however, the Clan would either be in the lead or tied.
The full house was treated to an exciting finish, as the two teams were tied with less than a minute to go. This is when Salam shined brightest, hitting a contested three pointer off the dribble to give SFU a 77–74 lead with 38 seconds to go. Clutch free throws from guards Michael Provenzano and Othniel Spence sealed the win for the Clan before Seattle Pacific hit a buzzer beater three to give the game a final score of 81–80. In a season where Simon Fraser has lost some heartbreaking games, they got a well-deserved victory in this one.
When asked about the free throws down the stretch, Provenzano told The Peak: “Well that’s been something throughout the season that we haven’t been great at, we haven’t been shooting it great from the free throw line. We gotta make free throws when it matters so we’ve been putting in a lot of work at practice and on our own and it pays off.”
Head coach Steve Hanson showed his appreciation, saying, “[Provenzano] struggled with foul trouble all game, comes in cold, [and hit] two big free throws down the stretch.”
The Clan were led in scoring once again by Salam, who finished the game with 35 points on 14–24 shooting from the field including four threes. When asked about this, Hanson did not shy away, saying, “When [Salam] gets in a rhythm, I think he’s the hardest guy to guard in the whole [Great Northwest Athletic Conference]. I really do.”
When asked on how they pulled off the victory in this one, Hanson replied: “We hit shots. We’ve been just terrible on the boards, and tonight was no different; they smashed us on the defensive rebounding. I think when you’ve had the losses in a row [that] we’ve had, you gotta grind it out and find ways [to win] and all of our guys were clutch down the stretch.”
Watch SFU as they play again this Saturday. They will host Saint Martin’s University, who are third in the conference with a 7–4 conference record.