SFU men’s basketball pull off two clutch victories on Alaska road trip

With the wins, the Clan keep playoff hopes alive

The Clan now have three huge home games in the last week of the season. (Photo courtesy of SFU Athletics)

On Thursday and Saturday last week, the Clan played two of their most important games of the season in Alaska. Facing off against the University of Alaska and the University of Alaska Anchorage, the Clan won both games by five or less points. With the wins, their playoff hopes live on as they go into an exciting three-game home stand to end the season this week.

Game one:

SFU got off to a good start on Thursday, taking on the two-win University of Alaska Nanooks. They won the game 71–66, helped by clutch play down the stretch in the fourth quarter.

In the first half, the Nanooks got off to a seven-point lead in the first five minutes. Despite this, an 11–0 run by the Clan at the end of the first half got the away team on top. After this, the teams went into the break with SFU up 44–36.

The University of Alaska got back into the game in the second half, despite the Clan going up by as much as 15 points. With 1:41 left in the game, the Nanooks were up by one point, with SFU wanting to do everything possible to avoid a comeback win.

Point guard Michael Provenzano stepped up to the plate, delivering a clutch three-point shot with 1:12 left to put the Clan up by two. He then hit two big free throws to stretch the lead to four with 24 seconds left. After strong defense from SFU on the ensuing Alaska possession forcing a miss, Othniel Spence put the team up by five, 71–66.

Spence led the team with 17 points, with Julian Roche (15), Wilfried Balata (13) and Provenzano (10) joining him in double-digits.

Game two:

Coming off an exciting win, the Clan managed to top themselves with their win on Saturday over the Seawolves.

This time, it was SFU completing the second half comeback, coming back from 10 points in the second half to force overtime. Spence came up clutch at the end of regulation, hitting an and-one three pointer to put the Clan up 61–60 with nine seconds left. Shortly after, however, he fouled Alaska’s Tobin Karlberg while he was attempting a last-second game winner. Hitting only one of two free throws, the game went into overtime.

Amazingly, SFU won the overtime period despite not hitting one field goal in the frame. All six points for the Clan came from the free throw line, with Balata going 4–4 from the line and Provenzano hitting both of his attempts. With this, the team pulled off a thrilling 67–63 comeback overtime win.

Balata led the team with 18 points in this one, with Jasdeep Singh (15), Provenzano (11) and Roche (11) also scoring double-digit points.

What’s next:

The team has a huge home stand this week to end the season, playing Western Washington University on Tuesday, Concordia University on Thursday, and Western Oregon on Saturday. All games will be in the West Gym on Burnaby Mountain.

If the season ended today, the SFU men’s basketball team would be granted one of the six playoff spots available in the GNAC, as they are 8–9 and tied for fifth spot in the conference. Their game against Western Washington on Tuesday will be their biggest game of the season, as both teams have the same record and are fighting for the final two playoff spots. Both Alaska Anchorage and Montana State University Billings sit right behind the teams with 8–10 records.  

This should be fun.

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