Men victorious at weekend tourney

While most of us were at home consuming endless amounts of turkey and cranberries, watching football and relaxing, the SPU men’s basketball team traveled to Bellingham to participate in the Chuck Randall Thanksgiving Classic.

The Falcons won both games in Carver Gym, improving their season record to 2-1 after losing their first regular season game to Cal State San Bernardino.

Senior forward John Hubbard was named the tournament MVP, while junior forward Brannon Stone made the all-tournament team.

"The whole weekend was a great team effort," Stone said. "Hubbard had two great games and we got great individual performances from the starters."

On Friday night the Falcons faced the Texas A&M Kingsville Javelinas, posting a 96-74 win.

Hubbard scored a team-high 21 points, including a pair of three-pointers.

Stone was right behind Hubbard with 20 points, five of which came in a crucial run midway through the second half. Stone also had five assists and three blocked shots.

Junior center Eric Sandrin had a great night as well, turning in 19 points and a game-high 11 rebounds for a double-double. Seven of Sandrin’s rebounds came at the offensive end.

Senior guard Darrell Walker added 16 points for the Falcons off the bench. In the first three regular season games, Walker has averaged seven assists to lead the Falcons.

Although the Falcons led the entire game, in the second half they faltered slightly as a 17-point lead shrunk to seven in a matter of minutes. Stone then stepped it up, stroking a three-pointer to get the Falcons back on track.

SPU’s big men, Stone, Hubbard, and Sandrin, outscored the Javelinas’ front line by 20 points. The Falcons also out-rebounded the Javelinas 45-27.

Besides dominating in the paint, the Falcons made 11 of 19 three pointers and shot 54 percent from the floor.

"We’re playing better every game. We’re not at our best, but we’ll get there soon," Johnson said.

The next night the Falcons again came out ready to play, downing the Tarleton Texans 71-66.

After scoring a career-high 17 points just last week, junior guard Nick Johnson surpassed that last Saturday, scoring 24. Johnson also added seven rebounds and three assists against the Texans.

"Almost all the credit goes to my teammates for getting me the ball and setting screen for me," Johnson said.

Hubbard added 17 points in a solid performance. Stone contributed 10 points and eight rebounds as well.

Early in the game, the Falcons allowed the Texans to take an early 11-2 lead before going on a 13-2 run. During the run, Johnson sank a shot from behind the arc, and Hubbard spotted eight points, including two free throws, in a streak of 12 unanswered points by the Falcons.

With the game on the line and the Falcons leading 49-44, Johnson held off the Texans by scoring seven of SPU’s next 10 points to put them ahead for good at 59-50. He later extended the margin to 12 points on two free throws.

The Falcons scored 20 points at the foul line in comparison to the Texans’ 11.

Tomorrow the Falcons return to Carver Gym to take on the Western Washington Vikings in their first Pacific West Conference meeting of the season.

"We want to send the message that we’re the premier team in the conference. We’re taking this game seriously, and we’ll do whatever it takes to win," Stone said.

The Vikings, who played host to the Thanksgiving Classic, split their two games. Both games were close and were decided by two points or less.

Although SPU is favored to repeat as PacWest champions, Western Washington could be their closest rival. The Vikings returned four of their starters from last season, while the Falcons only returned one.

"The guys we brought in are good team players. We don’t play like we lost four starters," Johnson said.

Statistics are on the Falcons’ side as well. SPU has not only done well in Bellingham, but dominated. The Falcons are 14-2 at Carver Gym, including the two wins last weekend.

While playing the Vikings at Carver Gym, the Falcons have the upper hand on their foe’s home court with a record of 9-1.

Since head coach Ken Bone took over in 1990, the Falcons are 19-2 versus the Vikings, winning the last 10 in a row.

"Our chances are good," Johnson said. "We can exploit some of their weaknesses, and we’ll be ready to play."

On Saturday the Falcons will face Linfield, a Division III school in McMinville, Ore. The two teams have not played each other since 1971, but SPU leads the series 6-4.

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Title: Men victorious at weekend tourney | Author: Andi Wade | Section: Sports | Published Date: 2000-11-29 | Internal ID: 1693