Men off to hot start early in the season

The undefeated Seattle Pacific University men’s basketball team is off to a great start after grabbing four wins at two tournaments this past week.

It is the best start for the Falcons (4-0) since the 1998-99 season. They kicked off the winning streak with two victories at the Sodexho Tip-Off Classic in Royal Brougham Pavilion, and finished off the week by ruling the Thanksgiving Classic, hosted by California State University of Los Angeles. Held over the Thanksgiving holiday, the Classic forced the players to forgo turkey and cranberry sauce with their families this year.

"It’s never fun to spend a holiday away from your family, but the team is kind of our family, in a sense," senior captain Tony Binetti said in a telephone interview. "It wasn’t bad eating Thanksgiving dinner with the guys."

To start things off, the Falcons annihilated Cal State Monterey Bay (CSMB) 95-79 on Friday, Nov. 18 in Royal Brougham. It was the fourth consecutive year that has seen the Falcons win their home opener.

Led by junior forward Dustin Bremerman’s career-high 32 points, the Falcons controlled the entire game. Bremerman had 21 points in the second half alone, most coming from inside the paint and at the free throw line, but he had two key three-pointers as well. Right behind Bremerman was junior Brian Lynch with 18 points and senior Chad Williams’ 16 points. With approximately 11 minutes left in regulation, the Falcons went on a 14-0 run, ensuring the victory. SPU shot 65 percent in the second half (15-23), and 55 percent overall from the field. They also controlled the boards, with 47 rebounds to the Otters’ 31.

The next evening, around 820 fans packed Brougham Pavilion to watch an intense match-up between the Falcons and the Cal State San Bernardino (CSSB) Coyotes. The win "helped build [our] confidence," according to Binetti. SPU packed away 14 three-pointers, beating the Coyotes 85-81, in the final game of the Tip-Off Classic.

The Falcons started the game trailing, but got ahead by as many as 16 points, and held on during the Coyotes’ rally toward the end of regulation. An 11-0 run put the Falcons ahead 67-51 with 12:35 to go in the game. Bremerman followed up his career-high by pouring in 30 points, hitting nine of 14 field goals, 6-9 outside the arc. The three-pointers were what kept the Falcons alive, with Williams, Binetti, and Bremerman scoring them consecutively during the run.

The all-tournament team was announced after the win. Bremerman, Binetti, and Williams were selected, along with Devoughn Lamont of CSMB, who had 30 points in Friday’s game, and Jason Breland of CSSB, who had 14 in Saturday’s game. The Coyotes had 11 players with at least five points, and the team as a whole shot 52 percent. Like the Falcons, the Coyotes had 14 three-pointers, but the Falcons ruled on rebounds 33-28.

In addition to his all-tournament team selection, Bremerman was named Great Northwest Athletic Conference (GNAC) men’s basketball co-player of the week, after putting up 62 points in the tournament.

After a six-day break, the Falcons opened up play at the Thanksgiving Classic in Los Angeles with a game against Cal State Dominguez Hills. It was up in the air whether the Falcons would take the win, as the Toros led by as many as 16 in the second half. But the Falcons made their record 3-0 as they rallied to beat the Toros 70-68.

It was sophomore Robbie Will who saved the day for SPU, as he scored inside with seven seconds left in regulation. He finished with 15 points and six rebounds. After the Toros had tied the game with 41 seconds remaining, the Falcons responded by calling a timeout, then running down the shot clock. Finally, Binetti found Will, who scored the winning lay-up. Bremerman scored 14 and Binetti had 11 points and eight assists. In the second half of play, SPU shot 49 percent from the field (31-63), but was 0-8 from outside the arc. They made only three trips to the foul line.

To put the icing on the cake, or the gravy on the mashed potatoes as the case may be, the Falcons took their fourth win Saturday night against host Cal State Los Angeles (CSLA). Again coming back from a 16-point deficit, the Falcons fought back and held the Golden Eagles, who led virtually the entire contest, scoreless in the final four minutes to win by a score of 73-70.

This time around, the Falcons were saved by Binetti, who scored all of his 22 points in the second half. Will added 19 points, eight of which were scored in the final seven minutes, and 10 rebounds. At the end, it was free throws that helped the Falcons, as Binetti shot two to give the Falcons a 72-70 lead, and then Will hit one of two from the line with 10 seconds remaining. After Will’s free throw, CSLA’s Robert Reynaga attempted a 30-foot three-pointer, which hit the backboard but not the rim, as time ran out, and squashed any chance of a win for the Golden Eagles.

SPU shot only 40 percent from the field (25-62) in Saturday’s game, but only committed eight turnovers and held the Golden Eagles to 31 percent shooting in the second half, 36 percent overall.

"We started out slow [against CSLA], then we kind of realized that we needed to pick it up," Binetti said. "We didn’t shoot the ball very well, and that didn’t help, falling way behind. But we had enough heart to start picking it up in the second half… I think our guys are pretty poised, and we don’t get flustered under pressure."

The Falcons host Hawaii Pacific University Saturday at 7 p.m. in Royal Brougham, as part of the Oak Harbor Freight Lines Challenge. According to Binetti, it will be a tough one.

"I’m happy that we’re 4-0, and we’ve got a big game on Saturday, hopefully we can keep it going," he said.

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Title: Men off to hot start early in the season | Author: Natalie Selden | Section: Sports | Published Date: 2005-11-30 | Internal ID: 4743