SPU showcases defense in Phoenix

While students and faculty at Seattle Pacific were on a break to celebrate Thanksgiving, the men’s basketball team was on a flight to Phoenix to play a pair of games against Grand Canyon and The Academy of Art.

During the weekend before Thanksgiving, the Falcons won their second tournament in two weeks, the Sodexo GNAC/PacWest Challenge at Royal Brougham Pavilion.

They defeated Hawaii Pacific and third-ranked BYU-Hawaii in two consecutive days, with the scores 70-52 and 76-65, respectively. The Falcons showed off their fire power, with four players scoring 20 or more points during the two games.

Sophomore point guard David Downs collected his second Most Valuable Player award this season, scoring 44 points over the two games, and junior Jobi Wall joined him on the tournament’s first team, with 23 points in the first game and 12 points in the second.

Hawaii Pacific keyed on taking away junior post player Andy Poling in the first game, but Downs and Wall were able to pick up the scoring. Poling came back the following day and put together a 22-point, 10-rebound effort.

“[It feels] really good. [Winning games] is obviously the objective. I feel like we got better as a team this weekend. … The way we played as a team, everybody stepped up, different guys on different nights, and I thought it was a great team effort to get the two wins,” Wall said.

Offensive output wasn’t the only key to success, especially against BYU-Hawaii, as freshman wing Riley Stockton was given the task of defending senior Jet Chang, who was picked as the Division II Pre-Season Player of the Year.

“One thing I would like to point out is that Riley Stockton didn’t score a point [against BYU-Hawaii], but he impacted the game as much as anybody out there,” head coach Ryan Looney said. “We challenged him to guard the Division II Preseason Player of the Year, and he held him to 3-of-12 shooting, seven total points and zero in the second half.”

The Falcons brought their momentum into Friday’s game against Grand Canyon, but ended up dropping their first game of the season, losing 67-58.

Wall and Poling scored in double figures, with 16 and 15 points, respectively, but the overall shooting of the team was its downfall on this night. The Falcons had a sub-par night from the field, shooting 40 percent, making just six of the 22 3-pointers they tried.

The game was tied at the half, but the Antelopes’ defense affected the passing lanes and made it difficult for the Falcons to run their offense. The Antelopes went on an 8-4 run to begin the second half and didn’t relinquish the lead.

The quick turnaround from Friday to Saturday was a good indication of the perseverance of the team. Just 15 hours later, the Falcons defeated The Academy of Art 63-33, splitting their weekend games in Phoenix.

This time, it was not a single player leading the team, but the defensive pressure that helped seal the victory. Only Poling scored in double figures with 18 points, and Downs contributed nine points, while senior wing Jeff Dorman scored eight points.

The Falcons’ stifling defense limited their opponent to just 33 points, the lowest total for an SPU opponent in 61 years. After a week in which home fans saw different players showcasing their offensive skills, Looney’s team was able to prove it could win games in a different way – by suffocating an opponent’s offense.

This weekend, SPU will play two in-conference games at home, against Simon Fraser and Western Washington, before traveling to Hawaii for two more games against PacWest schools after finals week.

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Title: SPU showcases defense in Phoenix | Author: Danny Brill | Section: Sports | Published Date: 2011-11-30 | Internal ID: 7925