The Falcons dominated the SODEXO Classic and went on to go 1-1 in the Westminster Thanksgiving Invitational.
The Thanksgiving break held plenty for Seattle Pacific University men’s basketball team to be thankful for, winning two games at home in their own SODEXO Classic and then one on the road in Salt Lake City.
SPU’s SODEXO Classic started on Nov. 17 with the Falcons facing off against Concordia-Irvine California, where forward Nathan Streufert rejected seven of their shots, leading SPU to a school-record tying total of 11 blocked shots in one game, leaving the Falcons with a 79-56 victory.
Streufert had a stellar all-around game with eight points, seven rebounds and four assists, while nailing 80 percent of his shots.
Streufert was close to matching another record school record, falling two short of Rob Will’s nine blocks in one game in a 2006 conference game.
The SPU offense was held up by scores from several players, guard Gavin Long with 13 points, and Nikhil Lizotte, Harry Cavell and Hunter Eisenhower each scoring 11.
The Classic ended the next day after the Falcons took out Hawaii-Hilo by an even larger margin than their last competitor, 90-59.
Forward Tony Miller took the reigns of the offensive campaign where he drilled eight buckets, three from beyond the arc, giving him 22 total points. Millers contributions did not end on offense, he racked up the most rebounds, nine, with seven coming on defense. Miller also managed to snag a single steal.
SPU’s all around play was spectacular at home, winning each game with a large margin and dominating both sides of the ball.
“We were very pleased with how we played at home,” head coach of the SPU men’s basketball team Grant Leep said. “There are no ‘easy’ opponents on our schedule. Our guys are understanding what is expected from them defensively and executing that to a high level. I have been proud of how we move the ball on offense, and with how well our players who came off the bench played.”
After the Classic, the Falcons traveled to Salt Lake City the day after Thanksgiving to compete in the Westminster Thanksgiving Invitational, where they were immediately met with tough competition.
SPU faced Dixie State and ended up with a much deserved victory, 79-70. Despite the victory, SPU was behind by nine points by the end of the first half, but it was turned around by guard Nikhil Lizotte, who scored at a fantastic rate in the second half. Lizotte netted 20 points in the second half. Lizotte and the Falcons rallied four minutes into the second half; they trailed 44-37 when the team put up 13 consecutive points, culminating in Tony Miller giving SPU its first lead of the half after hitting a 3-pointer, the score now 47-44. Lizotte followed suit by capping off the scoring barrage with a 3-pointer of his own.
SPU ended up scoring 10 percent better than their first half totals, while Dixie State scored 17 percent worse.
Miller and Lizotte led the charge in total points with 22 and 20 points. Along with Miller’s scoring output he also crashed the boards for nine rebounds, which was just below the team’s record rebound count of 10 from forward Coleman Wooten.
“Tony has shown that he has the ability to score at a high level,” Leep said. “The beauty with this team is that there are multiple guys that can score the ball. Between Tony, Nikhil Lizotte, Coleman Wooten and Gavin Long, among others, we feel as though we have several options.”
Despite the comeback, the Falcons did have trouble keeping a few players on the court, with three players disqualified compared to Dixie’s zero. Sam Simpson, Harry Cavell and Miller were each whistled and booted from the matchup for five fouls each. The next day, Nov. 25, the Falcons took on a Westminster and, coming off of a four game win streak, it seemed not much could slow SPU’s roll. However, the Falcons slipped and were unable to come up with the victory, losing 83-77.
The lead of the game waved back and forth, even with 3:07 left in regulation time SPU led, but that score was leveled by 1:38 after Westminster’s Dayon Goodman nailed two free-throws and then dropped a 3-point bomb. Goodman amassed 36 points against the Falcons. The game did bring some good news for the Falcons though, with Miller who scoring 17 points followed by Cavell with a career-high 15 points.
“We were all a little frustrated with how we played Saturday,” Leep said. “We had some opportunities to make plays down the stretch and just fell short. We need to clean some things up as we prepare for a big week on the road this week.”
With conference games starting this Thursday at 6 p.m. in Idaho against Northwest Nazarene, the team is closely evaluating their game.
“We need to get back to the things that were helping us,” Leep said. “Talking on defense, keeping teams to one shot and keeping the basketball moving on the offensive end. When we focus on those things, we are generally very happy with the results.”