The Falcon   |   Volume 83, Issue 53

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Men’s basketball off to sizzling start

Falcons win both games at Sodexo Tip-Off Classic

By , Sports Editor

Published: November 14 2012

For the fourth time in five seasons, Seattle Pacific’s men’s basketball team began its season with two home victories. Over the weekend, the Falcons defeated the Academy of Art and Azusa Pacific University to sweep the Sodexo Tip-Off Classic. Junior guard David Downs was named the tournament MVP.

“We’re excited for the season to get going; it has been a nice start,” senior post Andy Poling said. “We are excited about the direction we are going, and we will continue to grow.”

The Falcons started off the season with an 85-65 victory over the Academy of Art. The Urban Knights kept the score tight for the first half. SPU’s halftime lead narrowed to 34-30 after AA junior guard Ameer Shamsud-din drained a deep three-pointer at the buzzer. Shamsud-din led the Urban Knights with 27 points.

“We were focused on him early,” Downs said. “Part of it is we got to do a better job in transition; we didn’t do a good job in transition to stop him. But you got to give him credit, the man had some shots.”

It was a sluggish start for the Falcons. In the first half, SPU shot only 33 percent from the field. At the break, Ryan Looney, SPU’s fourth-year head coach, told his team to go focus on the fundamentals.

“Our success this year is playing hard and being unselfish, and in the first half, we did neither,” Looney said. “Our 15 minutes in the locker room was a discussion of those two things. In the first 10 minutes of the second half, we made a big improvement.”

The Falcons extended their lead with a 17-0 run early in the second half. From there, SPU found a groove and was able to cruise the rest of the way. The Falcons shot much more efficiently in the second half, posting a 57.7 shooting percentage. Downs led the team with 20 points. Senior forward Jobi Wall scored 16 points, and junior forward Patrick Simon added 10. Sophomore guard Riley Stockton grabbed nine rebounds.

Saturday marked the first of three consecutive weekends with games on back-to-back nights. Against the Azusa Pacific Cougars, the Falcons once again found themselves in a close game early on. Due to a size advantage in the paint, Poling reeled off the team’s first six points. After that, SPU began to play more outside. In the first half, the Falcons went 6-14 from the three-point line.

However, SPU’s seven turnovers kept the Cougars within reach. At halftime, the Falcons led 33-28.

“We just kind of talked about not necessarily the game being close, but we thought our defensive effort was really good,” Looney said. “It was better than it had been to this point.”

Just like the previous night, the Falcons broke open the game in the second half. This was a testament to the Falcons’ defense, which stepped up to the challenge against APU. The Cougars dropped 102 points on Friday against Central Washington, but managed only half of that in SPU’s 72-53 win.

“We spent a lot of time going over what they do on offense,” said Poling, who led the team with 15 points. “We knew we had to shut them down. I think we did that really well.”

It will be nearly a month before the Falcons return to the Royal Brougham Pavilion. Over the next few weeks, SPU will travel to Hawaii, California and Alaska. Next weekend, the Falcons will represent the Great Northwest Athletic Conference in the GNAC/PAC West Challenge in Laie, Hawaii.

In order to maintain success, the Falcons will need to avoid slow starts by setting the tone defensively.

“We do this in practice sometimes the first team comes out and has a slow start, and we pick it up in the end,” Downs said. “For us not to do that, we just got to figure out a way to stay consistent in practice. I think we came together and realized that nothing we do on offense matters right now; it’s all about what we do on defense.”

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