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Portland Pilots Home Finale

February 18, 2003 Columns No Comments



Gaels Ground Pilots in Home Finale

by Jed Tai

This past Saturday saw many upsets in the ranks of college basketball.

The Portland Pilots hoped to be counted among them.

Playing host to the St. Mary’s (CA) Gaels in their home finale, the Pilots looked to pick up a much needed win. Head coach Michael Holton’s squad had just two WCC league wins in ten tries, and was on a four game slide. St. Mary’s entered the match-up trying to reach the .500 mark and tie Pepperdine for the fourth spot in the WCC, and had been on a three game losing streak of their own.

The two teams’ earlier contest back in January resulted in a St. Mary’s 69-54 victory. In that game, Gaels freshmen forward Daniel Kickert – who has led St. Mary’s in scoring this season with 12.8 ppg – scored his career high with 24 points. The Pilots looked to counter Kickert and the Gaels with their scoring duo of freshman swingman Donald Wilson and their leading scorer, Casey Frandsen. Frandsen, a junior guard who averaged 19.2 ppg (20.1 ppg WCC) last season, has struggled this season with only 12.6 ppg.

The start of the game was shaky as both teams struggled with turnovers. The scoring began with Kickert putting in the first basket for the Gaels. Portland responded by tightening the defense and pushing the tempo, scoring the next seven points. After a small mini-run by the Gaels, a three-pointer by Pilots forward Karl Aaker gave Portland a 10-6 lead. However, at this point the Gaels’ big men responded – led by junior forward Frederic Anjiwanou. Anjiwanou – a native of Ambilly, France – exploded for the Gaels’ next 13 points with aggressive drives to the basket and unrelenting finishes. He had three consecutives three point plays (the old fashioned basket and one way) plus two other field goals in a span of only four minutes.

Thanks to his play, the Gaels seemed in control at this point and took a commanding 28-17 lead with just 6:30 left in the first half. The Pilots closed the first half strong on a 12-5 run led by freshmen guard Eugene Jeter, but were unable to overcome the dominant performance of Anjiwanou, who matched a game high 16 points with his first half exhibition.

“Clearly he manhandled us,” said Holton. “His presence in the game took the wind out of our sails. It took everything we had to try to slow him down. (With his play), everyone got a higher level of confidence closer to the basket.”

The second half began ominously for the Pilots. Gaels senior guard Samuel Saint-Jean came right out of the gate by sinking a three, starting a 10-2 St. Mary’s run. And while the Pilots closed down the scoring in the paint by double-teaming Anjiwanou, the Gaels turned to outside scoring from Saint-Jean and sophomore guard Jonathon Sanders. The Pilots found themselves down 45-31 at the 13:30 mark of the half. Unable to find their outside shot (3-for-18 on threes), Portland turned to more aggressive play, driving to the hoop and getting whistles in their favor – drawing 17 Gael personal fouls in the second half. However, poor free throw shooting cost the Pilots, as Portland only converted 12-for-18 from the charity stripe in the period. And they were only able to trade baskets the rest of the half as the Gaels triumphed, 71-59.

The game was a reflection of the problems the Pilots have faced all season. They were never able to establish a consistent inside game and suffered when the outside shooting failed. Coach Holton addressed the team’s problem.

“We need to strengthen our front line. There’s no secret about that,” he said. “I think that’s our biggest weakness; we need to increase productivity on the front line.”

The Pilots close out their regular season with a three game road trip during which they will most certainly continue looking for answers to improve their squad for next season. They will need wins to avoid finishing in last place in the WCC for the second season in a row – and they will need to keep on fighting.

“The program has taken small steps forward,” said Holton. “But it is not where I would like it to be in terms of competitiveness.”

“Every night we can make the rationale that we’re too small or we’re too young, but the area we need to mature the most in is our consistent, hard, competitive edge.”

Around the State

It was a tough time all-around for Division I basketball in the state this past weekend, as not only the Pilots, but the Vikings and Beavers also fell on Saturday.

But at least the Ducks came away with a victory – but one team in the state had to win, as they triumphed over the Beavers in the second installment of this season’s Civil War. Luke Ridnour led the way with 18 points in the 80-63 win, only the second road victory for the Ducks in Pac-10 play. The game bode well for head coach Ernie Kent’s team, as not only did they get a much needed win, but they were successful in the way they did it. With soft interior defense Oregon’s Achilles heel all year long, the Ducks showed they might have found some answers by bottling up OSU forward Philip Ricci, holding him to only nine points. Offensively, their shooting eye returned. And individually, Ridnour broke a conference mark by hitting on his 51st consecutive free throw – a mark he will carry on next week as the Ducks go on the road to face Washington and Washington State.

With a 72-58 loss at Sacramento State, the Portland State Vikings fell to 4-20, and finished off winless on the road for the season, 0-14. As has been the case most of the year, the Vikings put forth a great effort, but fell short in the end. Head Coach Heath Schroyer now looks to finish out his first year at the helm with a solid stand at home – the Vikings complete the season with three games at home at the Stott Center. Currently buried in last place, two and a half games behind a possible berth in the Big Sky tournament, Schroyer certainly hopes the team’s competitiveness can turn into wins. However – it won’t be easy, as Eastern Washington and Weber State come to town – teams currently ranked first and second place in the conference.

Special thanks to Bill Lunceford for his work with the Portland/St. Mary’s recap.

     

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