Pilots drop season opener in a tough game against the Vikings 80-75
In their first regular season game, the Portland Pilots fell to their cross-town rivals the Portland State Vikings 80-75 in a tough back and forth battle. After a strong first half, the Pilots struggled down the stretch, committing some late turnovers and missing some key shots.
“They forced us into some turnovers and we came up with some empty possessions,” head coach Terry Porter said after the loss. “Our inexperience showed up down the stretch there, not taking care of the ball, not executing as well as we should have."
It was a hard fought game for both teams, with the lead swinging back and forth in the second half after UP held control for most of the first. There were 10 lead changes throughout the game.
Terry Porter’s first year on the Bluff was a tough one, with the team finishing with a disappointing 11-22 record and at one point losing 14 games in a row. They come into this season with an almost entirely different roster, with eight newcomers on the team. Hoop scoop has Portland’s recruiting class ranked tenth in the nation, which is second amongst mid-majors and tops among WCC teams.
Freshmen guards Jojo Walker and Marcus Shaver Jr. played well considering it was their first regular season game in college. In the first half Walker put in eight points off of 3-5 shooting, including a pair of three pointers. Shaver Jr. also excelled in the first half, notching nine points and two assists. He operated confidently in the backcourt, handling the ball efficiently and with care. Junior transfer Josh McSwiggan also played well in the first half, leading the team in scoring with 10 points at the end of the first half.
The Pilots played well in the first half, handling the Vikings full-court press with poise. They performed well under pressure, breaking the press consistently and finding opportunities at the other end. The first half was filled with highlights such as Marcus Shaver Jr. breaking the press and pulling off a stellar behind-the-back dribble move to get by the defender and get the tough finish at the rim. The Pilots led at the end of the first half 43-39.
The Pilots started off strong in the second half, opening with a powerful alley-oop pass from McSwiggan to senior center Phillipp Hartwich. After the strong start, however, the Pilots let the Vikings get on a run, giving up the lead. With 11:30 left, Portland State led the Pilots 54-52.
The lead changed sides multiple times throughout the second half, with no team being able to secure a solid lead. The inexperience of the Pilots showed, with the team struggling to care for the ball and capitalize when they could. Despite the Vikings shooting an abysmal 45 percent from the free-throw line, they were able to stay right there with the Pilots.
The Pilots got themselves a 75-68 lead with just under three minutes to play, but the Vikings were far from finished, staying right there with them and keeping the game close. A Jojo Walker turnover led to an easy layup at the other end for Portland State, allowing them to tie it up at 75.
Bryce Canda hit a three for the Vikings that gave them a 78-75 lead over the Pilots with under a minute to go. The Pilots weren’t able to capitalize on their opportunities, with McSwiggan missing a layup on one possession and Shaver Jr. failing to make a layup and a three on another. The Pilots would lose 80-75.
Marcus Shaver Jr. continued his solid play into the second half, leading the way for the Pilots with fifteen points. Despite his good scoring performance, he is not satisfied.
“I’m not too happy,” Shaver Jr. said. “I scored the ball pretty well, but that’s not what the team needed.”
Despite the loss, there were some positive signs from the game today. Phillipp Hartwich played well, putting up a double-double with 10 points and 18 rebounds, as well as getting six blocks. McSwiggan also had a solid all-around game, scoring 15 points along with six boards and five assists. The freshmen also played well, showing flashes of solid play that they can build on as the season goes on.
“Every night’s going to be a battle,” Porter said. “I think we did a lot of good things. We just got to clean up a few things and we’re right there.”
The next game for the Pilots will be against Walla Walla on Nov. 14 at the Chiles Center.