Pilots show resilience despite picking up their first two losses of the season
By Bruce Garlinghouse, Staff Writer -- email@example.com
Over the past two weeks, the Pilots had more on their plate than turkey and mashed potatoes. They also had to stomach more than their aunts' special cranberry sauce.
Over the past week and a half the Pilots played five games, which included losses to Kentucky at the Rose Garden and Washington State at Key Arena in Seattle by at least 16 points.
"Both were tough because we started poorly in both," Head Coach Eric Reveno said.
The Pilots failed to score in the first 7:51, falling behind 15-0 before hitting their first field goal against Kentucky. Despite being able to cut the lead to nine, which came from eight straight points from senior point guard Eric Waterford, the slow start proved to be too much when the Wildcats went on an 11-3 run and didn't look back.
Despite coming into the game shooting over 50 percent from the field and from beyond the arc, the Pilots couldn't find their rhythm against Kentucky. The Pilots shot 30 percent from the field and 20 percent from three.
Senior Jared Stohl, who leads the nation in three-pointers made, had an off night, going 1-7 from deep. Despite not playing as well he said he would have liked, Stohl said he doesn't let it affect him. "I have a short memory," Stohl said. "You just have to forget about it and make the next one."
The Pilots quickly bounced back, beating the University of Idaho 66-53 the next day. Stohl led the team with 16 points and Junior Nemanja Mitrovic added 15.
Reveno said the win showed many things about the team.
"I think it showed we're a pretty good basketball team and that we're fairly resilient," Reveno said. "We have diversity and depth."
But three days later at the Cougar Hardwood Classic, another slow start proved fatal for the Pilots, who failed to fight back from a 21-point halftime deficit and picked up their second loss of the season, losing 68-84 to Washington State.
The game was played in the Key Arena, in which the former NBA team the Seattle Supersonics played before being relocated to Oklahoma City.
While both the losses came in NBAsized arenas, Coach Reveno said he doesn't think playing in the larger venues made a significant difference in the way the Pilots played. He did say playing in larger arenas provide a good experience that will help prepare them to play in "uncomfortable places".
"It's the intangibles that you get from playing in an arena that makes playing in an arena good," Reveno said.
The Pilots returned to the Chiles Center on Nov. 27 to face UC Santa Barbara. Stohl proved why he's the nation's top shooter, knocking down six threes and scoring a season-high 26 points as the Pilots beat the Gauchos 75-63. Stohl's sharp shooting earned him WCC player of the week honors.
Senior Luke Sikma matched Stohl's season-high, scoring 26 points against St. Louis on Nov. 30, as the Pilots grabbed another win, extending their record to 7-2.
In an attempt to stifle the Pilots' deep threat, St. Louis played high-pressure man-to-man defense. While this was effective, holding the Pilots to only four attempts from beyond the arc, all of which came from Stohl, it allowed the Pilots to expose the Billikens' lack of help defense down low, opening up the paint for Sikma, and seniors Kramer Knutson and Jasonn Hannibal. Knutson had 10 points and Hannibal scored a career best 12 points.
The Pilots begin a four-game road trip starting in Missoula, Mont. against Montana tomorrow as they head into the final stretch of nonconference games, which includes a matchup against No. 23 Washington. This has been the toughest nonconference schedule the Pilots have had, accroding to Reveno.
"It's really important to keep winning and keep getting better," Reveno said. "A good win-loss record against nonconference opponents says a lot about a program."