Frustrated Pilots gear up for Zags

By The Beacon | January 25, 2012 9:00pm

Pilots host the Gonzaga Bulldogs tonight after falling twice at home in the past week

(Ian Hilger | THE BEACON)

By Jason Hortsch, Staff Writer --

The Pilots will be looking for payback tonight in their bout with Gonzaga. The Bulldogs are notorious rivals and the Pilots are coming off home losses to University of San Diego (62-83) and the University of San Fransisco (71-72).

Having had several days off before the Gonzaga game, the team is aware of the challenge that lies ahead. Head Coach Eric Reveno was particularly respectful of Gonzaga's caliber.

"Their good basketball makes them dangerous," Reveno said. "They know that they have to put up a fight every game."

Sophomore forward Ryan Nicholas knows exactly what the team must do.

"We need to compete for 40 minutes," Nicholas said. "We need to make sure we're locked in and ready to go. We only get this opportunity once a year to have a team like Gonzaga at home."

Despite recent disappointing performances, Reveno is excited for the chance to pay back Gonzaga for a 39-point loss earlier in the season.

"The Gonzaga game gives us a good crowd," Reveno said. "It's a great college basketball atmosphere during the game. I like to see that in the Chiles Center. It's more fun to play here than up there."

Reveno is also pleased with the crop of underclassmen he has assembled. Leading up to the game against San Francisco, underclassmen had been responsible for 79 percent of the team's scoring and played 77 percent of the team's minutes.

"The underclassmen have been huge for us," Reveno said. "It's the best freshman class we've ever had, and I feel comfortable saying that. The future's bright."

Nicholas is also excited for the youth movement in years to come, but cautioned against looking too far ahead.

"I'm definitely excited for the years to come," Nicholas said. "I don't like to look that far ahead, though. I'd rather focus on this year. We may be young, but if we play defense the way we can and execute offense, we can have a bright present."

Against the Toreros, the Pilots kept the game close until the end, finding themselves facing only a five-point deficit with five minutes left in the game. Senior point guard Eric Waterford provided a spark off the bench, hitting back-to-back layups with 10 minutes left to jumpstart both the crowd and the team.

The Toreros scorching hot 3-point shooting (14-19) ultimately proved to be too much for the Pilots though, as the win quickly became unreachable. One bright spot for the Pilots was freshman guard Kevin Bailey, who finished the game with a season-high 22 points.

Determined to get back on track, the Pilots came out fast against the Dons, jumping out to a seven-point halftime lead in front of a crowd of 2,000. The intensity continued into the second half as the game remained tight, coming down to the final buzzer. Needing a 3-pointer to tie the game with five seconds left, Portland couldn't get a clean look, sealing the loss.

Bailey once again led a balanced Pilot scoring attack with 13 points, joined by four other teammates in double figures. The Pilots also outrebounded the Dons 39-30, led by freshman post Thomas van der Mars' nine.

After the game, Reveno lamented his team's 20 turnovers.

"We've got to become more consistent in not turning it over," Reveno said. "You make it hard on yourself if you turn it over. To give yourself a chance to win you can't do that."

Spoiled by lights-out shooting the past couple of years, many fans have been wondering about the team's paltry 30.5 3-point field goal percentage on the season and 41.7 overall shooting percentage. Reveno chalked up the shooting woes to poor passing.

"I think bad passing is leading to bad shooting," Reveno said. "It throws off timing. Not making 3-pointers doesn't hurt us as much as turnovers."

Nicholas also believes the team's defensive play needs to become more consistent, if the team wants to see improvement.

"We've had some good defensive stretches the last couple of weeks, but we need to sustain those for the entire game," Nicholas said.