Pilots make final push in the WCC

By The Beacon | February 20, 2013 9:00pm

As the season winds down to the final three games, the Pilots hope to take a stand against San Diego and Santa Clara at home this weekend. The Pilots hope to improve their WCC standings and avoid play

Junior guard Korey Thieleke makes a quick pass to freshman guard Oskars Reinfelds in a transition drill during practice Feb. 11. Scoring points in transition is key to getting the Pilots offense going. (Stephanie Matusiefsky | THE BEACON)

By Katie Dunn, Staff Writer dunn16@up.edu

The end of a long season is quickly approaching for the men's basketball team. Two home games, a rivalry road game and the WCC tournament are all that are left.

The Pilots are hoping the next two games to give them a boost, both in confidence and ranking, before heading to the WCC Tournament. The Pilots are in 8th place in the WCC and 10-18 overall this season.

"We want to definitely win these next two and get out of the bottom of the conference," sophomore guard Kevin Bailey said.

The first thing they need to do is take care of San Diego on Thursday. The Pilots lost to the Toreros earlier in the season 61-50. San Diego relies heavily on sophomore guard Johnny Dee, who averages 15 points per game, adding to San Diego's currently hot .488 shooting percentage. The Toreros are 5th in the WCC and 13-14 overall this season.

San Diego averages 65 points per game, where the Pilots only average 61. This means the defense and offense will have to be at their best for the end of the season.

"I think we're headed in the right direction," junior forward Ryan Nicholas said. "We're starting to peak at the right time."

The Pilots will also face Santa Clara on Feb. 23. The Broncos are 18-8 this season and 4th place in the WCC. Their leading scorer is senior guard Kevin Foster who averages 18.2 points per game. They have a .511 shooting percentage and are on a two-game win streak.

The Pilots have been focusing on balancing their offensive struggles and their constant defense and rebounding. The team will focus on ball handling, shooting and turnovers.

"Offensively we're getting to where we need to be," Nicholas said. "Our defense has been solid all year and offense is getting better every game."

Nicholas has led the team all season in scoring, averaging 13 points a game, and currently leads in rebounding, with 8.9 rebounds a game. Senior guard Derrick Rodgers leads the team in assists with 3.3 a game.

While the Pilots have struggled this season, the team has grown together, improving over last year's 7-24 record. The team's biggest improvement has come from experience and spending time together on and off the court.

"The chemistry on the team is much better," Bailey said.

The Pilots hope to carry this chemistry into the WCC tournament starting March 6 in Las Vegas. If the season ended with the same WCC standing as right now, the Pilots would play LMU on March 6. If they win, they continue on to play San Diego on March 7.

"You take on the mindset that anything can happen and try to make a run," Head Coach Eric Reveno said.

Focusing on taking the games as they come and not getting swept up in the excitement of the tournament.

"We just need to do as best as we can to get there," Bailey said. "Then chopping it down one game at a time."

The Pilots take on the San Diego Toreros Thursday, Feb. 21 at 7 p.m. and the Santa Clara Broncos Feb. 23 at 2 p.m. in the Chiles Center. They travel to Spokane to play No. 3 nationally ranked Gonzaga March 2. This concludes the regular season and leads the Pilots to the WCC tournament March 6-11 in Las Vegas, Nev.

The basketball team wants to put an emphasis on team defense for their final three games of the season. Sophomore guard Kevin Bailey practices trapping and on-ball defense at training on Feb. 11. (Stephanie Matusiefsky | THE BEACON)

(Stephanie Matusiefsky | THE BEACON)

(Stephanie Matusiefsky | THE BEACON)