The hype and excitement surrounding Terry Porter’s inaugural season as the head coach of the University of Portland’s men’s basketball team quickly evaporated after the loss of starting point guard and captain, Alec Wintering, to an ACL injury. The Pilots are limping into the West Coast Conference Tournament in Las Vegas as the No. 10 seed (in a field of ten teams) on a 16-game losing streak, excluding a non-conference win over Walla Walla last week.
Portland is set to face off against San Diego, the No. 7 seed in the tournament, at 8 p.m. on Friday, March 3 and the winner of that game will take a crack at St. Mary’s in the quarterfinals. But things aren’t looking promising for Portland to make it out of Friday’s game on top. The Pilots lost to San Diego in both meetings between the two teams this season.
After the Pilots lost to San Diego at home earlier this season, Porter told The Beacon that he felt his team got out to a “good start” and had “good energy”, but in the second half the Portland defense struggled as the Toreros out-rebounded Portland 37-14.
“I told the guys, we had too many possessions where we need to have multiple efforts and we didn’t have it,” Porter said. “We would do a good job in the first 30 seconds and then we’d miss a shot and they’d get the rebound. We can’t give teams extra possessions like that.”
No. 4 (and No.1-seeded) Gonzaga, which recently suffered its only loss of the season to BYU in the Kennel, is the heavy favorite to win the title and snag the automatic WCC bid to the March Madness tournament on Selection Sunday. Its loss to BYU may have exposed some defensive holes, as the Bulldogs allowed the Cougars to score 44 points in the second half to complete the comeback win, but Jordan Matthews told local media after the game that the loss makes the team more hungry than ever to win.
“We have always had that hunger to motivate us,” Matthews said. “That is what we are built on, that is what Gonzaga is. Hunger. We are never content. We lost a ballgame, hunger is still there, [we will] work on some things and we will go back to the drawing board Monday.”
Tuesday’s championship game, as well as all of the games Gonzaga and St. Mary’s appear in, will be aired on ESPN. See here for more details on how to watch the games.
On the women’s side for Portland, the odds of getting out of the first round – let alone bringing home a West Coast Conference Title – are slim to none. The women have come away from the regular season with four conference wins, three more than last season, but enter the Tournament on a three-game skid.
The No. 10 seeded Pilots team will face off against San Diego at 2 p.m. on Thursday, March 2. The first time Portland played the Toreros, Portland suffered a 28-point loss. The second time the two teams played, San Diego won by 18 points.
The winner of Thursday’s game will tip off against No.2-seeded BYU on Friday at 2 p.m. Gonzaga’s women’s team also entered the tournament as the No. 1 seed and favorite to come out on top of Tuesday’s championship game. For details on how to watch the women’s games, go here.