In the season opener for the men’s basketball team after two exhibition wins, the Portland Pilots defeated the Multnomah Lions 111-103 in a high-scoring season opener. Redshirt junior Josh McSwiggan had a career night, scoring 37 points and grabbing 11 rebounds, both career highs.
It was a bonafide shootout at the Chiles Center. Both teams lit up the scoreboard, but with different styles. UP found success working the ball inside, scoring 74 points in the paint, while Multnomah let it fly from downtown, shooting 50 threes and making 22 of them.
Multnomah’s unorthodox style of running and gunning is something Portland most likely won’t face again this year. When asked if there was anything they learned tonight that can translate into the Rainbow Classic this weekend, Porter simply said no, that this was a bit of an anomaly.
“It’s very intimidating in a weird way,” McSwiggan said. “You’re really overthinking the offensive side of floor because you’re thinking ‘oh is this a bad shot’ because they just want to get out in run. It was a very different thing to think about but eventually we pulled it off."
It was all Pilots to start the game, however. Portland won the tip and got off to a hot start. They scored the first seven points within a minute, slicing and dicing the middle of the Multnomah defense. McSwiggan alone scored 10 points in the first five minutes, all of them coming from inside the paint. Multnomah couldn’t guard anything inside, with the Pilots scoring 38 of their 54 first half points in the paint. Freshman center Theo Akwuba also played well in the first, putting up eight points and four boards.
“They weren’t really guarding the high post, that was a thing that we noticed,” McSwiggan said. “They play a small rotation because they don’t want to get their guys in foul trouble, so we had a lot of guys able to get in the paint and get quick shots, get layups.”
It wasn’t as much that Multnomah couldn’t guard them as much as they didn’t care. Multnomah looked to get back on offense as soon as possible to get up a quick three. If they could get a shot in ten seconds or less, they would take it with no hesitation.
“They were shooting it from 27 to 28 feet,” Portland head coach Terry Porter said about the offensive minded Lions. “They got hot...shooting 50 threes is just unorthodox.”
This fast paced style helped Multnomah come back quickly on the Pilots. The Lions kept firing from three and started to connect, going on a 14-2 run at one point. Little mistakes allowed the Lions to get a 12 point lead with five minutes left in the half.
Portland fought their way back to bring the game within two, 56-54. McSwiggan had 16 points in the first half while Justin Martin, guard for the Lions, led all scorers with 23. Multnomah went 11-24 from three in the first half as well.
“They were in transition a couple times and we did not do a good job of getting to guys and giving up wide open shots,” Porter said. “Anybody sees shots going through the rim, they get very confident in their ability to shoot it.”
The Pilots started the second half off strong, getting to the line and working the ball inside. Akwuba scored two quick buckets to start the half. They started started to look back inside more, finding McSwiggan specifically open consistently in the middle of the key. They took the lead right back from the Lions.
“I think we did a much better job of contesting shots, getting out into those guys and breaking their rhythm,” Porter said.
The Lions wouldn’t go away that easily though. The barrage of three pointers continued in the second half, keeping the game close. It was a constant power struggle throughout the half. Multnomah took advantage of every UP slip up, exploiting every opportunity as another chance to put three points on the board. With just under six minutes left, the Lions led 92-89.
The Pilots started to gain some momentum, however, as the Lions started missing shots. With two minutes left the Pilots led 100-92.
The Lions fought back but a big three from Marcus Shaver Jr. kept them ahead 105-97. The play of Shaver Jr. late helped the PIlots come out on top.
The Pilots will now travel to Hawaii to play in the Rainbow classic. They play Hawaii on Nov. 9 and North Texas on Nov. 10.
Kyle Garcia is the sports editor for The Beacon. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org