Pilot Roundup: What happened in this first week of action for the Pilots?

By Kyle Garcia | January 23, 2019 8:02pm

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Darian Slaga looks to get by a defender.
by Jeffrey Braccia / The Beacon

 The students of the University of Portland were thrown back into action last week with the first week of classes. But while most students had a month to destress and unwind this winter break, the basketball teams had to finish up their non-conference schedules and started playing WCC games.

How did they fare over the break, including this past weekend? Let’s take a look.

Men’s basketball struggles over the break, goes winless first weekend back

It’s been a tough start to Terry Porter’s third year as head coach of the Pilots. They’re 7-13 right now and are 0-5 in conference play. Over winter break, the men’s team went 1-9, with their lone win coming against Florida A&M, who is currently 5-14. They’ve lost all their conference games by double-digits, except for one. The one game they didn’t lose by double-digits was against Pacific, a team that has gone 1-5 in conference play so far.

Last week, Portland played the San Diego Toreros and the No. 5 Gonzaga Bulldogs. They lost both of those games by over 20 points, losing to San Diego 76-55 and Gonzaga 89-66.

On a positive note for the Pilots, both of those teams are really good and are tough teams whether at home or on the road. San Diego just got Isaiah Wright back, and when he plays, the Toreros are a very dangerous team. When Wright was in the lineup earlier this season, San Diego was being considered for potentially an at-large bid for the tournament in March. Their record without Wright was bad enough to give the selection committee an excuse to leave them out, but this team is legitimately good, and if the Pilots had caught them before Wright was healthy, this game could have been a lot closer, especially since the Pilots split this series last year.

The loss against Gonzaga also is one that looks bad on paper, but isn’t quite as bad as it could’ve been. Eventually Gonzaga’s talent overwhelmed Portland, but it was a hard-fought battle despite what the scoreboard said. I wrote last week that the best the Pilots could hope for was to stay competitive against a top team in the country, and they did just that. The point differential doesn’t tell the whole story of what happened this past Saturday. This Gonzaga team is good enough to beat everyone on the conference by 20-plus points a night, so you could spin that a 23-point loss is actually pretty good for the Pilots.

In the biggest game Portland will play this season, the Pilots fell to the Gonzaga Bulldogs 89-66. Marcus Shaver Jr. led all scorers with 18 points. It was the only time the two teams will meet this season.

Portland has a tough next couple games, going on the road to face off against San Francisco for the first time this season and Pacific for the second. San Francisco has played like the second-best team in the conference so getting a win on the road against the Dons will be tough, but a win against Pacific isn’t totally out of the picture. They were close last time and could absolutely sneak away with a victory, which would be their first in WCC play.

It’s been a tough season for the men’s basketball team up to this point, but they might be able to at least make progress this weekend.

Women’s basketball looking to translate stellar non-conference play into the WCC

The women’s team played really well outside of their conference. They went 8-3 in their non-conference schedule this season, already surpassing their seven total wins from last year. They’ve shown some real improvement on the offensive end, upping their points per game from 63.8 last year to 74.5 this year. They’re shooting way better this year than last, making 41 percent of their total shots and 32 percent of their shots from deep compared to 39% overall and 27% from three last season. The Pilots are finding their rhythm on offense.

It’s been a lot tougher in conference play so far, however. They’re only 1-6 against the WCC, with their first win coming on the road last week against San Diego 69-60. They led most of the game against BYU, but their hot offense cooled off in the second half and the Cougars were able to come back thanks to a 16-0 run in the fourth quarter. The Pilots ended up losing 79-71.

It’s been hard in conference play up to this point, but their are still some bright spots on this team. Seniors Julie Spencer and Darian Slaga have been great so far this season. They’re both averaging around 15 points per game, with Spencer leading the team in both blocks and rebounds so far this season. Slaga had 17 and 14 points in their last two games against San Diego and BYU respectively. They’re the keys to this offense playing as well as it has been.

While Spencer and Slaga are the centerpieces, there are some other important players contributing to this team, specifically Haylee Andrews. Andrews is a freshman from Australia who’s been a key player for the Pilots. She’s averaging 12 points per game while shooting 36% from three. She’s part of the reason the Pilots have been off to such a hot offensive start. She scored 16 and 19 points in her last two games, and played for 36 minutes against BYU. Andrews has helped transform this team into what it is this season.

They’re playing Santa Clara and San Francisco this weekend at home, two teams that both rank towards the bottom of the conference this season. They could bolster their conference record significantly with a pair of home wins on Thursday and Saturday.

Tennis starting back up again

The men’s tennis team opened their spring dual season this weekend against the Washington Huskies and the Portland State Vikings. The team was picked to finish sixth in the WCC Preseason Poll and graduated six players, including back-to-back WCC Player of the Year Michail Pervolarakis.

They dropped their season opener against the Huskies 6-1 but bounced back against the Vikings with a 7-0 sweep. The Washington opener was tough, but good experience for a young team that features six freshmen.

The loss of Pervolarakis is a big void to fill, but the Pilots still strung together a successful fall season. Senior Carlos Donat stood out in the fall due to his impressive 12-4 singles mark and an appearance in the Round of 16 at the ITA Regionals. Freshman Nicklas Oberg also stood out, joining Donat in the Round of 16. How they’re experience this fall translates into the spring season will be interesting to see.

The women’s team also started their season over break. They’re expected to finish eighth in the conference, according to the WCC Women’s Tennis Preseason Poll, but they’ve gotten some solid wins so far.

They swept Chaminade 7-0 and also played well at the Hawai’i Pacific Invite. At the invite, junior Jelena Lukic and sophomore Lourdes Ramalle earned the doubles title while sophomore Laura Okazaki took the singles title. They might not be able to keep this up in conference play, but for now it’s a good start.

Their next match will be on the road against Washington on Friday, Jan. 25 at 5 p.m. They’ll get plenty of road experience before their home opener won’t be until Feb. 15.

What’s up next?

Men’s basketball is on the road this week, travelling to San Francisco for a tough matchup against one of the best teams in the conference and to Pacific for a rematch with the Tigers. The game against USF is on Thursday at 7 p.m. and the game against Pacific is on Saturday at 1 p.m.

Women’s basketball is back home after splitting their road trip last week. They play Santa Clara on Thursday at 7 p.m and San Francisco on Saturday at 2 p.m. Both should be winnable games for the Pilots, as both the Broncos and the Dons rank near the bottom of the conference.

Men’s tennis goes to Las Vegas this weekend to face off against Northern Arizona and UNLV. They play NAU on Saturday and UNLV on Sunday. Both games are at 11 a.m.

Women’s tennis plays against Washington this week, playing Washington on Saturday and Eastern Washington on Sunday. The game against UW is at 5 p.m. and the game against EWU is at 1:00 p.m.

Stay tuned for the next Pilot Roundup.

Kyle Garcia is the sports editor for The Beacon. He can be reached at garciaky20@up.edu.

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