Following a losing season with a disappointing overall record of 7-25, the University of Portland men’s basketball team kicked off their 2019-20 campaign on Tuesday night with a promising start, beating the Willamette Bearcats 86-36.
The Pilots came out fast and strong, winning the tipoff and getting three points in the first few seconds with an outside jumper from junior guard Jojo Walker. Portland kept the momentum up with quick turnovers and fast breaks, keeping a double-digit gap throughout the first half and ending with a 49-16 lead, shooting 54% from the field.
“The key to the game was to come out faster and better,” redshirt junior guard Malcolm Porter said. “In the first 10 minutes we kind of set a tone, and we just kept it going. So, I think that’s why we got the win today.”
The second half only saw more from the Pilots: with the team extending their lead to 40 points and only exploiting that gap for the remainder of the game. Quick transitions by freshman guard Chase Adams and an impressive dunk off a turnover by guard Isaiah White, a graduate student, at the 10-minute mark made fans jump out of their seats.
“He (White) is coming back from a sprained ankle and he played great tonight,” said Porter of his teammate.
While Porter and junior forward Jacob Tyron led the team in scoring with 13 points each, the team’s newcomers proved their own worth — a heavy feat after the Pilots lost some key players, including Josh Swiggans and Marcus Shaver Jr. Freshman Adams is a newcomer that proved to be pivotal in the game, with a total of seven assists.
“All those guys really contribute, and it’s important that those guys get some game time before we go off on the road,” head coach Terry Porter said.
The Pilots were picked to finish last in the coaches’ preseason poll, but are hoping to push forward. The win was a positive start for Portland, but they’re looking to work on rebounds as well as keeping up communication on defense.
“I think we did a great job running fast, (on) fast breaks, talking on defense, and that’s what we’re going to need for the next two games we got on the road,” Walker said.
Portland will next face the University of Southern California away on Friday, Nov. 8 followed by San Jose State on Sunday, Nov. 11.
Ana Clyde is the senior sports reporter and copy editor for The Beacon. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.