Eric Reveno has a penchant for grueling schedules. This year, the Pilots' head coach dialed back the intensity a bit but he still managed to find time for a trip to the Breslin Center for a game against the top team in the nation. So far, his tough scheduling plan has not been effective. The Pilots lost to Kentucky over three straight years. Over the past two seasons, the brutal non-conference slate sent his Pilots into conference play worn down and demoralized.
The result wasn't positive tonight either. Portland suffered its second straight loss and falls to 1-2 on the season. The first team in the WCC to lose a game this season now was the unsavory title of first (and only) sub-.500 WCC team.
It wasn't all bad though.
A sloppy first half, from both teams, made for a close game. One that the final score of 82-67 does not come close to illustrating. The Pilots took the lead five times over the course of the first half. While they never held it for long, they never let Sparty pull away either. Pilots' fans had a lot of reason for hope after that first half. Star forward Ryan Nicholas had just two points. It seemed like every possession ended with the a brick from Bobby Sharp. Surely Nicholas would come alive at some point and Sharp couldn't keep missing open threes, right?
Well, for the first 10 minutes of half number two it did seem that way. Nicholas came out of the break and scored a quick seven points. Junior forward Volo Gerun found himself on the line enough to put the Pilots in the bonus, after just a few minutes. A Gerun free throw with 12:43 tied the game at 46. Michigan State's Travis Trice scored five points in the ensuing 30 seconds and Sparty went on a rampage from there. Over the final 12 minutes Portland was outscored 31-21.
There are a lot of positives to take away from this game for the Pilots. Mainly, they weren't intimidated by the #1 ranking, Breslin Center or Big Ten style of play. Also, they stayed out of foul trouble and pushed the Spartans into foul trouble. Building blocks for a young team picked to finish second to last by the coaches.