Upset win over No. 22 Gonzaga a significant achievement for Portland

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Entering Thursday night’s game against No. 22 Gonzaga, the Portland Pilots were faced with two ugly losing streaks. One of the streaks was the Pilots’ 20-game losing streak in the series, with their last victory coming all the way back on February 19, 2003. The other streak was even more unfathomable, as Gonzaga had won the last 17 games in the series played on Portland’s home court. It’s one thing for that to happen in Spokane, but with the Bulldogs being so dominant in the series as the road team the chances of a Portland victory didn’t look to be good at all.

But that wouldn’t be the case on Thursday, as Portland never trailed and led by as many as 17 points in an 82-73 victory that in all honesty was only that close due to a late rally by the Bulldogs. Portland executed well offensively, sharing the basketball (16 assists on 27 made field goals) and shooting 52% from the field.

And it was a team effort as well, with Bryce Pressley leading five Pilots in double figures with 16 points to go along with nine assists. And while he didn’t reach double figures in the scoring department forward Ryan Nicholas added nine rebounds to go along with the eight points he scored.

Defensively Portland limited Kevin Pangos to 12 points on 3-for-10 shooting, and with Gary Bell Jr. (broken hand) out of the lineup the Bulldogs’ margin of error is slim offensively when Pangos is off the mark. Gonzaga shooting just 4-for-15 from beyond the arc also impacted the outcome, but this result was more about how well Portland played and their impact on the Bulldogs than anything Gonzaga didn’t do.

From an NCAA tournament standpoint Thursday’s results may have hurt the WCC’s chances of sending multiple teams, with Santa Clara knocking off Saint Mary’s in Moraga being the other outcome of note. But there’s still nearly two months of basketball to be played before the conference tournament in Las Vegas, and if anything those games reveal just how wide-open the title race could potentially be.

Where does Portland fit into the equation? For a team that took more than its fair share of lumps over the last two seasons, that question will likely be answered by the way in which they handle this success. Next up are road games against Loyola Marymount and Pepperdine, and those are two tough challenges for the Pilots.

Thursday night represented a significant challenge and Portland rose to the challenge, and the win is a big one for Coach Reveno and his program. How valuable can this result be when it comes to the direction of the Portland program? That will depend on the Pilots, and whether or not they can build on this historic achievement.

Louisville backcourt struggles in first scrimmage

Quentin Snider, Jerian Grant
Associated Press
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While a few teams did manage to hold special events for the official start of practice this weekend, most simply went about their business with drills and conditioning. One team that was the exception to all of this was Louisville, which held the first of its two intersquad scrimmages on Saturday. The Cardinals had a head start of sorts on the season, as they played six exhibition games in Puerto Rico this summer.

One hope heading into Saturday’s scrimmage was that guards Trey Lewis and Quentin Snider would have better chemistry than they did in Puerto Rico. But according to Jeff Greer of the Louisville Courier-Journal, that remains a work in progress for the Cleveland State transfer (Lewis) and rising sophomore (Snider).

They struggled in Puerto Rico, and they struggled again in Saturday’s Red-White scrimmage, the first public intrasquad practice since August. They played one half of the game together, paired with the presumed starting lineup with Mangok Mathiang out with an eye injury, a group that also included Damion Lee, Jaylen Johnson and Chinanu Onuaku.

That team lost the first half by 13 points to a younger group of Louisville players, and Lewis and Snider combined for eight points on 3-of-12 shooting, five turnovers, five steals, four assists and three rebounds.

“I thought (Snider) and (Lewis) did not play well together,” U of L coach Rick Pitino said. “They’ve got to get used to that. Neither guy made other guys better. That’s what they need to learn to do.”

As Greer also noted in his story the Cardinals have in recent years employed backcourt tandems in which both guards are capable of making plays for themselves and others. On the 2013 national champion team Peyton Siva and Russ Smith led the way, with Smith being joined by Terry Rozier or Chris Jones the following season and Rozier/Jones being the grouping last season before the latter was dismissed from the team.

Once Jones was dismissed Snider saw more time on the court, and his development was one of the keys for a Louisville team that fell one win short of the Final Four. Louisville needs him to take another step forward heading into the 2015-16 season, because even with Lewis’ experience at the Division I level Snider has more experience playing in Pitino’s system.

But while Saturday’s scrimmage didn’t go as well as anyone involved hoped, there’s still plenty of time for Louisville to work out the kinks before they open the season November 13 against Samford.

Knee injury sidelines Memphis assistant

Toronto Raptors vs Charlotte Hornets
Associated Press
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With practices beginning this weekend, not only are players looking to avoid the injury bug but their coaches are as well. And in the case of Memphis, the Tigers won’t have one of their assistants on the court for a little while due to a knee injury.

Assistant coach Damon Stoudamire, who returned to Josh Pastner’s staff this summer after a two-year stint at Arizona, suffered the injury during a recent workout according to L. Jason Smith of the Memphis Commercial-Appeal. And Stoudamire will require surgery, which will put him on the shelf for a little bit.

“He was working out himself and I think he thought he was in his rookie year,” Pastner said. “We think he’s got a torn meniscus, which will require surgery and put him out for a couple of days.”

Stoudamire isn’t the only assistant coach working through pain either. Syracuse’s Mike Hopkins, who is also Jim Boeheim’s heir apparent as head coach, suffered a neck injury body surfing during a family vacation last month. Hopkins spent some time in a neck brace while putting players through workouts as a result of the injury.

As for the Tigers, they’ll have a mixture of experience on the perimeter and youth in the front court as they look to get back to the NCAA tournament after missing out last season. Among the newcomers are talented forwards Dedric and K.J. Lawson, with experienced guards such as Kedren Johnson, Trahson Burrell and Ricky Tarrant (grad transfer from Alabama) expected to be key contributors on the perimeter.