GAME NOTES: The Portland Pilots and the Santa Clara Broncos will both try to halt losing streaks on Saturday night, as the West Coast Conference rivals square off at the Leavey Center.
Portland has lost back-to-back games, falling to San Diego on Jan. 25 (65-63) before dropping an 84-71 decision at San Francisco on Wednesday to dip to 4-6 in the WCC and 2-4 on the road. Despite their recent woes, Portland still sits with a solid 12-10 record on the season.
Santa Clara's slide has been much more severe, as it has dropped five straight to slip to 10-13 overall and 3-7 in conference action. The Broncos most recently lost a heartbreaker on Wednesday night to Gonzaga, 54-52, and are now just 6-6 on their home floor.
The Broncos won the first matchup between the squads on Dec. 30 in Portland, 76-68, to improve their standing in the all-time series to 56-27.
The Pilots shot an impressive 49.1 percent from the field in their latest contest but could not keep pace with San Francisco, which shot 56.3 percent from the field as it handed them a convincing 13-point setback. Bryce Pressley and Alec Wintering scored 15 points apiece, with the duo combining to shoot 6- of-8 from 3-point range. Kevin Bailey and Riley Barker each chipped in 10 points to the losing effort.
Scoring points has not been an issue for Portland this season, as it pours in 78.1 ppg on 45.6 field goal shooting, while draining 6.1 3-pointers per contest at a 39.1 percent clip, but it has also has been vulnerable on the other end of the floor, allowing 73.5 ppg. Bailey is the team's leading scorer with 16.9 ppg and has been active and effective from the free-throw line (99- of-134, .739). Ryan Nicholas (12.4 ppg, 8.9 rpg) and Thomas Van Der Mars (12.1 ppg, 6.8 rpg, .583 FG percentage) have been mainstays in the frontcourt, while Pressley (8.2 ppg, 3.3 apg) and Wintering (8.1 ppg, 4.2 rpg) round out a lineup that has started every game together.
The Broncos appeared down for the count trailing by 10 with under four minutes to play in their most recent contest, but used a furious 13-2 run to take a one-point lead with 28 seconds left on a Brandon Clark jumper, only to fall victim to a last-second Gonzaga 3-pointer to lose the heartbreaker. Although it held the usually-potent Bulldogs to only 34.8 percent field goal shooting, they shot just 36 percent themselves and were outscored at the free-throw line, 17-11. Evan Roquemore led the way with 15 points on 4-of-6 from 3-point range, while Clark chipped in 12 points but on just 5-of-16 from the floor (0- of-6 from beyond the arc).
Santa Clara shoots just 42.9 percent from the field this season, while allowing opponents to net 46.4 percent of its tries from the field, but the team still boasts a +1.0 scoring margin thanks largely to its success from long distance (7.5 3-pointers per game at a 37.1 percent clip) and in the turnover battle (+2.2). Clark is the top scoring option with 17.2 ppg. Jared Brownridge is right on Clark's heels with 16.7 ppg and has made 66 3-pointers at nearly a 45 percent success rate. Roquemore rounds out the double-digit scorers with 11.6 ppg but oftentimes hurts more than he helps with a lackluster field-goal percentage (.360).
If there's a time for the Broncos to break out of their funk, it's at home against a fellow struggling team. It might not be pretty, but Santa Clara should feed off the energy in the building and knock off the Pilots.
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