The Portland Pilots, who entertain No. 22 Gonzaga tonight, aren’t far from being 4-0 in the WCC.
They sit at 1-3, plenty competitive but completely unsatisfied. They knocked off Pacific, but lost by six in overtime to San Francisco, by eight to Santa Clara and by nine to Saint Mary’s.
“It’s cliché but it’s true,” eighth-year coach Eric Reveno said. “We’re trying not to focus on the woulda, coulda, shoulda, and trying to get ready for the next one. It was pretty disappointing (against USF), up three with 3.3 seconds left and they hit a runner 3 and we go into overtime and lose.”
The Pilots (9-7 overall) appear to be better than last year (11-21, 4-12). Junior wing Kevin Bailey has bumped his scoring average nearly six points to 17.1 and junior center Thomas van der Mars has improved his scoring by five to 12.9. Senior forward Ryan Nicholas, a Gonzaga Prep graduate, has six double-doubles this season.
Freshman point guard Alec Wintering had 13 assists against San Francisco, the most ever by a Pilot against a Division I foe. Guard Bryce Pressley, son of former Villanova star Harold Pressley, had 25 points in a win over Princeton.
On average, Portland shoots a higher percentage and outrebounds opponents, and has more assists and fewer turnovers.
“I like the way we’re playing, I think we’re a good team. I just want to make sure they recognize that and feel confident,” Reveno said.
Home never felt better for Eastern Washington, which is coming off a star-crossed, cross-country road trip.
If the schedule and travel wasn’t difficult enough, the Eagles had to battle a recent rash of illness and injuries. Head coach Jim Hayford said all but three of his players fought through flu-like symptoms last week in Utah and Idaho.
Also, key reserve Ognjen Miljkovic missed his second straight game with an ankle sprain and Thomas Reuter continues to battle the effects of Crohn’s disease diagnosed during Eastern’s weeklong trip to play Seton Hall and Connecticut. Reuter became ill after the team’s first day on the East Coast and missed both games.
Reuter spent almost five days in the hospital.
“The good thing is they found out what was wrong with him,” Hayford said. “It’s something he’s going to have to manage with medication and good medical help the rest of his life.”