In-state basketball got a wake-up call

Fri, 01/16/2015 - 7:19am
Cliff Pfenning
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It was just four days ago that Oregon State celebrated its first men's basketball upset of a Top-10 team in 15 years with a massive celebration on the Gill Coliseum court. Thursday, it was back to business in the Pac-12 at Washington, and the Huskies brought the Beavers back to Earth.

And two of their in-state brothers, Washington State and Eastern Washington, also scored wins over their Oregon rivals - the Ducks and Portland State Vikings, respectively.

Add in the University of Portland's loss to Loyola Marymount in Los Angeles, and the state went 0-4 in Div. I basketball Thursday, something that hasn't happened in ... a time that some guys from STATS, Inc., would have to look up.

Oregon's four Div. I schools are successful enough these days that having all four lose on the same day is a big unusual, although none of them have stood out during the regular season to a Top 25 level for any length of time. Oregon played close to that level, and then won the Pac-12 Tournament title two years ago, but got seeded lower in the NCAA Tournament than it did last year when it didn't hit the level of play from 2013.

So, what is the state of basketball in Oregon? Currently, it's pretty routine, although that's not a bad thing as none of the four schools is going to play its way into the NCAA Tournament in January. They're each going to focus on winning their conference tournament and getting an automatic berth.

Here's a brief look at the four schools.

Oregon, which has been to the NCAA Tournament the past two seasons, is 14-5 overall, and 2-2 in Pac-12 play having beaten Oregon State in its conference opener, split with the Arizona schools, and lost to Washington State in overtime Thursday. The Ducks got run over by Arizona last week, but have played at a level that makes them at least a consideration to score a significant coup by winning the Pac-12 Tournament when it plays out in Las Vegas beginning March 11.

Oregon State is 11-5, 2-2 after its loss at Washington, and has the challenge of beating the rest of the conference with only eight scholarship players in coach Wayne Tinkle's first season. That number got hit, too, on Thursday when it's third-leading scorer, Victor Robbins earned a 10-game suspension for violating a team rule. Ten games, though, still gives him a few games to get back into the system before the tournament, and showing off their win over No. 7 Arizona last week makes a case the team can play with anyone in the conference on its best days.

Portland is 11-7, 2-4 in the WCC after a 80-69 loss at LMU, but the Pilots have some energy available in the form of Kevin Bailey, the team's leading scorer who missed most of December and the first week of January with a foot injury. He's returned, but is working to relocate his form. In Thursday's loss, he hit just one of 10 shots from the field, and finished with five points. But, the conference tournament is seven weeks away, and that's when the team needs to hit on all cylinders.

And, Portland State is 8-7, 2-3 in the Big Sky Conference after a 92-85 loss at home to the Eagles. The Vikings are the longest-shot to win their conference title, as their roster is thin in the paint, and the team hasn't won back-to-back games against Div. I schools since November. The BSC Tournament begins March 12 at the regular-season champions home gym. PSU needs to finish in the top eight of the 12-team standings in order to qualify to the tournament, and they're on the edge of doing that.


It's a Northwest thing

Portland struggles in its first week - but so does the rest of the division
Nov. 3, 2014

A 1-2 start might be cause for a bit of concern for Portland Trail Blazers fans, especially when it includes a loss to the Sacramento Kings. But, the Blazers still find themselves atop the Northwest Division, which has the worst record in the NBA through its first week of play.

The Blazers and Oregon football program are the key topics for this week's episode of Sportsland, Oregon, recorded Monday nights at Blitz Pearl in Northwest Portland.

Co-hosts Cliff Pfenning and Derek Weber talk up the NBA, as well as the Pac-12's ability to beat the Ducks, who are back to their level of play from past seasons. Those seasons, though, included significant losses that throttled the team's ability to play for the national championship. Fortunately, there's a four-team playoff this year, and Oregon seems like a shoe-in to be one of those teams.

The Oregon State Beavers, World Series, state cross country meet, and University of Portland women's soccer program all come up in this week's episode.


Rose City earns its stripes

Portland beats Chicago, but the big news is an injury to Derrick Rose
Nov. 22, 2013

PORTLAND - The Portland Trail Blazers won their ninth-straight game Friday night, but the big news for NBA fans was what happened to the other team - the Chicago Bulls.

Late in the third quarter, 2011 NBA MVP Derrick Rose suffered a knee injury while playing defense and left the court limping. That injury played right into a 98-95 victory by the Blazers, who kept pace with San Antonio for the best record in the Western Conference.

The Spurs beat Memphis 102-86 to improve to 11-1, while the Blazers improved to 11-2. San Antonio's lone loss of the season was to Portland.

Wesley Matthews scored a season-high 28 points to lead the Blazers, who trailed by 21 points in the second quarter. Damian Lillard added 20 points in the game, which featured only eight points off the bench for Portland.

Rose had 20 points, five rebounds and three assists before leaving with a knee injury.


Blazers working for respect

Despite strong record, Portland still buried in power rankings
Nov. 18, 2013

The strong, early-season start for the Portland Trail Blazers has had little effect on the team's presence nationall, for whatever that's worth.

With the release of Power Rankings Monday, the team was tabbed No 8 by ESPN's John Hollinger, despite having a better record than all-but two teams ahead of it. And, the Blazers handed out the lone loss of the season to San Antonio, which is ranked No. 1.

In the NBA.com rankings, produced by Joel Schuhmann, the Blazers were No. 6, moving up one spot after going 3-0 during the week.

Portland won its sixth game in-a-row Sunday at Toronto to improve to 8-2. Only San Antonio and Indiana, with 9-1 records, are ahead of the Blazers recordwise.

Hollinger rated the Minnesota Timberwolves, 7-4, at No. 2. Schuhmann had the 'Wolves at No. 9.

The Blazers play at Brooklyn tonight and at Milwaukee Wednesday, with both teams stuck in the bottom seven of Hollingers rankings., and bottom nine for Schuhmann.



What level of success do Oregonians expect?

Have basketball fans of Div. I schools just become used to mediocrity?
Feb. 28, 2013 / By Cliff Pfenning, Oregonsports Journal

It's been a horrible year for college basketball at the NCAA Div. I level in Oregon.

Horrible is a bit of a harsh term, but a look at the conference records for the eight Div. I men's and women's programs shows there's only one team with a winning mark. In fact, only the Oregon Ducks have more than five conference wins heading into this weekend's games.

Without the Ducks' 11-4 conference record, the state is 26-85 in conference games.

So, where's that leave the expectations of fans at the four schools?

Are there any coaching changes that deserve at least a chat around a water cooler?

Here's a look at who's most likely to get a bit of conversation going in order of how it might come up:

1. Paul Westhead, Oregon women
If there's a change coming this off-season it's Westhead. Oregon is 50-67 in his fourth year there, but just 20-50 in conference play, and is going backwards in overall wins. This season, the Ducks are 4-24, 2-14, and lost all four games to in-state schools. When they played at the University of Portland in December, the team (along with the Pilots) attracted roughly 200 fans.
Unless the team somehow plays its way to a conference tournament title, this will be the worst season in school history.

2. Craig  Robinson, Oregon State men
Robinson is 73-86 overall and 30-57 in conference play in his fifth year at the school. Those aren't numbers that scream for a coaching change, unless you're a fan who expects more. The Beavers were 21-15 last year, which showed off the progress under his guidance, but he has yet to post a winning record in conference play. This season's 3-12 record in the Pac-12 is what should get some discussion going.

3. Eric Reveno, Portland men
In his seventh season, Reveno has led the Pilots to a 96-124 record, and 42-47 mark in West Coast Conference play, so the program isn't begging for a change, unless, again, you expect more. Portland averaged 20 wins per season from 2008-11, but went just 7-24 last year. It's 11-19 this year and 4-11 in WCC action. A win or two in the conference tournament should quell discussion through another season, but no wins in Vegas leads to …

4. Tyler Geving, Portland State men
Geving has guided the Vikings to a moderate level of success, which included a 17-15 record last season. There's not an imminent need to push for a change in the Park Blocks. What would get some talk going is that the team does not have any freshmen this season and is just 8-16 overall. But last season's record and level of competitive play should allow room for at least one more season.

5. Scott Rueck, Oregon State women
In his third season, Rueck is 38-53 overall, but only 14-38 in conference play. He's still building the program with his own recruits, but 9-19, 3-13 this season is cause for some discussion. Are the Beavers going forward? He's still in year No. 3, and was conference Coach of the Year last season when the program went 9-9 in conference play, so there's not much of an imminent need to talk about his future as being somewhere else.

6. Sherri Murrell, Portland State women
In season No. 6, Murrell is 109-75, and 58-39, which puts her alongside Oregon's Dana Altman as the coaches with winning records for their career at their current school. The Vikings have had annual success, although this season they're just 11-5, 5-12. Another year like this will get a little blood boiling, although a return to previous success might actually get some larger schools looking her way.

7. Dana Altman, Oregon men
In year three, the Ducks are 22-6, 11-4 under Altman and have become a Top 25 program. Oregon expects a winner, and he's producing. Now, they just need to get somewhere in the NCAA Tournament, but that's the kind of discussion you want.

8. Jim Sollars, Portland women
In year No. 27, Sollars is pretty-much untouchable as coach on The Bluff. The Pilots are an annually tough team, although just 11-17, 4-12 this year. Overall, Portland is 374-412 under Sollars, and 164-202 in WCC play, but heading for three decades at the helm should have fans talking about frustration with players, not the head coach. Unless, again, you expect more.

Hawks head to break on record pace

Portland beats Spokane 4-3 for 25th win in last 27 games
Dec. 18, 2012

For a change, the Portland Winterhawks were outshot by more than a dozen shots in their game with Spokane Tuesday night. What didn't change is that they won 4-3 in front of a packed Veterans Memorial Arena crowd of 4,619 for a showdown of WHL U.S. Division rivals.

Nic Petan scored twice, Taylor Peters scored and Adam De Champlain hit the game-winner at the 10:40 mark of the third period to push the Hawks to 29-5-1-0, 59 points, as they head to nine days off for the holidays.

Portland was 4-4 at the start of the season, but has gone 25-1-1-0, since then, a run that has historians looking for records.

The Chiefs got goals from three players, but couldn't take advantage of a 40-26 edge in shots on goal, on the the fourth time this season the Hawks have been outshot. The Chiefs remain in second in the division at 23-10-1-0, 47 points.

Mac Carruth made 37 saves in the win.

Portland next plays Dec. 28 at Tri-City.





Blazers win Ugly Game of the Night

Portland overcomes hapless Toronto with solid fourth quarter, 92-74
Dec. 10, 2012

It certainly wasn't pretty, but it went into the record books as a victory and after Monday night the Portland Trail Blazers have the same record as the Los Angeles Lakers 21 games into the NBA season.

LaMarcus Aldridge scored 30 points and grabbed 12 rebounds and J.J. Hickson added 16 points and 11 rebounds to lead the Blazers to a 92-74 win over Toronto before an announced crowd of 16,863 fans Monday at the Rose Garden.

Rookie Damian Lillard struggled from the field and made just two of 14 shots on the way to nine points. He dished out six assists as the Blazers improved to 9-12 overall, which is the same record as the Lakers.

Portland led just 64-59 entering the fourth quarter, but outscored Toronto 28-15 to win going away.

Toronto got just 40 points from its starters and fell to 4-18. Jefferson High alum Terrence Ross returned to the Rose Garden for the first time as a professional and scored two points in 13 minutes.

The Blazers have two days off before a home game with San Antonio, then two more days off before a home game with New Orleans and three more days off before a home game with the Denver Nuggets, Dec. 20.

Neither Wes Matthews nor Nicolas Batum played Monday.


Blazers fans getting boost in polls

Damian Lillard leads an optimistic view of the coming season(s)
Nov. 5, 2012 / By Chase Kunkle, oregonsports.com

Outscored again in the fourth quarter - for the fourth time in ... four games, the Portland Trail Blazers dropped to 2-2 on the season Monday night with a 114-91 loss at Dallas. The Blazers got outscored 31-12 in the final quarter to turn a competitive game into a rout, at least on the scoreboard.

But, even after a sub-par performance, there's plenty of optimism for Portland's diehard fans.

Damian Lillard. He's just the second rookie in league history to start his career with three straight games of 20 points and 7 assists per game, living up to Rookie of the Year hype. His ability to slash and create his own shot at will has fans salivating at the mouth. And, his teammates, too - especially Nicolas Batum and Wesley Matthews, who desperately needed space for open shots last season but didn't get that. Matthews is shooting 50 percent from 3-point territory through four games. Lillard is getting great press this week for being the top ROY candidate.

There's Lillard and there's hustle. If there was a stat for hustle, the young Blazers team would be leading the NBA. It's the heart we haven't seen in recent Blazers teams. Heart shows up online, too. After Monday's loss, Lillard posted on Facebook: “Tough one, but my head gone always be up. I'm just trying to learn and continue to grow.”

The Blazers were ranked 13th out of 15 Western Conference teams at the beginning of the season, mostly because there are so few players with more than two years of experience in the league, and that's an issue for the bench, and an issue for defense, and an issue in the fourth quarter. But, the team is 2-2 with an overtime win on the road and season-opening pounding of the Los Angeles Lakers. They're not playing like the No. 13 team out of 15.

There's plenty of light at the end of the tunnel.

Next up: the Clippers at home on Thursday night.


Time for Hawks to get busy again

Portland sits at No. 4 in CHL entering season opener at home
Sept. 21, 2012

The road to anther shot at the Western Hockey League championship begins tonight for the Portland Winterhawks at the Rose Garden.

After trips to the WHL Finals the past two years, and losses in each series, the Winterhawks open their 72-game regular season against the Seattle Thunderbirds, followed by road games Saturday and Sunday.

Portland returns scoring machine Ty Rattie, as well as offensive dynamos Brendan Leipsic and Taylor Leier to a line-up that led the league in scoring last season. The Hawks graduated key scorers Sven Bartschi and Brad Ross to the NHL, but have Derrick Pouliot ready for a breakout season having been selected eighth overall in the NHL Entry Draft in spring.

Among the team's players to watch is Seth Jones, son of former NBA player Popeye Jones.

The Winterhawks begin the season at No. 4 in the BMO CHL Mastercard Top 10 Rankings - the highest rated team from the WHL.

Portland finished last season at No. 4 in the overall Canadian Hockey League rankings, missing the Memorial Cup by just one win - a Game 7 loss at No. 7 Edmonton. Edmonton opens this season at No. 2.



Youthful roster makes strides in preseason

Defending Western Conference champs will feature many fresh faces
Sept. 6, 2012 / By Cliff Pfenning, oregonsports.com

The core group of players who turned the Portland Winterhawks in the most dominant team in the Western Hockey League's Western Conference the past three seasons, has retreated to just a few players leaving a fresh group to continue the franchise's legacy in the upcoming season.

So far, the Hawks are making that happen.

Portland won two of its first three preseason games and is flashing a solid defensive unit led by Derrick Pouliot, the No. 8 pick in the 2012 NHL Draft. In three games, the Hawks have outscored opponents 9-6, with five different goaltenders getting opportunities to flash their talents.

Jarrod Schamerhorn has the most solid outing, recording 18 saves on 18 shots during 30 minutes of a 4-1 win over Tri-City Saturday.

The Winterhawks, who've played for the WHL title the past two series, open their regular season Sept. 21 at the Rose Garden.



Maybe this will be the year for the Portland Winterhawks.

The Winterhawks will begin the 2012-13 season having reached the Western Hockey League finals the past two seasons and playing their way into the Memorial Cup with one series win.

Both seasons, the Eastern Conference champion bested the Hawks, who reached the Western Conference final in 2010 before winning that series the next two seasons.

Portland lost to Edmonton in the seventh game of the best-of-seven series last season.

The Hawks finished the regular season with 49 wins just three seasons after netting just 19 wins, which came after an 11-win season.

Portland's resurgence has included a flurry of first-round selections by National Hockey League teams, including defenseman Derrick Pouliot, taken eighth overall by Pittsburgh earlier this year.

NHL teams have selected five Hawks in the first round the past three seasons.

Portland begins its preseason schedule Aug. 31, against Seattle.



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