BURNABY MOUNTAIN — JJ Pankratz continues to battle through an ankle injury.
Iziah Sherman-Newsome keeps on plugging, despite those tough defensive assignments that have matched him against much bigger opposition.
And Kedar Salam has had enough big-scoring games this season, that he’s getting the best defensive game plan rival teams can throw his way.
Start to get a sniff of success in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference and the powers that be no longer treat you like their little brother.
So after a recent three-game stretch in which they lost in overtime (at Seattle Pacific), won convincingly (at home to Central Washington), then lost at the buzzer from the free throw line (at home to Northwest Nazarene), the Simon Fraser Clan (8-10 overall, 2-8 GNAC) return to the confines of the West Gymnasium on Thursday hoping that home cooking and a promotional White-Out night create the perfect environment to snap out of a five-game losing streak as they begin the second half of the conference season.
“We’re super-excited about the environment and about getting back home,” said Clan head coach Steve Hanson on Tuesday afternoon after his team dropped both ends of its Alaskan road swing last week, but play at home Thursday (7 p.m.) against the same team they lost to in overtime to back on Dec. 30, the Seattle Pacific Falcons (6-4).
“Right now, it’s just confidence,” Hanson continued. “We’ve told our guys that they just have to get into the gym, get up extra shots after practice and just feel like they can’t miss.”
SFU fans are encouraged to wear white to Thursday’s West Gym White-Out game, and hundreds of t-shirts will also be given away.
Pankratz had originally hurt his ankle in the overtime loss to Seattle Pacific, and thus has been trying to re-hab it through a fairly extensive stretch of games ever since.
The team’s second-leading scorer at 13.3 ppg, he seems to be on the up-tick.
Hanson felt that Pankratz looked fresh in SFU’s disappointing 74-57 loss Saturday at Alaska Fairbanks (6-4), a game in which he played a game-high 36 minutes and scored 11 points.
“We don’t like to talk about injuries,”said Hanson, “but he had a big cantaloupe on his ankle, so it was pretty bad. The physio staff has done a good job in getting the swelling down but he hasn’t practiced full-out for three-to-four weeks.”
Team scoring leader Salam, who dropped 40 points in the win over Central Washington (4-6), beat back the defensive attention paid him by Montana State Billings (3-7) to score a game-high 22 points in a 78-73 loss to start the team’s three-game road swing on Jan. 11.
Hanson admits the Alaskan schools had a plan to limit Salam, and the team’s leading scorer (18.2 ppg, third in GNAC) was held to 11 points on 4-of-14 shooting in a 53-46 loss at Anchorage (4-6) last Thursday, and then 15 on 6-of-13 shooting last Saturday at Fairbanks.
Point guard Michael Provenzano has also picked up his scoring, hitting double figures while averaging 11.5 ppg over the two games in Alaska.
There is also Sherman-Newsome, who sits third in team scoring at 11.3 ppg, but the coach says the entire roster of active players, currently sitting at nine, needs to bring their best.
“We all need to be playing at maximum effort because we’re not super deep,” adds Hanson, “and that wasn’t there Thursday and Saturday.”
Hanson said both Jordan Muir-Keung and Othniel Spence, guards who come off the bench, have the potential to supply more offence.
“They can both give us a big offensive spark,” said Hanson. “We’ve really pushed Jordan to get up more shots. He was lights-out in college (Bellevue CC) and we feel he can have a break-out game. And Othniel has shown us what he is capable of doing coming off the bench.”
After Thursday, the Clan wrap up the two-game home stand Saturday (7 p.m.) against St. Martin’s (6-4). The Saints will come in off a game Thursday at conference-leading Western Washington (10-0).
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