It’s been so long since the Simon Fraser men’s basketball team last played an actual game that they were bound to look a little different than their past selves.
The Burnaby Mountain crew which debuted Friday night at the CCAA/GNAC Challenge in Carson, CA., however, was at first glance, a lot different.
“We have changed a lot since the COVID season, and we have put a ton of focus on the defensive end,” SFU head coach Steve Hanson said Friday evening after his team’s 63-52 win over the Cal State Dominguez Hills Toros in which Simon Fraser held its hosts to 32 per cent shooting from the field (16-of-50), and won by 11 points, despite the fact it shot a poor 53.1 per cent (17-of-32) from the free throw line.
“Tonight, it was great to get back on the court,” Hanson continued. “Our guys were excited, but in L.A. there’s a lot of tough kids. We had to come out and punch them in the mouth first, and we had to do it for 40 minutes. I was very proud.”
Ahead of games Saturday against Humboldt State and Monday against Cal State Los Angeles, some very positive signs emerged from Friday’s chippy affair.
Point guard David Penney, who averaged 12 minutes per game back in 2019-20 behind senior Michael Provenzano, has emerged from the COVID season as a player capable of setting tempo maintaining poise for his team.
On Friday, the 6-foot-1 sophomore, forced to the bench early in the second half after picking up his fourth foul, re-entered with about 6:45 remaining, and was the picture of calm.
Simon Fraser was shooting 42 per cent from the stripe at one stage of the second half, but Penny came on and not only got to the line, he converted seven of his last eight trips down the stretch, finishing with a team-high 19 points which also included a pair of treys.
“He is just such a calming influence with our guys and Dave got to the bucket and took opportunities when they were there,” said Hanson. “And when they left him open a few times, he took what the game had to give. He was good all night.”
Another example of rising to a new role?
Off-guard Drew Bryson, who averaged 13 mpg in 2019-20, played 28 minutes Friday, and in a relatively low-scoring game, still stuffed the box score in numerous areas, including scoring 11 points and grabbing seven rebounds. He also had three assists and two steals.
“He’s a microwave for us,” Hanson said of the 6-foot-3 junior. “But maybe the biggest thing for us this year, is we need a guy who can spend a lot of time shutting down the other team’s top shooting guard.”
Bryson did just that, as did Josiah Mastandrea, a three-point gunner in his PacWest days at Douglas College, but who is teamming with Bryson to offer the full 40-minute treatment to the opposition at the position.
And then there was Jasdeep Singh, the sublimely talented 6-foot-8 senior out of Delta Secondary in Ladner.
The team’s leading scorer two seasons ago at 16.1 ppg, Singh worked through a 4-for-11 night from the floor as he works two years of rust.
Yet just when SFU needed him most, he stepped up and hit the biggest shot of the night, a three-pointer from the top of the arc with 1:48 remaining which slammed the door on Toros at 58-49.
“They had very athletic guys on him tonight, but that clutch shot that you saw him hit… we see that shot every day in practice,” Hanson said.
Singh finished with 11 points, while Jordan Lyons had eight points and centre Julian Roche seven.
Saturday’s clash with Humboldt State tips at 5 p.m. The Broncos opened play with a 70-69 win over Western Washington on Friday.
Humboldt State plays an extreme defensive style, one which may necessitate sideline oxygen tanks for its opposition.
“They pressed Western Washington for 40 minutes,” said Hanson. “I have never see a team in Div. 2 press like that before.”
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