I’m not sure what people were expecting when Portland went into East Lansing to take on the newly named top team in the country, but the Pilots represented well for the first 30 minutes before a slurry of Michigan State 3’s and defensive pressure propelled the Spartans to a 82-67 victory.
Portland looked solid throughout the first half. They came out with an intensity that they just didn’t have last year. Every Pilot seemed to be on the same page as they limited turnovers, and took smart shots to stay within 32-36 going into the half. Coming out of halftime, Portland continued to stay with Michigan State. Every little run that the Spartans went on, Portland responded eventually tying it up at 46 with 12:46 remaining on a Voldy Gerun free throw. It was at this point where a Michigan State three, immediately followed by a Portland turnover and Spartan runout put Michigan State up 5. Portland got within 4 but the #1 team in the country ballooned their lead to 19 with 3:19 left and any chance at shocking the world was over.
Portland was led in scoring by Kevin Bailey who had 12 points including going 6-8 from the free throw line. Ryan Nicholas added 11 points and 6 rebounds and Bobby Sharp continued to show well scoring 11 points going 3-8 from deep. Also playing well were Bryce Pressley, Thomas van der Mars, and Voldy Gerun who combined for 23 points.
Defensively Portland struggled to defend the three as Michigan State made 13-30 from deep. Adreian Payne, Keith Appling, and Gary Harris combined for 59 of Michigan States 82 total points. Appling scored 25 on 7-13 from the field, 5-5 from three and 6-6 from the charity stripe. Portland never really had an answer for him.
Thus far in the season, Portland has looked solid, but have been prone to spurts of poor play that have haunted the Pilots in their two losses. This may work against lesser opponents but to win against WCC opponents they will need to be a lot sharper.
Up next for the Pilots is a trip back to Portland where they will host Columbia, North Texas and Idaho this weekend in the next leg of the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic.