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Toreros survive overtime to beat Portland, move to 3-0 in WCC

January 5, 2018 Uncategorized  0

USD watched a nine-point lead with 2 minutes and 14 seconds to play evaporate. The Toreros watched Portland make its only 3-pointer of the game with 7.1 seconds to play in regulation to send the game into overtime.

The Toreros watched their two leading scorers, their leaders, period, Isaiah Wright and Isaiah Pineiro, sit out the overtime, banished with five fouls. Wright had scored a career-high 30 points.

What the Toreros did not do, though, was lose.

In a stunning near disaster turned dramatic victory, USD stormed back to defeat Portland 81-74 in overtime Thursday night at the Chiles Center.

“I’ll take it, man,” head coach Lamont Smith sighed by phone after the game. “It’s hard to win on the road.”

The victory continued USD’s best start since the program moved to Division I in 1979. The Toreros improved to 12-3 and 3-0 in the West Coast Conference. Portland dropped to 6-10 and 0-3.

Even though the opponent was the Pilots, who lost their first two WCC games by 24 and 23 points, few might believe that USD would win in overtime without Wright and Pineiro. Smith, though, insisted he was not stunned.

“You know what?” said Smith. “I felt good. Obviously we want our best players on the floor, but we can’t talk about our depth, then think the (stuff’s) hit the fan. We have Juwan Gray, who started last year. We have Alex Floresca, who’s started games. We have Yauhen (Massalski), who’s started games

“I was confident. Our guys were locked in.”

And they have 3-point sniper Olin Carter III. Portland scored the first bucket of OT, its only basket in the extra five-minute session, to take a 74-72 lead. The Pilots would not score again.

Carter, meanwhile, launched a trey with 3:21 to play in OT that found the bottom of the net. From there, the Toreros let defense and some lesser-known players pull the victory home.

Massalski and Neubauer hit free throws to up the advantage to 77-74. The lithe, 6-foot-8 Gray hit a layup. Gray and Jose Martinez nailed free throws to ice the victory.

Carter finished with 16 points. Tyler Williams added 10.

Wright, though, was the individual star. He picked up his third foul with 2:03 to play in the first half. Smith didn’t immediately sit him. Instead, he substituted him on offensive and defensive possessions the rest of the first half.

Wright played the next 20 minutes before picking up his fourth and fifth fouls late in regulation.

Portland took its biggest lead of the game, 46-42, with 14:02 to play in regulation. Wright immediately willed the Toreros back into the lead.

First, he knocked down a 3. Then he hit another trey. Then came two free throws. After Neubauer hit a 3, Wright was fouled attempting a 3-pointer. He knocked down all three free throws.

Wright’s season best coming into the game was 22 points in the season-opening victory vs. San Jose State.

“We needed him to score and that’s what he did,” Smith said. “I also think he facilitated and tried to defend with foul trouble. That was hard to do the way the game was officiated. He’s a smart basketball player. He understands that he’s critical for us. We need him on the floor.”

The Toreros face their sternest test of the season Saturday night when they visit Saint Mary’s. The Gaels improved to 14-2 and 3-0 with a 74-56 victory over Pacific on Thursday.

Norcross is a freelance writer.


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