Pilot fans are, by and large, a pretty laid-back bunch by college basketball standards. They haven't gotten too worked up over the team's difficult start. They're also an intelligent group who realizes there will be growing pains this year. However, there has been one incident that has caused much angst and discord among the Portland faithful.
For a few years now the Chiles Center has offered a pregame pasta dinner. This proved to quite popular among the season-ticket holders, as they could enjoy a meal more substantial than the standard arena fare yet not miss the start of the game by stopping at a restaurant to eat.
Then the news came this fall: there would be new concession options and pasta was not among them. Sausage, pulled pork sandwiches, gelato -- none of it satisfied the fans. They wanted their pasta back, and enough of them wrote to the athletic department that another letter arrived late last month. Starting with the January 5 game against Santa Clara, the pasta would return. There was rejoicing throughout Pilot Nation and when the pregame announcements Thursday included a mention of the return of the pasta I could have sworn I heard a few people applaud.
Now that the power of the people had brought their favorite menu item my interest was piqued. I had to try it before the game against Pepperdine on January 7. When I ordered it I received a large plate of shells in a tomato sauce with caesar salad and bread on the side. After trying this I can fully understand why the fans loved it. The sauce was flavorful and the pasta was cooked just right. The bread and salad were also nice and fresh and complimented the main dish well. All this for just $6.00, where down the road at the Rose Garden, an NBA arena, a similar meal would probably cost double.
After my dinner I went down to the band's section to get ready for the night's game against the Pepperdine Waves. I was hoping the Pilots would be able to build on Thursday's winning effort and earn a weekend sweep. What followed was another 10-point victory, this time by a 53-43 score. The Pilots weren't able to pull away quite the way they did in the Santa Clara game. Their lead grew to 17 early in the second half, but it stayed in the 8-12 point range most of the night. In a way, I thought the team's ability to maintain the lead at a relatively safe size was a sign they're maturing and handling pressure better as the season goes on.
The Pilots went about building the lead quietly in the first half. They simply ran their offense, made their shots, and before I knew it they had pulled ahead. Although there were a couple #omgdunx from Thomas van der Mars and Dorian Cason this team is more likely to hit #superhoops at key moments. I thought the biggest one of these came midway through the second half. Pepperdine had cut the lead from 17 to 11. Taking the inbound pass with four seconds on the shot clock, Nem Mitrovic took a few dribbles around the arc, realized he had to shoot, and took a chance from NBA range.
Nothing but net. Pilots up 14. Pepperdine run averted.
Kevin Bailey had a season-high 15 points and David Carr hit a couple superhoops in the late minutes but their fellow freshman Dorian Cason had a very nice night as well. His only points of the night came on the above mentioned dunk but he played 18 minutes off the bench and was a disruptive presence on defense. He gets credit for two blocked shots, but his presence affected several others, and he took up enough space to allow his teammates to grab rebounds. He also committed just two fouls, an issue that has limited his minutes this year. Coach Eric Reveno is a fine teacher, and Cason seems to be an eager student.
It's good to see a couple of nice wins at home, and the stat sheet will tell you what the Pilots did well this weekend. There's one factor that no statistical model will take into account however: When pasta is served at the Chiles Center concessions, Portland is 2-0.
at PORTLAND 53, PEPPERDINE 43 01/07/2012
PEPPERDINE 7-8 (1-3) -- C. Moore 2-8 0-1 4; J. Lowery 1-9 1-2 3; T. Darby 7-12 0-0 14; J. Baker 5-11 2-4 12; C. Willis 2-3 2-2 6; H. Harold 0-5 0-0 0; R. Eaton 0-3 4-6 4; N. Skouen 0-3 0-0 0. Totals 17-54 9-15 43. PORTLAND 5-11 (2-1) -- R. Nicholas 4-10 3-5 11; K. Bailey 4-11 4-6 15; T. van der Mars 3-8 1-3 7; N. Mitrovic 3-6 1-2 9; D. Carr 2-4 0-0 6; T. Douglas 0-4 0-1 0; D. Cason 1-4 0-0 2; D. Rodgers 1-1 1-1 3; J. Bailey 0-0 0-0 0; E. Waterford 0-0 0-0 0; T. Riley 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 18-48 10-18 53.
Three-point goals: PEPP 0-14 (C. Moore 0-2; J. Lowery 0-2; C. Willis 0-1; H. Harold 0-2; J. Baker 0-2; R. Eaton 0-2; N. Skouen 0-3), PORT 7-12 (N. Mitrovic 2-3; T. Douglas 0-1; K. Bailey 3-5; D. Carr 2-2; D. Cason 0-1); Rebounds: PEPP 37 (C. Moore 12), PORT 30 (R. Nicholas 9); Assists: PEPP 7 (C. Moore 2), PORT 12 (D. Rodgers 4); Total Fouls -- PEPP 19, PORT 17; Fouled Out: PEPP-C. Willis; PORT-None.