It was another bad night at the Chiles Center for Pilot fans. This time they were beaten by Loyola Marymount 76-62 on a night when Portland allowed the Lions to shoot 51% from the field and 53% from superhoop range. At least the turnovers were down, but the Pilots haven't been able have a good enough game in enough areas to win games this season. This team is young and coming off a 2010-11 season full of senior leaders. Of the ten Pilots who played last night, five were freshmen and three were sophomores. They've had to learn a lot this season and the games have not always been pretty.
It might seem odd to someone who doesn't read this site that I would keep coming back to see what's usually a Pilots loss. From the beginning this season I knew they weren't very good and wouldn't be until maybe next year. So why did I ever become a Pilot fan, and why do I keep going back? I give a lot of the credit for that to my father and my uncle.
My dad first introduced me to basketball by taking me to see the Blazers at the old Memorial Coliseum. I must have been about six or seven years old when I first went, and I thought it was a lot of fun watching guys so much bigger than me run fast, jump high, and slam dunk. I guess even today these are some of the basic reasons I like basketball.
If that was my introduction to professional basketball, I started going to see the Pilots regularly in about 1994 or 95. My uncle lived in the neighborhood, was a basketball fan, and bought season tickets to the Pilots as a cheap way to watch D-I basketball. He asked if I would like to go to a few games and kept taking me along. I still look back fondly on my favorite players from those teams. Lemont Daniels did a little of everything, Curt Ranta and Greg Klosterman were a formidable frontcourt, and Kasey Flicker was a superhoop master. Those Pilot teams were contenders for the conference title, and came close against Gonzaga in 1995 in the WCC championship game. In 1996 they didn't miss out, winning it all and going to the NCAA Tournament. A good team, players I liked, and spending time with my uncle, who liked basketball too--the Pilots were a great fit. Even when they didn't win, which was more and more often after 1996, I still had a good time.
My uncle also cultivated my love for all forms of the game too. The Pilot women were going through the best stretch in their history as well and we would to to lots of their games. He would tell me women could play good basketball, doing the fundamentals well and playing as a team. He was right, and I still will watch and appreciate men's and women's games. If we recapped women's games here I would probably do those for the games I attend.
As I got older I picked up other interests but I always took the time to watch as many Pilot games as I could. They could never quite match their WCC championship season but for me going to see them play as hard as they could was more important than seeing them win all the time. Even as a teenager I had the feeling that it would always end in a loss, even if that's not how I would have expressed it. Right now I'm reading Fever Pitch, Nick Hornby's memoir of how his soccer club, Arsenal, came to dominate his life. You might have seen the baseball movie it was made into but really, it works better as a soccer book. Arsenal, in the time period the of the book, is not a very good team. Sometimes they win, more often they find a way to lose. After their NCAA year this became a good description of the Pilots. There were decent players but they just never really did much more than finish .500 in a good year. Hornby kept coming back to see his team because it became a habit, something he just did naturally. It was unthinkable to him that he would just not go, and I can't really imagine myself not watching the Pilots. Watching college basketball is something I do now. Hornby also talks about emotional investments, something I also knew about before Kyle wrote about them in his essay by that name. I've seen plenty of bad seasons when the Pilots didn't have much chance of doing anything. The last three sesasons, where they've won 60 games, have felt even better to me because of all the time I've spent watching the down seasons.
The difference I see between this season and others is that Eric Reveno has a plan for the freshmen. He is a master at developing players and in two or three years the Pilots will be back. When they are I can say I was there to see it from the beginning. Besides, the Pilots are a habit for me. What else would I do over the winter?
LOYOLA MARYMOUNT 76, at PORTLAND 62 02/09/2012
LOYOLA MARYMOUNT 16-9 (9-3) -- J. Ostrowski 5-10 1-2 15; A. Ireland 5-15 3-5 15; D. Viney 3-8 7-7 16; A. Hamilton 1-3 0-0 2; G. Okonji 4-4 2-6 10; L. Armstead 4-6 4-6 13; J. DuBois 2-6 0-0 5; C. Blackwell 4-5 0-0 11; A. Egbeyemi 1-1 0-0 2; A. Osborne 1-1 0-0 2. Totals 25-49 16-24 76. PORTLAND 6-19 (3-9) -- T. van der Mars 0-1 5-5 5; D. Rodgers 2-5 0-0 5; T. Riley 5-10 0-0 13; K. Bailey 4-11 1-2 11; D. Cason 0-5 0-0 0; D. Carr 1-4 0-0 2; R. Nicholas 6-7 1-2 13; T. Douglas 4-5 2-2 11; N. Mitrovic 1-6 0-0 2; J. Bailey 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 23-54 9-11 62.
Three-point goals: LMU 10-19 (D. Viney 3-5; L. Armstead 1-3; J. DuBois 1-2; A. Hamilton 0-1; A. Ireland 2-5; C. Blackwell 3-3), PORT 7-22 (N. Mitrovic 0-5; T. Riley 3-6; T. Douglas 1-2; D. Rodgers 1-2; K. Bailey 2-4; D. Carr 0-1; D. Cason 0-2); Rebounds: LMU 28 (G. Okonji 9), PORT 21 (D. Cason 4); Assists: LMU 13 (A. Ireland 5), PORT 16 (D. Rodgers 4); Total Fouls -- LMU 15, PORT 18; Fouled Out: LMU-None; PORT-None.