It won't be your ordinary Portland Pilots team heading to North Carolina to take on Duke this weekend.
'I feel excited for the opportunity to take a 5-1 team into Cameron Indoor Stadium,' coach Michael Holton says. 'Better leave it right there.'
Sophomore guard Eugene 'Pooh' Jeter says the Pilots should not be intimidated when they play the Blue Devils at 5 p.m. PST Sunday, live on Fox Sports Network (34).
'It's Duke, I know, but you're playing another game,' he says. 'It's going to be a lot of fun. We're going to take care of business. Kick into another gear, and play Portland basketball Ñ moving the ball, playing pressure defense, play hard, give 110 percent. Go in and get a win.'
The Pilots have loads of confidence, with five consecutive wins, including victories on the road at Oregon State and New Mexico. Portland trailed for nearly 33 minutes Saturday against Portland State, before rallying to win 60-53 in the first of two RiverCity Rivalry games.
Holton, the third-year coach who won six games in 2001-02 and 11 last year, says the Pilot players 'are caught up in this season Ñ and not looking back comparing seasons or games. They're very businesslike.'
The win Saturday, he says, 'was a gut-check for us, and I'm proud of the guys for grinding out a win against a team that brought more energy.'
Holton wanted to build chemistry, institute an uptempo game and strengthen the schedule at UP, which he continues to do -by playing the likes of Duke. Two years ago, in Holton's first season, the Pilots played at Durham, N.C., and lost 104-62.
'It's like walking into a shrine,' says junior forward Patrick Galos of Duke's home court, Cameron Indoor Stadium. 'If you ever watch Duke on TV, it's like walking onto a movie set. The first 10 minutes, you're shellshocked.'
But, Galos adds: 'It's the same experience in high school. You see the crowd, and as soon as the ball goes up, you tune everything out. Playing at Gonzaga is the same thing, just a smaller arena.'
The Duke game may be next up, but mark your calendars for Dec. 22: Oregon at Portland. My early line: Pilots by six.
Jeter, the Pilots' sensational point guard, had 16 of his 18 points in the second half against PSU, and running mate Donald Wilson scored 11 of 15 after the break. Clearly, Holton has two gems on his hands, and they have teamed with veterans Adam Quick and Casey Frandsen in an explosive backcourt.
Jeter leads the Pilots in scoring at 18.3 points per game. Holton tries to bite his lip when praising the 5-10 (and that's stretching it) guard from Gardena, Calif., but sometimes he can't help himself.
'He gets a guy on his heels, and he's a jump-shooter who can create separation,' Holton says. 'As a defender, you have to be on your toes to contest his jump shot, but he has a good first step and, like a lot of smaller guys, he has learned to finish at the rim.'
Jeter and Wilson, who's averaging 17.7 a game, have played together since age 11 in Southern California. 'They are really playmakers É who save our bacon,' Holton says. 'That's recruiting. Can't teach what Pooh does.'
Says Jeter: 'Just want to make things happen. Just like playing at the park.'
Portland State had the slow tempo and the rebounding edge, and held UP's nation-leading 3-point shooters and transition game in check. Then, it all went wrong.
'Costly turnovers,' says coach Heath Schroyer, whose team had 18 turnovers Saturday and averages 20 per game.
Point guard Will Funn is still getting acclimated to Division I basketball and is averaging six turnovers a game. He and Blake Walker have helped boost the talent level at Portland State, but both have fallen into a funk at times.
When things go well, the Viks pound the ball into Seth Scott and Seamus Boxley, give Walker the ball and let him score and get open shots for Sheu Odiniyi and Marshal Hartman.
'No question (Hartman) needs more shots,' Schroyer says. 'But it's hard to score when we turn the ball over.'
The Vikings (1-4) play three of their next four games at home and simply want to improve by the start of Big Sky Conference play. 'Everyone's frustrated, but we have to keep things in perspective,' Schroyer says. 'We have the bulk of our games ahead of us.'
The year after
A year after Cascade, Concordia and Warner Pacific all made the NAIA playoffs, we have these records: Cascade 4-7, Concordia 4-4, Warner Pacific 3-8. Early players of note: Cascade's Jered Alsup, 19.7 points per game; Warner Pacific's Joe Hoover, 18.1 ppg; Concordia's Brandon Erlandson, 16.2 ppg, 6.8 rebounds per game, .571 shooting; and Concordia's Nate Ferrier, .564 shooting and .870 free-throw shooting.
This and that
Madison grad Chris Stephens had a career-high 23 points in Oregon State's 87-82, three-overtime win over Kansas State Ñ the longest game in OSU history. Hey, the Beavers (3-2) have a winning record, for now. É The Ducks will probably have Matt Short back and may pull Ray Schafer out of redshirting, to make up for the loss of Mitch Platt (high ankle sprain) Saturday against Kansas. Boy, the Ducks looked really good against Marshall, but a true test will come Saturday against the Jayhawks.