Portland (15-11) at San Diego (14-14)

The Sports NetworkFebruary 20, 2014 

GAME NOTES: The San Diego Toreros will tip off their season-ending three-game homestand on Thursday evening when they welcome the Portland Pilots to Jenny Craig Pavilion for a West Coast Conference showdown.

Portland has experienced a solid campaign, going 15-11 overall with a 7-7 mark in the WCC. The Pilots have won back-to-back games, defeating Loyola Marymount on Feb. 13 (71-64) before downing Pepperdine last Saturday (74-62), but now they head back out on the road where they've gone just 3-5.

USD had been losers of a season-long four straight games prior to its most recent contest, which it easily defeated Pacific on the road on Saturday, 70-55. The Toreros are 14-14 overall this season, but things have not worked out according to plan in the WCC, going just 5-10.

The Toreros have a 45-28 advantage in the all-time series with the Pilots, which includes a dramatic 65-63 win in Portland back on Jan. 25.

The Pilots built up a seven-point halftime lead in their latest tilt and never coughed up that advantage down the stretch en route to their second straight victory, as they outshot Pepperdine from the field, 46 percent to 35.1 percent, and knocked down 21-of-29 at the free-throw line. Ryan Nicholas was the catalyst in the victory, shooting 6-of-10 from the field and 9-of-10 at the stripe for 21 points. Thomas van der Mars added 15 points and Tanner Riley netted 10.

On the season, Portland has been consistently strong on the offensive end of the court, shooting 45.8 percent from the field (including 39.9 percent from 3-point range) on its way to 77.2 ppg, which has been enough to support its lackluster defensive effort, as it allows 72.2 ppg on the other end. The squad's recent run has been even more impressive considering it has been without leading scorer Kevin Bailey (16.5 ppg) for the past two games with a foot injury. In Bailey's absence, Nicholas (13.0 ppg, 9.1 rpg) and van der Mars (12.7 ppg, .605 FG percentage, 6.8 rpg) have turned the Pilots into an even more frontcourt-heavy team.

The Toreros opened up a commanding 21-point lead at intermission over the weekend and never broke a sweat for the rest of the contest, as they put together one of their best all-around efforts of the season. They shot 48.8 percent from the field while holding Pacific to just 38.3 percent shooting, knocked down 9-of-16 from beyond the arc and held a 36-22 advantage in the rebounding battle. Christopher Anderson nearly tallied a triple-double with 10 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists, Johnny Dee connected on all 10 of his free-throw attempts on his way to 19 points and Nick Kerr shot 4-of-6 from 3- point range off the bench for 12 points.

USD has been able to remain competitive in most of its matchups thanks to a strong defense, which allows just 64.2 ppg on 42 percent field-goal shooting, but unfortunately its offensive attack (67.1 ppg) has not been up to par. Dee puts up a team-best 17.1 ppg and has been a marksman from long range (.439) and the foul line (.933). Duda Sanadze brings 13.1 ppg to the table, Dennis Kramer mans the paint with 11.8 ppg, 6.8 rpg and 0.9 bpg and Anderson chips in across the board with 9.6 ppg, 5.9 apg, 3.8 rpg and 1.7 spg.

Although Portland has been the more impressive team this season, the playing field will be leveled in San Diego. The Toreros got the best of the Pilots earlier in the season and should be in line for another victory here, especially if Bailey is unable to suit up for Portland.

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