Stoudamire, Tigers get another win vs. Porter, Pilots
Damian Lillard excluded, the two greatest point guards in Trail Blazers history squared off in Portland Saturday night.
Damon Stoudamire's Pacific Tigers knocked off Terry Porter's Portland Pilots by a 65-57 count at Chiles Center.
A crowd announced at 2,016 looked on two of the city's iconic athletes matched wits on the basketball court.
Porter, 55, played 16 seasons in the NBA (1985-2002), the first 10 with the Blazers.
Stoudamire, 45, played 13 seasons In the NBA (1995-2008), 7 1/2 of them with the Blazers.
Stoudamire was helping Wilson High to state championships in 1989 and '91 about the same time Porter was quarterbacking a Blazer unit that reached the NBA Finals in 1990 and '92.
Porter was the player Stoudamire looked up to most during that period.
To be coaching one of his boyhood heroes "is a little surreal," Stoudamire allowed. "I remember we actually competed a lot when I came home in my college years. The Blazers would allow me to play with them (in pickup games). That taught me a lot.
"I appreciate guys like Terry and Jerome Kersey. They gave me the experience early on to know what it takes to get to the NBA level."
"It's always fun to go against guys you know," Porter said. "The juices are flowing something a little extra. You want to be competitive. I want Damon to do well when it's not against us, because we went down the same path."
Ironically, Porter and Stoudamire began their collegiate head coaching careers at the same time, during the 2016-17 season.
Porter took over for Eric Reveno, who went 12-20 overall and 6-12 in WCC play in the last of his 10 seasons on The Bluff. In his first two seasons, Porter went 11-22 and 2-16 and 10-22 and 4-14.
Stoudamire grabbed the reins from Ron Verlin, who went 8-20 and 6-12 in the last of his three seasons in Stockton, California, while leaving the Tigers on three years of NCAA probation due to academic improprieties. Stoudamire, currently in the final year of sanctions (Pacific has 10 scholarship players, three below the limit), went 11-22 and 4-14 in 2016-17 and 14-18 and 9-9 last season.
The first time Porter and Stoudamire matched up as coaches, Portland won 80-76 in Stockton. Since then, the Pilots have lost four in a row to the Tigers.
So far this season, Pacific is 11-8 and 1-3 while Portland is 7-11 and 0-3. Stoudamire, clearly, is further along in his program build than is Porter.
"I'm happy," Stoudamire said. "We've been over .500 all year. We have 10 non-conference wins for the first time since 2007. I feel like we're moving in the right direction."
Picking up a first conference victory "was big more so for my players," Stoudamire said. "I look at it a little differently. Out of the last five games coming into this one (against Boise State, Cal Irvine, Brigham Young, San Diego and Gonzaga), we weren't picked to win any of them.
"We came out of it 1-4. We should have beaten BYU, but we didn't. We got this one that we were supposed to get. Now we just have to move forward."
The Tigers were the better team Saturday night, but they also let the Pilots — who shot .426 from the field and finished 10 for 19 from the free-throw line — cut a 14-point deficit with three minutes left to five in the closing seconds.
"We did a good job coming back," Porter said, "but we struggled to make shots and we struggled to make free throws. Those two areas, along with some 50-50 plays we didn't get, really hurt. We weren't able to finish a lot of plays at the rim."
The Tigers hurt themselves by missing four free throws in the final minute, but Stoudamire was in no mood for complaints afterward.
Said Stoudamire: "I just told my players, 'It's like when I played in the NBA. When you have bad stretches of basketball, it's OK. It don't matter if you're the Golden State Warriors or the Pacific Tigers, wins are hard to come by. You have to grind it out until you get your rhythm back.' These guys still have to get their rhythm back."
Stoudamire has an eight-man rotation that includes two seniors, three juniors, a sophomore and two freshman. In his first three seasons, he has used his connections to scan North America for guard recruits, landing Jahill Tripp from Brooklyn, New York, Ajare Sanni from Houston, Lafayette Dorsey from Los Angeles, Jahbril Price-Noel from Scarbarough, Ontario, and Jade Brahmbhat from Olney, Maryland.
Another one is on its way. Justin Moore, a 6-4 point guard who started 18 games for Georgia Tech as a freshman in 2017-18, has transferred to Pacific. He is sitting out this season and will have two years left to play.
There is a dearth of front-line players, though. The only rotation player taller than 6-7 is 6-10 freshman Zach Cameron, who weighs 205 pounds.
Porter went big Saturday night, starting 6-10 Theo Akwuba, 6-9 Tahirou Diabate and 6-7 Josh McSwiggan along his front line. But Porter turned to a smaller group to scrap his way back from a 16-point first-half deficit. His six best players are perimeter types, including McSwiggan, who scored only five points on 2-for-3 shooting and took no shots in the first half.
"Josh needs to look to be aggressive at times," Porter said, "but I have to do a better job getting him shots, too."
The Pilots are the youngest team in the WCC, with no seniors and a starting five that consists of a junior, two sophomores and two freshmen. Sophomore shooting guard Marcus Shaver Jr. scored a career-high 25 points Saturday night, sinking 9 of 12 from the field and 4 of 5 from 3-point range. Nobody else reached double figures.
"Freshmen and sophomores are our leading scorers," Porter said. "We're going up against teams with upperclassmen, and it's showing in a lot of ways, including the physicality in regards to maturity, and being able to execute.
"We have to try to get older faster. These guys are growing, learning every day and getting better in some areas. But the youth shows up at inopportune times."
Even with every player returning next season, Porter has signed two high school seniors. Guard Donyae McCaskill of St. Louis, who averaged 18 points, seven rebounds and six assists as a junior, and 7-1 center Cody Collinsworth of Lindale, Texas, who averaged 18 points, 14 rebounds and eight blocked shots as a junior, will join the UP program this summer. The Pilots beat out the likes of Texas Christian and Minnesota for the services of Collinsworth.
Even as the programs grow, Pacific and Portland may never reach the upper echelons of the WCC, where the likes of Gonzaga and Saint Mary's and BYU swing big sticks, with San Francisco and Loyola Marymount knocking on the door.
For a night in his hometown, though, Stoudamire was a winner, playing before dozens of family and friends. They sat behind the Pacific bench and cheered the Tigers, then stood and waited outside the visitors' locker room afterward for a few words with their guy.
The crowd of well-wishers "was more than usual," Stoudamire said. "I got more calls through the week before the game.
"I enjoy coming back to Portland. I've been back a lot more within the last seven months. I've come back a whole lot more. I enjoy my family."