Hot-shooting SPU sends Saint Martin's to seventh straight loss

Suffering through its longest losing skid in three years and anxious for a win, Saint Martin’s University welcomed the one squad on Thursday it probably did not want to see — Seattle Pacific.

Success against the Falcons, the defending Great Northwest Athletic Conference champions, has been minimal for the Saints for nearly two decades.

A hot shooting display in the second half made sure the trend would continue.

The Falcons hit 76 percent of their shots in the second half to push the Saints’ losing streak to seven games with an 84-52 victory in GNAC men’s basketball play at Marcus Pavilion.

“They were bigger, older and more physical than us, and that showed in every possession,” SMU coach Michael Ostlund said. “That’s been the case all season. Tonight, we just were not physical and they took advantage of it.”

Saint Martin’s dropped to 5-15 on the season and 2-8 in GNAC play with the loss, marking the school’s longest losing streak since the program dropped eight consecutive games during the 2011-12 season.

Seattle Pacific, seeking back-to-back outright GNAC titles for the first time in school history, have won 30 of the last 33 meetings against Saint Martin’s, while improving its overall record to 16-4.

At 8-2, the Falcons sit in second place in the GNAC standings, a game behind Western Oregon. The teams play each other Saturday.

Seattle Pacific had six players score in double figures during its 87-52 victory over the Saints on Jan. 3.

The balanced scoring attack was also present in the rematch as four players, led by Shawn Reid’s 23 points, scored in double figures for the Falcons.

Riley Carel, who hit three 3-pointers in the second half, led the Saints with 13 points, while teammate Victor Ieronymides added 10.

Except for a brief lead during the game’s infancy, the Saints were forced to play catchup throughout as the Falcons held a 34-24 lead at the half with Reid pacing Seattle Pacific’s early offense with 11 first-half points.

“We just had too many turnovers,” said Ostlund. Seattle Pacific turned 11 Saints’ turnovers in the first half into 14 points. “Turnovers led to the halftime deficit and then we were never able to get back into the game.”

The Falcons scored the first seven points of the second half to extend their lead to 41-27 before a deep 3-pointer five feet behind the line from Carel kick-started SMU’s offense.

A barrage of triples followed over the next seven minutes for the Saints, with Carel sinking two more and Trey Ingram adding a pair of his own.

While the Saint Martin’s offense started to find a rhythm, defensively, however, the Saints failed to get too many stops at the other end of the court and Seattle Pacific was able to increase its lead during the stretch, growing its advantage to 20 points (63-42) on a Cory Hutsen free throw with eight minutes to play.

SMU, which failed to attempt a free throw in the first half, didn’t make it to the line until there was 5:08 remaining in the contest when Riley Stockton fouled Carel on a post-up move.

Carel hit both free throws, but the Falcons already had the game well in hand.

The Saints will look to end their losing streak Saturday when they host Montana State University-Billings. SMU won the previous meeting, 66-65, on Jan.1 with Carel scoring a game-high 19 points. It marks the last time the Saints tasted victory.