The Seattle Pacific men’s basketball team must have wondered for a week or so if it was ever going to win after it lost four straight games to start the season, and three of them at home.
Now, the Falcons feel like they will never lose.
That’s what happens when you win 11 games in a row, eight of them on the road.
It has indeed been a dramatic turnaround for SPU, one that has been led by sophomore point guard Divant’e Moffitt, the team’s leading scorer who radiates positive energy on and off the floor.
“After that fourth game, it really started to click,” Moffitt said of the Falcons, who lost eight seniors last year. “We started practicing a little bit harder. We won that one game, and now we feel like we can’t lose.
“When anyone is losing, you can play the blame game, but I just looked at myself and said, ‘What can you do more?’ And we needed more. (Coach) Grant Leep asked me to take on that leadership role, that point-guard role … told me to be positive every day in practice and to lead guys.”
Leep said he knew Moffitt was a bit special after his first practice. He was a freshman on a senior-laden team, but Leep knew Moffitt would get significant minutes and he needed him to catch up with the seniors in a hurry.
“I was all over him, all practice long, and at the end, I was thinking, ‘Was I on him too much?’ ” Leep said. “I walked over to him and he said, ‘Thank you. Thank you for coaching me today. That was awesome.’ You kind of knew then that he was different. And I said don’t lose that. Don’t lose that humility and that perspective. When we can coach our best players harder than anybody else, that is when you really take off.”
The Falcons have taken off. Moffitt averages a team-high 13.7 points per game, but is getting a lot of help. Nine players have been the top scorer in a game this season, and 11 players average at least 11.3 minutes a game.
SPU has won with Moffitt scoring 29 points, and it has won with him scoring five points. He leads the team in assists, averaging 3.3 a game.
“My mindset is whatever it takes to win,” he said. “Whether I have 30 points or 10 points and have five assists,” he said. “Why we are so good is that we have so many other guys who can do everything. You key on one guy, and another guy is going to pop up.”
Moffitt, who excels in transition and has worked very hard to improve his shooting (49% from the field), is great at distributing the ball.
“Guys love playing with him,” Leep said.
Moffitt comes through in the clutch. Last week at Western Oregon, where Seattle Pacific had not won since 2013, the Falcons rallied to force overtime. Moffitt began the overtime by hitting a three-pointer and sealed the 98-88 win with a steal and dunk.
That was a rare scare in the past 11 games. SPU (11-4, 7-0 Great Northwest Athletic Conference) will look to extend the winning streak Saturday night against Montana State Billings (8-7, 3-4) when it starts a stretch of three straight home games.
That Moffitt has had early success at SPU is not a real surprise, considering he was an all-state player at Spanaway Lake. Moffitt’s mother just retired from 20 years in the Army as a sergeant major, and Moffitt said there was a “lot of discipline in the house, always getting yelled at to clean my room and grades were pretty important.”
Basketball was big, too, and he had offers from Hawaii-Hilo and Central Washington, but Moffitt was hooked once he visited SPU.
“It’s just different here,” he said. “It’s a family atmosphere and they made that transition from high school to college super easy, by just the guys I am surrounded by in the locker room and the coaching staff. We’re all best friends.”
And happy friends, having not lost in more than two months.
The Falcons’ first goal is to win the GNAC championship, then it would be to make a long run in the NCAA Division II tournament. Everything seems possible now.
“The scary thing is we’re getting better every game,” Moffitt said. “I know it’s cliché, but with our team it’s true.”