At a time when NBA stars are cringing at playing three games in three nights as a result of the lockout-shortened schedule, members of the team at a 600-student Christian college in Oregon don't have much sympathy for them.
Multnomah University played three games in about 24 hours this past weekend beginning with a 113-104 victory over Northwest Indian College on Friday night. The next day, Multnomah hosted a rare basketball day-night doubleheader, routing Reed College 100-60 in a 2 p.m. game and defeating North Adelaide 110-91 in the 7 p.m. nightcap.
The idea to play two games in one day struck coach Curt Bickley when a January opponent canceled a game with Multnomah, leaving the Lions with an open date on their schedule. North Adelaide, an Australian basketball club, had inquired previously about playing Multnomah, so Bickley called back and accepted their offer even though the only night they had free was a day the Lions already had a game.
"I thought, 'You know, why not?'" Bickley said. "We practice two hours a day and my guys make it through that no problem. I've got 15 guys at my disposal and we'd beaten Reed earlier in the season. I'm a big Milwaukee Brewers fan and a big baseball fan, so I love the day-night doubleheader. I figured why not do it for basketball."
Although two games in one day is highly unusual at any level of college basketball, Bickley noted that many of his players had endured such a challenge before. Many high school tournaments require the same team to play four games in three days and AAU teams will often play two or even three games a day in the early rounds of some of the largest spring or summer tournaments.
To enable his team to play its usual trapping, up-tempo style without cramping or getting fatigued, Bickley held out two of his best players against Reed College and tried to limit how many minutes some of his other starters played. The strategy worked as Multnomah shot 48.2 percent in the nightcap and only had a couple players who lacked the stamina to still consistently get back on defense or sink their jump shots.
Multnomah's leading scorer in the second game was a 6-foot-2 guard who rested during the opener. Los Angeles native Gian Cook played 37 minutes against North Adelaide, scoring a school-record 61 points on 23-for-38 shooting including 8 of 16 from 3-point range.
"He went crazy," Bickley said. "He had one of those games. And of course he did it against the Australian team. I said, 'Gian, couldn't you have done this in one of the bigger games on our schedule against a team with college or university in their name?' But no, it was against the North Adelaide Rockets."
The opportunity to play two games in one day was a thrill for the Multnomah players both because they won twice and because they enjoyed participating in something so unusual for college basketball. As a result, Bickley said he'd consider doing this again in future seasons if the opportunity arises.
"Here, you've got to do things that sell," he said. "We have no athletic scholarships, so I recruit by the opportunity to play college basketball and to travel. We're willing to try anything. Three years ago we led the nation in 3-pointers made. I don't want to say gimmicks, but anything a little outside the box, we're ready and willing to try."