BUTTE — The Carroll College men’s basketball team has many words to describe teammate Jovan Slijvancanin.
Tenacious, amazing and a beast are some of those descriptions.
But his coach, Kurt Paulson, may have said it best.
“He’s a mismatch,” Paulson said.
And the Saints took complete advantage of it on Friday.
Sljivancanin earned a double-double, scoring a career high 34 points, while also grabbing 13 rebounds.
That was more than enough as the Saints handled Southern Oregon 79-58 in their first game of the season.
“He’s a stud,” Paulson said. “He has really worked on his game the last six months. He can take the bigger guys out to the perimeter and then post up the smaller players; and when he wants to, he can really change the game with his rebounding.”
While Sljivancanin showed he was certainly capable of taking the lead, he started the game taking a backseat to freshmen Brandon Temple and Dennis Flowers III.
The duo ignited the offense as Carroll jumped out to a 14-3 lead over the first seven minutes.
Sljivancanin finally emerged midway through the first half.
After hitting a shot inside, he nailed a 3-pointer in the corner.
With six minutes left until halftime, he singlehandedly outscored the Raiders 10-5.
“All this week, I was just getting ready,” Sljivancanin said. “The first game is always important, and I just got going. The ball was listening to me.”
By halftime, Carroll had a 39-16 lead and held Southern Oregon to 25 percent from the field.
Slijvancanin gained a handful of experience last season after he was thrown into the starting lineup due to an injury to senior Matt Wyman.
During the five games he started, he said he learned from the upperclassmen how to become a leader.
And after a meeting with his coach in January, he knew he had to give it his all.
“He changed his mindset on everything,” Paulson said. “It was more of a father-son talk. He now puts the team first and is really blossoming as a player.”
The talk helped. He cut out sugar from his diet and lost 20 pounds.
Last week, Sljivancanin grabbed a team high 13 rebounds in an exhibition against Oregon State/ He wasn’t even close to satisfied despite scoring 15 points in the first half against Southern Oregon.
“Every day after practice I just stayed and worked on hitting my 3s and hook shots,” Sljivancanin said. “I guess it paid off.”
By the second half, his offense kept Carroll in control as the lead never got under 20 points.
Sljivancanin kept scoring, but also had some assistance from his teammates.
Senior Dane Warp sat a good portion of the first half because of foul trouble, but came to life in the second half.
He finished with 12 points and dished out a team-high four assists.
And though Warp and a handful of freshmen like Temple, Flowers III and Jonny Hillman got playing time, it was indeed Sljivancanin’s night.
His 34-point, 13-rebound night was complemented by making 14-of-19 shots.
“All the seniors left, so I realize I have a lot of responsibility now,” Sljivancanin said. “I really bought into this and it’s paid off.”
Carroll continues its season Saturday afternoon in Butte when it takes on Eastern Oregon.
Paulson knows there is a long season ahead of him, but at least he has found somebody to lean on.