In one week I saw two distinctly different Portland State men's basketball teams. On February 28 I went to their final Big Sky Conference game, against Northern Colorado. As Donovan Potts recounted so well this was a tight, back-and-forth affair that ended with PSU's Charles Odum making a pair of critical free throws while the Bears could only wonder what would have been had they not missed two one-and-ones in the closing minute. The Vikings had clinched third place in the conference and I felt a tough game against the Bears, who were already out of conference tournament contention, was a distinct possibility as PSU could have been looking ahead to their quarterfinal against Montana State.
I expected that game, Saturday at the Stott Center, to be an entertaining one as well. MSU was the sixth and last team into the tournament but had beaten PSU twice in the season. Furthermore, after Montana and Weber State the Big Sky is pretty wide open this season in terms of competitive balance. PSU could not afford to relax as they did against Northern Colorado.
In the first half it looked to me as if PSU was still getting back into gear. They missed some easy shots and made some careless turnovers but actually pulled slightly ahead because MSU was having problems making shots as well. Montana State has some good frontcourt players, especially center Mohammed Fall, but for some reason they didn't have them to post up very often. The Bobcats spent more time looking for open threes and jump shots. Perhaps they were concerned with Portland State's Chehales Tapscott and Nate Lozeau taking away the middle. At halftime PSU held a 31-23 lead, but I still thought the game was still in the balance.
It didn't take long for me to see how wrong I was. Not only did PSU maintain their lead for the first ten minutes, by the 7:30 mark the lead was 59-40 and the game was no longer competitive. It was a blowout that kind of sneaked up on me. A look at the stats afterward showed it was a case of Montana State having an awful night shooting, at 37% from the field. PSU's defense didn't force many turnovers, just 6 (they turned it over 6 times and lost!), but held the Bobcats to just one shot, outrebounding them 37-21. If you asked the Viking fans around me they did all this in spite of terrible officiating but I honestly couldn't see the reason for their complaints. I thought the crew did fine. A 20-point lead will calm down most agitated crowds, though, and by the end Viking fans were ready to celebrate a resounding end to their home season. This was also an opportunity for the Viking faithful to congratulate seniors Chehales Tapscott, Charles Odum, and Nate Lozeau. Senior Night against Northern Colorado was too close a game to make the customary substitution in the last minute. Tonight, though, coach Tyler Geving was able to take them out to a standing ovation. All three have been key contributors both in both statistics and leadership and will be difficult to replace. For now though, they and the rest of their team still have games to play, starting with #2 seed Weber State in Missoula, Montana in Tuesday's semifinals.
at PORTLAND STATE 75, MONTANA STATE 53 03/03/2012
MONTANA STATE 12-17 (7-9) -- C. Moon 5-10 2-2 12; M. Fall 6-11 2-2 14; S. Reid 2-10 0-1 4; R. Singleton 3-6 0-1 7; M. Dison 1-6 1-2 4; J. Allou 3-4 1-2 7; T. Johnson 1-5 0-0 2; J. Budinich 1-7 0-1 3; B. Brumwell 0-1 0-0 0; S. Davis 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 22-60 6-11 53. PORTLAND STATE 17-13 (10-6) -- C. Tapscott 7-11 4-4 20; L. McMullan 4-8 4-4 14; C. Odum 4-9 6-6 16; M. Harthun 3-5 0-0 8; R. Parker 5-8 3-4 13; G. Winston 0-1 2-4 2; N. Lozeau 1-3 0-0 2; M. Whitmore 0-1 0-0 0; B. Cataldo 0-0 0-0 0; M. Harvey 0-0 0-0 0; J. Smith 0-0 0-2 0. Totals 24-46 19-24 75.
Three-point goals: MTST 3-16 (J. Budinich 1-3; S. Reid 0-5; R. Singleton 1-3; C. Moon 0-2; M. Dison 1-3), POST 8-14 (M. Harthun 2-2; L. McMullan 2-3; C. Odum 2-3; C. Tapscott 2-4; G. Winston 0-1; M. Whitmore 0-1); Rebounds: MTST 21 (M. Fall 7), POST 37 (C. Tapscott 12); Assists: MTST 9 (C. Moon 5), POST 12 (L. McMullan 4); Total Fouls -- MTST 19, POST 13; Fouled Out: MTST-None; POST-None.