A long, cold December for the Vikings

The month of December was not a walk in the park for the Vikings men’s basketball team. Portland State played five of the nine games away from home during the break. The Vikings began December by hosting Cascade College at the Peter W. Stott Center.

Cascade, an NAIA school, was expected to come into the game and be stomped. However, Cascade played as well as anyone could have expected, including the Portland State coaches and players. The Vikings trailed early, lacking on the offensive end. They found themselves down by as many as nine points early on.

In the second half, the baskets began to fall from the perimeter. Twenty-one of Troy DeVries’ 27 points came during this time to spark a run. Portland State was only down by two points with about three minutes left, but that was as close as it got. Cascade dominated on the glass, out-rebounding PSU, 46-21. Eventually the Vikings fell, 71-66.

Portland State then traveled to Moraga, Calif., to play St. Mary’s. The Vikings offense once again struggled to get on track early. Senior guard Jeb Ivey led the team with 19 points but was the only Viking to get into double digits. St. Mary’s connected on 10-18 three-pointers for the game, shooting 56 percent. Portland State erased chances of a comeback by compiling 23 turnovers. The Vikings lost their fourth straight game, 75-51.

The next two games were played in Oregon – first on Dec. 14 against Linfield College at the Stott Center, then on the 17th at Oregon State University. In the time between the St. Mary’s trip and the Linfield game, two players left the basketball program. DeVries and Ben Coffee decided to leave the team for various personal reasons.

Portland State took this as motivation, beating Linfield handily, 84-66. It then lost a heartbreaker in Corvallis, 53-50, at the buzzer. Portland State never gave Linfield a chance to hang with the return of Seamus Boxley, who overmatched any of Linfield’s wings. Boxley scored 23 points, and Kevin Briggs stepped up to score 19 points and dish out nine assists.

At Oregon State, the Vikings hung with the Pac-10 team all the way through the final buzzer. In the first half, the Vikings came out as the more aggressive team, executing on the offensive end. After it was 13-all, Portland State went on a 13-2 run to go into the locker room at half time up 28-19.

In the second half, the Beavers turned up the pressure on defense, holding Portland State scoreless for close to eight minutes. Although Ivey scored 11 points in the last five minutes to carry the Vikings to the end, it was last-second mistakes that cost the Vikings a chance to win, leaving three-and-a-half seconds on the clock for the Beavers with one final shot. Brian Jackson, of OSU, heaved a 35-foot prayer and with two bounces on the iron, went down as time expired to shatter hopes of a big victory.

Next, the Vikings went to Boise State to play a confident, deep team on its home floor. The Vikings only shot 38 percent and turned the ball over twice more than the Broncos for the game, 18-16. Bronco forward Jason Ellis poured in 23 points on 8-11 shooting for the night. The Broncos stayed strong on the their home floor, winning 59-51 and improving their record to 6-3.

On the 23rd, the Vikings came back home to play the Rose City rivalry one more time. After losing the first one at the Chiles Center, the Vikings had hopes of redeeming themselves. After leading 5-2 early on, the Vikings never led in the game. Portland controlled the tempo and sank its free throws, going 19-22 from the charity stripe. The Pilots made it 2-0 against Portland State, taking one at the Stott Center, 59-50.

The Vikings finished the break with three difficult opponents. They played New Mexico on the road, Arkansas-Little Rock and finished with a game against Gonzaga at Memorial Coliseum. Unfortunately all three resulted in losses, extending the losing streak to six games.

The Vikings were lit up from beyond the arc at New Mexico, giving up 10 three-pointers, a season high for New Mexico. The Vikings trailed by only 10 points going into halftime. Then in the second half, the Lobos made two runs increasing the lead to 54-30. The Vikings were led once again in scoring by Ivey, who gave them 15 points. Seth Scott helped by pitching in 13. The Lobos were eventually victorious, 69-52.

In the second game of the holiday tournament, the Vikings battled Arkansas-Little Rock defensively the whole game. It was tied 20-20 at halftime, but Little Rock was able to build 10-point margin in the second half and keep the lead for a 48-41 victory. Scott put in 10 points and 11 rebounds for the game.

To cap off the nine games during the break, the Vikings hosted the Gonzaga Bulldogs. Portland State held its own for the first 10 minutes, before Gonzaga began to pull away with its many offensive weapons. The Bulldogs were too much, improving their record to 9-5 on an 87-49 victory. Ivey scored 13 points to lead Portland State.

Next, the Vikings will begin conference play, opening the season against Sacramento State at the Stott Center on Jan. 7 at 7:05 p.m.