Another up-and-down week for the Vikings

There were some good things, and some not-so-good things for the Portland State men’s basketball team last week.

There were some good things, and some not-so-good things for the Portland State men’s basketball team last week.

There was a celebratory atmosphere as Vikings basketball legend Freeman Williams—best known for scoring 81 points in one game while playing for Portland State—was in attendance for both home games. Portland State’s injury problems, however, kept getting worse as starting power-forward Chehales Tapscott injured his knee against Weber State and is expected to be out for five to six weeks.

On Thursday night, the Vikings pulled out a gutty 71-69 win over Weber State at the Stott Center. Hot shooting from beyond the arc enabled Weber State to take a 37-33 lead into halftime. In the second half, junior guard Dane Johnson helped to spark the Vikings’ comeback as the team used a 7-0 run midway through the period to take a 53-50 lead. Twice, Johnson made steals and found junior guard Charles Odum down the court for fast-break buckets.

Johnson’s stats, although modest, were near perfect. Johnson was 2-of-2 from the field, 1-of-1 from three-point range, and had five points, two assists, two steals and only one turnover.

“Dane did a great job the first half of the season. He hasn’t played a lot the last few games, but you never know when your number is going to get called. You come out and practice hard every day. It came down to Dane today. He was the defense on the run we made,” said head coach Tyler Geving.

On Saturday night, Portland State seemed to run out of steam as Northern Arizona marched into the Stott Center and pulled out a 71-59 victory. Without Tapscott, who injured his knee with less than a minute left against Weber State, the Vikings are now missing their starting frontline, as center Nate Lozeau has been out the last few games with an injured ankle and could possible miss another two to three weeks.

Northern Arizona took advantage of the undersized and undermanned Vikings squad by controlling the inside. Northern Arizona scored 32 points in the paint, including a 16-8 advantage in the first half. Poor Viking defense didn’t help, either. The Lumberjacks shot 59.6 percent from the field and 47.1 percent from three-point range.

“Energy was the difference,” senior wingman Phil Nelson suggested. “We had a lot of turnovers in the first half, and not many assists. We just got off to a bad start and couldn’t get it back.”

The 6-foot-8 Nelson was at times the tallest player on the floor for the Vikings, essentially playing center during stretches.

“I got winded here or there, feeling a little slow,” Nelson admitted, who recently returned from injury. “But other than that, the foot felt good—I just need to keep working on getting in better shape.”

Coach Geving had his team switching between a 2-3 and 3-2 zone to help compensate for the lack of size inside. The Viking played a three-guard lineup for most of the game and pressed full court often in the second half, sparking a few late runs, but the team was never able get the game back within single digits.

It should be noted that Portland State out-rebounded N. Arizona 33-26, although it was an indication of the Vikings’ poor offensive execution, rushed shots, and poor shot selection more than anything. Portland State managed to only shoot 22 for 57 from the field and 4 for 14 from distance.

The Vikings’ record stands at 10-9 overall and 3-4 in the Big Sky. The team is currently in a three-way tie for fourth place in the conference with the two teams they just played, Weber State and Northern Arizona. Although the team lost an opportunity to separate itself from the middle of the pack, the players remain confident that they’ll be able to keep improving.

“My mindset is to try and help my team win games even from the bench, so by the time I get back we’ll be even better and hopefully can still compete for that league title,” Tapscott said. “I’m going to give my teammates my full support. I love these guys to death and I’ll cheer them on, but honestly, I just wish I could get out there and help somehow.”

Portland State will try to right the ship as the team heads on the road to play Eastern Washington on Thursday. First tipoff is scheduled for 7:05 p.m.

“They tried, they hung in there, they played hard, but they didn’t move the ball around fast enough tonight,” Williams said after Saturday night’s game. “And they had a couple guys out.”

In a week of mixed results, perhaps the moment of the night was when former NBA star Williams, who scored more points in his Viking career than any other college player in history behind only Pete Maravich, was honored during the game and given a standing ovation by the crowd.

“It was a good feeling,” Williams said after the game, smiling. “But I just hoped they would have won tonight.” ?