It mattered not that Portland State came into Friday night’s season opener against BYU having never won a game in the series and giving up a serious height advantage at the post positions. Portland State played big, bullying the Cougars in the paint and scrapping to a 73-64 opening night win in front of an enthusiastic home crowd at the Stott Center.
It mattered not that Portland State came into Friday night’s season opener against BYU having never won a game in the series and giving up a serious height advantage at the post positions.
Portland State played big, bullying the Cougars in the paint and scrapping to a 73-64 opening night win in front of an enthusiastic home crowd at the Stott Center.
The Vikings’ starting forwards, sophomore Kelli Valentine (5-foot-11) and senior Kelsey Kahle (5-foot-10) were grossly undersized compared to the Cougar frontline that boasted a 6-foot-5-inch forward, Keilani Moeaki, and a 6-foot-3-inch center, Cassie King.
But Valentine and Kahle executed sound fundamentals, boxing out their taller opponents on their way to 11 and 12 rebounds respectively.
As a team, Portland State attacked the boards en route to a 44-31 advantage over BYU, and head coach Sherri Murrell pointed to the statistic after the game as a major factor in the win.
“The rebounds were huge for us. [Rebounds] allow us to start our break, and they’re the key to our fast-paced game” Murrell said.
From the opening tip-off, the home crowd of 626 was treated to an in-sync Viking team that appeared ready to begin their quest for the Big Sky Conference Championship.
Less than five seconds into the game, the ball had already passed through the hands of four Viking players, including an impressive behind-the-back pass by junior point guard Claire Faucher. The play ended in an easy lay-up for sophomore guard Kelly Marchant, the first of her 13 points on the night.
A unanimous Big Sky First Team selection in 2007-08, Faucher picked up where she left off last season, expertly controlling the pace of the game and finding her teammates for a game-high eight assists on the night.
Her fellow Big Sky honoree, Kahle, rankled her opposition with hard-nosed, one-on-one defense, but was unable to get her offensive game going early, attempting not a single shot in the first 20 minutes of play.
For the majority of the first half, the Vikings were able to keep the Cougars’ at arm’s length, racking up 20 points in the paint to the visiting team’s eight. At the end of the first 20 minutes of play, Portland State held a 36-29 advantage over the guests.
But with the start of the second half, the Cougars came at the Vikings with renewed energy, buckling down on the defensive end and doing their best to stifle the running-fueled Portland State offense.
The move forced the Vikings to slow down and set up a half-court offense, and BYU did limit the Vikings ability to get easy points.
“They were denying that pass down low, which was causing us problems,” Murrell said. “We had some issues in our half-court execution.”
Recognizing her team’s need for an offensive boost, Kahle became aggressive with the ball, making 3 of 5 field goals and going a perfect 6-6 from the charity stripe for a total of 13 second-half points.
Still, the Cougars refused to be put away, making several runs at the Vikings and coming within one point with just six minutes left in the game.
But the Vikings once again pushed ahead, boosted by the hard-nosed hustle play of Kelli Valentine, who grabbed some key offensive rebounds that were converted into second chance points.
In the final minute of play, the Cougars once again made a push, riding a wave of offensive momentum that trimmed the lead to five. But Kelly Marchant hit a dagger three pointer with 35 seconds left to put the game out of reach.
Although pleased with her team’s opening night performance, Murrell knows that there are a few kinks to work out in practice.
“As I said, our half-court execution needs a lot of work,” Murrell said. “We’ll definitely have things to work on in practice.”
The Vikings will have a chance to put their practice to the test when they travel to New York this weekend, facing Binghamton on Friday and Syracuse on Saturday.