Bronco busters

In a nationally broadcasted game on Saturday afternoon, the Vikings men’s basketball team put on an exhilarating performance against visiting Boise State in a 93-81 victory.

In a nationally broadcasted game on Saturday afternoon, the Vikings men’s basketball team put on an exhilarating performance against visiting Boise State in a 93-81 victory.

The victory, which came as a part of the ESPN Bracketbuster series, improves the Vikings’ home record to 10-1 this season and helped establish some confidence for the once beleaguered team heading into the stretch run of Portland State. It was the first ESPN televised event from the Portland State campus.

“That’s the goal, is to play really hard and with focus,” said junior guard Phil Nelson, who finished with 22 points and a career-high seven steals. “We wanted to be the aggressive team.”

Portland State got on the Broncos from the opening tip at both ends of the floor. Nelson put the Vikings up by 10 with an early three-pointer, which was followed by a fast-break, emphatic, one-handed slam-dunk from senior guard Andre Murray.

Nelson’s defense was one of the keys to the game as he disrupted passes and created fast-break opportunities for Murray, senior point guard Jeremiah Dominguez and himself.

“Phil did an outstanding job tonight,” said head coach Ken Bone. “He was very good overall, both offensively and defensively.”

The Vikings continued the offensive highlight reel by hitting their next seven shots, all from beyond the three-point line.

Four players got in on the act in that run as Dominguez joined juniors Dominic Waters, Kyle Coston and Tyrell Mara in hitting big buckets that extended the home team’s lead. Six of the nine players that saw action hit at least one three-pointer, and five had two or more triples.

The Vikings finished the half with 12 three-point baskets, while shooting 65 percent from the field and taking a commanding 58-35 advantage at halftime.

“I think we’re a pretty good three-point shooting team,” Bone said. “We have the type of kids here who are capable of shooting it, and three is bigger than two.”

After their torrid start, Boise State was able to close the Portland State lead—which had grown as large as 26—to just six during the midpoint of the second half behind strong play from sophomore guard Paul Noonan and senior forward Mark Sanchez, who combined for 28 points.

But Dominguez sealed the deal with a deep three-pointer as the shot clock expired to put Portland State up by 11 with under five minutes to play.

In his first game since hitting the game winning three-pointer against Northern Colorado on Feb. 19, the senior and returning Big Sky Player of the Year did everything that his team needed of him against Boise State.

He finished with 22 points, eight assists and effectively hounded Bronco junior Anthony Thomas into four turnovers and limited the point guard to 11 points.

“With these last couple of games, I’m just giving it all I got,” Dominguez said. “With the team playing with that kind of energy, it shows we can bring it.”

The Vikings will finish up the regular season conference schedule this week with a home game against Montana State tomorrow and a Saturday matchup at Eastern Washington. Both squads are fighting for one of the six conference playoff positions.

Meanwhile, Portland State looks like a lock to claim third place in the conference. The Vikings are a game back of Montana, and unless the Grizzlies stumble this week in their game at Northern Colorado, Portland State will likely host a Big Sky Tournament quarterfinal game on March 7.

But for now, the Vikings were happy with their performance and seemed optimistic about the rest of their season.
“Tonight we didn’t take a night off,” Bone said. “We took a step forward.”