Business as Usual

Just as the Lady Vikings were gaining a bit of momentum and starting to get healthy, the injury bug has hit again. This time the pesky plague has bitten junior point guard Sharon Wahinekapu. Wahinekapu had been limited since a Jan. 15 loss against Eastern Washington, where she severely sprained her ankle and was seen writhing in pain for several minutes until finally hobbling off the court to applause.

The results from a Wednesday MRI haven’t been released yet, though trainers and Wahinekapu suspect the injury may be torn ligaments or muscles in her left ankle/calf.

"I’m still in a lot of pain," she said. "I’m going to miss at least this weekend."

It is disappointing news for Wahinekapu, who has started eight of 12 games this year and is averaging 4.7 points and 2.3 boards a game. Fortunately for the woefully undersized Vikings, they have plenty of guards to fill in while Wahinekapu convalesces. Most notable among the stand-ins is Ashley Brown, who has had her own health problems this season with a stress fracture that kept her out of competition for over a month, including all but one game of the preseason.

Brown has utilized the extra playing time, impressing her teammates and her coaches. She has played in all three Big Sky games and is averaging 6 points and 3 assists while shooting at a .625 clip from the floor. She had a key bucket and free throw in the Viks’ Jan 22 loss to Idaho State that brought the game to within two points for Portland State. They would go on to lose 74-82. "We just got ahead of ourselves in that game. We just broke down on defense," Brown said of the loss.

However, getting off the bench is a big improvement for the 5-4 sophomore. "It’s really good to be back," she said. "I’m trying to run the offense and get my teammates good shots." Brown has been effective at times, and in Big Sky play the Viks are shooting a better percentage in every category and are scoring 62.7 points a game, a healthy increase on their season average.

But the points aren’t earning wins, probably because the Viking defense is more porous than a sponge. The team is giving up 72 points a game on the year, but that number balloons to about 83 points a game in conference play. A big part of the problem is how Portland State starts games. "We haven’t figured it out yet," said senior guard and team captain Heidi Stuart. "We just need to put a whole game together."

That is easier said than done for this Viking team. They have yet to jump on a team from the tip-off and it usually takes them five or ten minutes to settle down and start playing well. By this time it’s too late and the game is out of hand. "We need some kind of spurt," said sophomore phenom Heather Arns. "Just something to get us going."

Perhaps playing their last six of 10 games away from the confines of the vacuum called the Stott Center on a Saturday afternoon will inspire Portland State to create their "spurt." "The road hasn’t made us play bad," Arns said. "Our first win came on the road."

The Vikings first win did come on the road, and they have faced more quality opponents on the road than at home, including games against UP, Gonzaga and BYU. Their first and lone win came against UC Irvine in an 80-74 victory on Dec. 17.

The Vikings get Montana State tomorrow night in Bozeman. They come home next week to face a good Northern Arizona team Thursday evening and the lousy Sacramento State Hornets Feb. 5, which will be an excellent opportunity to pick up another win.