Eagles stun Vikings 89-70

Eastern Washington guard Rodney Stuckey showed the Vikings (7-9, 0-3 Big Sky) why he doesn’t belong in the Big Sky Conference Saturday night at the Stott Center. On a night where Portland State honored its fans by giving out free t-shirts, Stuckey and his EWU squad thrashed the Vikings.

The Eagles leapt out to a 20-5 lead with a combination of swirling defense, three-pointers and dunks and never looked back, cruising to a 89-70 win on the Vikings’ home floor. The Vikings made several mini-runs but never got closer than 12 the rest of the way.

It all started with Stuckey, a deceptive 6-foot-4 player with a pro body and pro aspirations. The freshman was widely recruited by a slew of big name schools, including the University of Washington, where Viking head coach Ken Bone was an assistant from 2002-05. Academics kept him out of major Division I-A programs and he landed at Eastern Washington, redshirting as a freshman last year.

The Vikings wished he were still glued to the bench Saturday night. Top ten in the nation in scoring coming in, Stuckey missed just four shots all night and dropped 31 points on the struggling Viks.

“Rodney Stuckey is a great player,” Bone said. “He’s got to be one of the best Big Sky players ever. I just wish he had taken it easier on us. He’s going to light up whomever he wants.”

Stuckey and the Eagles exposed this Viking squad’s fatal flaw. They are slow, painfully so. Eastern Washington made plays because of athletic ability. Portland State is one of the smartest teams in the Big Sky. They run their offense well, but they lack the athleticism to create shots and defend standout players like Stuckey.

The Vikings have missed starting point guard Ryan Sommer for the last three contests after he went down with a hamstring injury. He tested his right leg Saturday, playing three minutes, but he never seemed comfortable. According to Bone, Sommer might be the key to the rest of the season.

“It’s hard to gauge (where we are) because we don’t have one of our best players playing,” Bone said. “Right now without Ryan we might be the worst team in the conference.”

Riding a three-game conference losing streak, the Vikings have an excellent opportunity to rebound against hapless Weber State Thursday night at the Stott Center. The Wildcats (6-11, 0-4 Big Sky) are a decidedly weaker team than they were last year when they upset the Vikings in the first round of the Big Sky tournament, but then, so are the Viks. A win over Weber State won’t mean as much as it would have last February, but for the 7-9 Vikings, it’s no less important.