The Vikings take on the Idaho State Bengals Saturday at the Stott Center at 7:05 p.m. It looks to be a good game, and the Vikings have an excellent chance at winning.
In fact, the Vikings have more all-time wins against Idaho State than any other Big Sky school (14-8). The last six times the Bengals have played the Vikings at PSU, Portland State has won. Being at home will be an advantage on Saturday.
However, the Vikings need to play good basketball through both halves of the game. This has been a huge factor in the Viking’s recent Big Sky losses. There is no better time than Saturday’s game to start working on these areas of improvement.
When asked about improvement in upcoming games, Head Coach Heath Schroyer said, “We need to work on attacking gaps, getting the ball in the short corner and the post. We are just inconsistent right now. We have to learn how to grow out of that and be able to put together back-to-back games, and back-to-back halves.”
Idaho State is 8-11 in season games and 3-2 in Big Sky. They are second in Big Sky for in scoring at 71.9 points per game. However, they rank last in defensive scoring at 76.4. This low could be attributed to the rebounding margin of -10.5, which puts them last in the Big Sky.
The Bengals have won five of their last seven games; three of five were conference games. In their recent loss to Northern Arizona (92-86), five Bengal players scored in the double digits.
Senior guard Marquis Poole scored a career-high 33 points against the NAU Lumberjacks with six rebounds and five assists. He leads his team with a 16.6 point-per-game average. Poole leads the Big Sky with 5.7 assists per game.
Forward Scott Henry averages 13.6 points per game. He leads his team and ranks third in the conference for rebounding with 6.7 rebounds per game. Junior guard Jeff Gardner is averaging 12.3 points per game and so far this season he has sunk 53 three-pointers, shooting .438 from distance. In Saturday’s game, Nate Rede added 16 points and brought down seven rebounds. Junior center Jesse Smith leads the conference with 28 blocked shots.
Portland State is 8-10 on the season and 2-3 in Big Sky. Starting 13 games this year, Seamus Boxley, Marshall Hartman, Antone Jarrell, Blake Walker, and Will Funn have proved they can start the game with intensity and take the lead. The question is, can they hold the game through the second half to capture the win?
Junior forward Antone Jarrell has shown some improvement since the start of Big Sky Conference games. Jarrell is shooting .556 from the field and .500 from the three-point range. This is up from .389 and .308 in non-conference games. Jarrell was averaging 5.8 points-per-game and is now at 13.2.
Junior guard Blake Walker’s scoring average has dropped. He scored 18.4 in non-conference games and is currently at 11.4 for conference games. Walker is now ranked only third in the Big Sky for scoring (16.4), and he ranks fourth in rebounding (5.9). Walker has recorded six 20-point games and three double-doubles this season.
Junior forward Seamus Boxley still leads the Vikings and the Big Sky Conference in rebounding (9.6). Boxley has shot 50 percent or better from the field in 15 games, and he’s been in double figures in 16 games this year, and he has recorded eight double-doubles this year. Boxley is up from 13.2 points and eight rebounds per non-conference game to 15.2 points and 11.8 rebounds per Big Sky game. Boxley leads the Vikings with 13 dunks this year. Portland State has 35 dunks so far through 18 games.
After last weeks loss to Eastern Washington, Boxley said, “I felt like we were just being aggressive, trying to get to the hole… Eastern just came out and played a better second half.” The loss was a disappointment to all. Boxley has a handle on the game; he has been playing smart and averaging 36.6 minutes per game. If his team wants to win Boxley needs to remind his teammate to play strong defense and offense.
Come out to the game this Saturday, January 31, at the Stott Center. Tip off is at 7:05 pm. The stands were packed last week and school spirit was running high. Thanks to the dedicated football players and those awesome but crazy girls dressed up in uniforms and school colors! If the game isn’t entertaining, you can bet the student section will be!