Home sweet home

Usually a two-game winning streak leaves little to get excited about, but when it comes at the onset of Big Sky play following a three-game skid and a grueling 10 of 13 on the road to open the season, timing is everything.

Usually a two-game winning streak leaves little to get excited about, but when it comes at the onset of Big Sky play following a three-game skid and a grueling 10 of 13 on the road to open the season, timing is everything.

The road-weary Vikings (9-7, 2-1 BSC) burst back to life this weekend, displaying an unselfish and high-energy brand of basketball that relies heavily upon head coach Ken Bone’s three key philosophies: guard the ball, rebound the ball and share, share, share the ball.

The Vikings dominated Sacramento State (2-11, 0-3 BSC) in the first of the two-game home stand, defeating the Hornets 83-58. In the second conference matchup, Portland State drilled Northern Arizona (10-6, 2-1 BSC) 80-66 on Saturday night.

Against the Hornets, Portland State’s perimeter defense play was executed with a newfound intensity, pressuring the ball and slowing any Sacramento State penetration.

The Vikings were more than competent on the glass, holding a 43-24 advantage. Senior guard Deonte Huff had 10 rebounds to go with 16 points to lead the way, but not to be overshadowed is how well Portland State shared the ball, collecting 23 assists on 30 made field goals.

Instead of tossing the ball around the three-point line and waiting for someone to fire away, Portland State was patient and poised, always securing the best possible shot.

“We’ve probably lost one or two more games at this point than I thought we should have, but we played the majority of our games on the road and that makes winning more difficult,” Bone said. “I think we’ve learned from our mistakes and came home this weekend and really got after it.”

Playing on the road hasn’t been the only obstacle for the Vikings. In 16 games, 10 different players have found their way into the starting lineup, and only two, Huff and junior guard Mickey Polis, have appeared in every contest.

Senior guard Dupree Lucas, mired in a shooting slump for much of the season, has missed the last three games with illness and a foot injury, and sophomore forward Tyrell Mara has been sidelined with an ailing elbow. The constant shuffling of the lineup has kept the Vikings from reaching full strength, yet no excuses have been issued.

“It’s been a slow process,” Bone said. “It seems every time we get a couple players back, we lose a couple more. [Alex] Tiefenthaler just hurt his ankle, [Tyrell] Mara is out with his elbow, and ‘Pree’s [Dupree Lucas] had a bad foot he’s getting an MRI on, but people are stepping up. We’ll just continue to keep things together and hope we get healthy. But if not, we’ll just go with what we’ve got.”

Sophomore forward Kyle Coston stepped in and stepped up versus Northern Arizona. In just his second start, Coston turned in a scintillating 22-point performance, going six for eight from the field and six of seven from the free throw line, including 80 percent from beyond the arc.

The Vikings played with energy and emotion, lighting up the scoreboard and shutting down the Lumberjacks. Again, Portland State earned the win by following Bone’s philosophies, out-rebounding Northern Arizona 32-20 and sharing the ball to the tune of 21 assists.

The two conference wins should bolster the Vikings’ confidence as the race for the Big Sky title begins to heat up.

Gone from the schedule are No. 5 UCLA and No. 4 Washington State. The battletested Vikings get to beat up on kids their own size now and seem to be relishing the opportunity.

The rest of the Big Sky should be paying attention, because if Portland State can sustain their present energy level, continue to play unselfish and outwork teams for rebounds, Portlanders may have another young basketball team to rally around.

When: 6:05 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 10

What: Portland State (9-7, 2-1 BSC) at Weber State (5-8, 0-1 BSC)

Where: Dee Events Center in Ogden, Utah

On the air: AM 910 KTRO (radio)

Probable Starters:

Weber State F Arturas Valeika F Daviin Davis F Steve Panos G Dezmon Harris G Brody Van Brocklin

Portland State

F Kyle CostonC Scott MorrisonG Jeremiah DominguezG Andre MurrayG Deonte Huff

Stars: Valeika is a double-double threat every time he steps on the floor, as the forward scores 10.5 points and pulls in 8.4 rebounds a contest. Junior guard Kellen McCoy is a spark plug off the bench for the Wildcats, averaging 8.1 points per game in just 18 minutes.

Just a taste: The Vikings are battling illness and injury, but also playing their best basketball of the season. Riding a two-game winning streak, Portland State has found success sharing the ball, collecting 43 assists on its last 57 made field goals. Weber State is coming off a close loss at Northern Colorado, and with only one player averaging double figures in points, the Wildcats could find it difficult to keep up with the Vikings’ high-powered offense.