Matching up with the best

Northern Colorado sent the Portland State women’s basketball team packing earlier this season, but this week the Vikings are seeking revenge as they host the first-ranked Bears on Saturday.

Northern Colorado sent the Portland State women’s basketball team packing earlier this season, but this week the Vikings are seeking revenge as they host the first-ranked Bears on Saturday.

After a slow start to the season, Portland State (11-9, 3-4 Big Sky) recently bounced back in conference play to move into a three-way tie for third place in the conference standings. This weekend, the Viks look to move even higher.

The Vikings hosted Sacramento State at home in the Park Blocks last night, the results of which were not available as of press time. Last night’s game was the second consecutive time the Vikings played the Hornets, after winning the first meeting 97-73 at Sac State.

The conference schedule posted the Viks against the Eastern Washington Eagles twice before they saw Sac State for a first time. This makes the Thursday night game the official start of the second round of Big Sky play. The second matchups among teams will continue when PSU faces Northern Colorado tomorrow evening.

The Viks have three consecutive wins in their pocket. After the team opened conference play with just a 1-3 record, they put that all behind them and secured two wins on the road against Northern Arizona on Jan. 22 and Sac State last Saturday, with a Dam Cup win against rivals Eastern Washington in between.

Guard Eryn Jones has been one of the key leaders in the past three games. Her performance over the week of Jan. 24–30 earned the junior a Big Sky Player of the Week award, Jones’ first this season. Over the week, Jones made 18 points in each of the Eastern Washington and Sac State games. She also went 5 of 5 from the charity stripe against EW and pulled down four rebounds against the Hornets.

Senior forward Kelli Valentine commented on the leadership roles of Jones and sophomore guard Courtney VanBrockin, saying, “It’s refreshing for them to step up—I think we’ve been searching for it since the beginning of the conference play and we knew it would happen.”

The senior pitched in 10 points against EW and 14 against Sac State. Valentine also said that Jones and VanBrocklin, who combined for 38 over the week, have helped her and the other senior leaders to help the team find a sense of identity on the court.

Valentine said the team as a whole is much more cohesive than they were in the start of conference play. She said that being on the same page and narrowing in on goals will help the team when they match up against the top-ranked Northern Colorado (10-1, 7-1 Big Sky). Their only loss came from the second-ranked Montana State on Jan. 8. The Bears head to the Park Blocks with a six-game winning streak. They played Eastern Washington on Thursday, but the results were not ready as of press time. UNC played a pair of games at their home court, against Northern Arizona last Thursday, and Weber State last Saturday. The Bears dominated both games, winning over NAU 72-58, and Weber State 67-49.

The team’s Weber State win, combined with a one-point loss for Montana State against in-state rival Montana, pushed the Bears above the Bobcats in the coveted No. 1 spot. It was freshman guard D’Shara Strange who dominated in the game. The freshman made a career-best 19 points, and also led the blue and gold in rebounds with seven boards.

Behind Strange, senior guard Courtney Stoermer pitched in 10 against Weber State, and sophomore forward Lauren Oosdyke grabbed eight.

Oosdyke was the single high scorer last time UNC faced PSU. The forward poured on a game-high 28 points against the visiting Viks.

The Vikings were able to climb to just three points behind the Bears off a pair of free throws from junior forward Stephanie Egwuatu, but with Oosdyke leading the Bears, the home team secured a 72-60 win. Including the match earlier this season, the Bears have won the last four in a row against the Vikings.

The Vikings hope to change the current record that they share with the Bears and continue their upward movement in the standings, while the Bears hope to hold their newly acquired first position. Tipoff tomorrow is set for 2 p.m. at the Stott Center. ?