Men’s basketball fends off Seattle U

The Portland State men’s basketball team could have easily folded after watching Seattle University slice a 10-point halftime lead to just two points with five minutes left in the game.

The Portland State men’s basketball team could have easily folded after watching Seattle University slice a 10-point halftime lead to just two points with five minutes left in the game.

Facing multiple injuries and a roster that has dwindled down nine active bodies, the Vikings showed grit and determination as they fought Seattle down the stretch and held onto an 83-76 victory Wednesday at the Stott Center.

“I kept thinking, I hope this isn’t a repeat of last year,” senior guard Melvin Jones said. “I was getting flashbacks.”

The Vikings (4-1) lost to Seattle last season at the Stott after giving up a big lead and losing what became a close game down the stretch. But this season, Portland State got its revenge. Using high energy and defensive pressure, the Vikings overwhelmed Seattle and forced 21 turnovers, leading by as much as 15 in the first half.

“That’s the frustrating part,” head coach Tyler Geving said. “We had some chances to finish them and we didn’t. We did some stupid stuff down the stretch and kind of let them back into it.”

Despite that, led by a game-high 23 points from Jones, the Vikings showed their resiliency and spirit as a team.

“Fortunately, we never let them take the lead,” Geving added. “If they would have taken the lead, then things would have changed (down the stretch), but we were able to hold them off.”

The Redhawks (3-7), who beat Oregon State last month, utilized a 1-3-1 zone to hamper Portland State’s attack and make their run in the second half. However, solid guard play from sophomore Chris Harriel (15 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 steals) and junior Charles Odum (12 points, 3 assists, 2 rebounds) enabled the Vikings to break down the zone and control the pace.

“The [1-3-1 zone] bothered us a little bit,” Jones said. “But we were able to keep our composure.”

Often, the Vikings pushed past the half-court traps set by Seattle’s zone and attacked the rim. Portland State’s offensive mentality forced the issue and put Seattle in the penalty early, as the Vikings knocked down 26 of 32 free throw attempts.

“Our goal was to keep attacking, attacking, attacking,” Jones said.

Geving added that, overall, the Vikings did well controlling the tempo.

Dominating the glass went a long way toward dictating the tempo of the game, as Portland State out-rebounded Seattle 42-33, including 21 offensive boards that translated to 22 second-chance points.

Junior forward Chehales Tapscott was relentless inside, and recording his second double-double of the season with 12 points and 10 rebounds.

The Vikings disrupted Seattle’s offense with various defenses throughout the evening, moving between a 2-3 zone, a 3-2 zone and man-to-man. In general, PSU has shown the ability to take advantage of their athleticism and successfully apply defensive pressure.

“Anytime [Seattle] got comfortable with one defense, we switched to another and our guys did a great job adjusting between them,” Geving said.

Five games into the regular season, and Portland State is off to a solid start. The Vikings will play nine games over the next month before the start of next term. Even without the responsibilities of class, the team will stay busy with seven non-conference games remaining before the Dec. 29 Big Sky opener against Northern Colorado.

“The break from school is nice, because all we have to do is worry about basketball,” Jones said.

The Vikings play their next game this Sunday against Oregon in Eugene. In December, Portland State will play five home games at the Stott Center, including local rivalry games against George Fox and University of Portland.

Despite a new-look roster and injury setbacks, the Vikings seem to keep improving after every performance and are really coming together as a team in recent weeks. The team is finding balanced scoring contributions and leadership has been provided by seniors Jones, Paul Guede and Philip “Tree” Thomas.

As PSU continues to define its identity, defensive intensity could emerge as the key, as the players have bought into a hard-working defensive mindset to go along with their high-octane offense.

“We’re a fun team to watch,” Geving said. “It’s a great group of kids, and they play hard. There’s no quit in these guys.” ?