Portland State’s men’s basketball team entered their final game of the season at the Peter W. Stott Center in control of their destiny; if they won they were assured a Big Sky Tournament berth.
The drama was lifted with 3:20 left in the second half of the Vikings’ matchup against the Idaho State Bengals. Manager of Annual Fund and Special Events Tygue Howland got on the mic and announced that because of other Big Sky results, PSU would return to the conference tourney. Seeding would wait until the final scores of the evening’s matchups.
For PSU it would take extra time. The Vikings had a substantial lead early in the game, but a 20–4 run allowed Idaho State to take the lead late in the second half. In the closing minutes the game was back and forth, but Kyle Richardson took control with a monstrous dunk with 13 seconds left in the game, tying the score at 65. Following a missed ISU shot, Senior Night’s game was in overtime. Fittingly, Richardson was the hero; he had eight points and seven boards in the OT, leading PSU to a 78–74 win. He finished the game with a career high 28 points on 14–19 shooting.
PSU’s regular season record ends at 16–13, 11–9 in the Big Sky. They also finish on a three-game win streak. The wins give PSU the fifth seed in the conference tournament, which begins March 13 in Ogden, Utah. The first seed and host, Weber State, receives a bye in the opening round of play.
PSU will face four-seed Montana first. They split their earlier games with the Griz this season, each team winning on their home floor. With a neutral site as the venue this time around, a true test will be waiting for PSU.
The Big Sky Conference Tournament has three rounds. If PSU prevails in the first round they will advance and play again the next day. One-seed Weber State will play the second round opponent with the lowest seeding, while the other two winners face off. The two teams that win on the second day of action move on to a championship game on Saturday, the winner gaining an automatic berth in the NCAA tournament.
PSU has been playing an exciting brand of basketball recently. They are tied for first in the Big Sky in assists per game (13.5) and second in assist/turnover ratio (1.2). DaShaun Wiggins, Tim Douglas and Gary Winston are all in the top 20 scorers in conference. Richardson is eighth in rebounding at 6.3 per game.
The Vikings have won the Big Sky Tournament twice, in 2008 and 2009. Head Coach Tyler Geving took the helm following these victories, and this year will mark the third time in his five seasons as head coach that PSU will play in the conference tournament. In both 2010 and 2012 Geving led his team to a first round victory over Montana State before falling to Weber State in the second round.
This year’s first-round opponent, Montana, has won the Big Sky Tournament in three of the last four years. They also have the most all-time tournament wins with nine. Close behind them with eight wins is Weber State, though they have not won the tournament since 2007.