A weekend of opportunity turned into a weekend of disappointment for the men’s basketball team after the Vikings lost back-to-back road games against the teams with the two worst conference records. The losses dropped the Vikings (12-6, 4-2 Big Sky) into second place in the Big Sky and brought a harsh end to their strong conference start.
Thursday night in Ogden, Utah, the Vikings battled the Weber State Wildcats and history. They lost both contests. Heading into the game, the Vikings hoped the momentum built during their eight-game winning streak would carry them to their first ever victory in Ogden. A ninth-straight win would have been an official school record and would have given PSU a school-best 5-0 conference start.
Wildcats big man Lance Allred, the nation’s leading rebounder, dominated the first half with 15 points and as many rebounds as the entire Vikings team (10). By the time the first minute was over Allred already had five points and had put the Vikings in a hole they would never be able to dig out of.
The surprise return of WSU’s second leading scorer, Troy Goodell, from academic ineligibility was worsened by the Vikings’ loss of Jake Schroeder, the Big Sky’s leading three-point shooter, to a mysterious foot injury. Schroeder played 18 minutes but only took two shots and missed them both. Goodell finished with nine points and seven rebounds.
Seamus Boxley tried to dig the Vikings out from a deficit that reached 15 five minutes into the second half with 13 points and five rebounds. His thirteenth point, a free throw with 1:42 remaining, cut the WSU lead to one at 67-66. Seconds later, after PSU forced a WSU miss, Boxley was called for traveling and the Vikings’ comeback was dead. WSU made three freethrows in the last minute and the Vikings failed to score, losing 70-66. Boxley finished with 24 points and seven rebounds.
The team looked to rebound against the 0-5 Idaho State Bengals Saturday night but again couldn’t regain their early conference form.
With Schroeder sidelined due to injury, the Vikings reverted to the promise filled but turnover-prone team they were early in the season. After turning the ball over a season-low four times Thursday night, the Vikings couldn’t hold on to the ball against ISU and set a new season high with a whopping 31 turnovers.
PSU’s turnovers enabled a less talented ISU team, led by freshman Logan Kinghorn’s 22 points, to stay in the game. The Vikings trailed 29-26 at half and 49-42 with 10 minutes left in the second half, before using a 12-0 scoring run to get the lead.
The Vikings led by as much as seven before Kinghorn’s six straight points gave the Bengals a 70-69 lead with little over a minute left.
Head coach Heath Schroyer is confident the team will rebound from the losses, "We learned a lot about ourselves and what we do well. When we turn around I think it can be a positive."
With big home games against third place Montana and first place Montana State coming up Thursday and Saturday at the Stott Center, the team will have to regroup quickly. The Vikings need to win Thursday to stay in second place, while a win Saturday would put the team back within striking distance of first place and hosting the conference tournament. Schroeder’s status is still uncertain, but with or without him the team will need to play more consistently should it hope to win either game.
Both games tip off at 7:05 p.m.