Points taken

With an opportunity to lay an early season hold on the Big Sky Conference championship, Portland State’s (14-3, 4-0 BSC) balanced scoring attack buried the Idaho State Bengals 97-57 at the Stott Center Saturday afternoon.

With an opportunity to lay an early season hold on the Big Sky Conference championship, Portland State’s (14-3, 4-0 BSC) balanced scoring attack buried the Idaho State Bengals 97-57 at the Stott Center Saturday afternoon.

The victory over the Bengals (10-5, 2-1BSC), who represented the conference in the 2007 NCAA Tournament, looked too easy from the 40-point differential indicated by the final score. But the Bengals are a formidable opponent initially expected to challenge Montana for the Big Sky crown this season, while Portland State was picked to finish sixth.

Aggressive team defense and solid rebounding has been the foundation for the Vikings’ success this season. Saturday’s game marked the first time since late November that Portland State’s offense performed as well as its defense, as the team executed nearly flawlessly.

The combination of the Vikings’ solid play on both ends of the court was too much for Idaho State, as the Bengals were held to their lowest point total and their lowest shooting percentage (32 percent) of the season.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, Portland State’s 97 points was only its second highest scoring total of this season but third highest in 12 seasons. Earlier this season, the Vikings scored 99 points in a loss at Utah Valley.

“We were able to execute the game plan there, and stop them from getting points the way they usually do,” said head coach Sherri Murrell. “We are at our best when we play aggressive basketball. We need to remain the hunter and not become the hunted.”

Junior forward Kelsey Kahle led the way, scoring 22 points, grabbing five rebounds and nabbing three steals in just 26 minutes. Kahle’s game-high point total came on just 11 attempts. Her offensive efficiency was mirrored throughout the entire squad, as the Vikings shot nearly 57 percent from the field in the game, including an amazing 72 percent in the second half.

Rising to the occasion with a stellar performance, senior guard Delaney Conway drew the tough assignment of defending all-conference performer Andrea Lightfoot. Conway locked down the talented senior guard, holding Lightfoot, averaging 15 points a game, scoreless for the first time in her Idaho State career.

“Delaney just played so well tonight,” Murrell said. “She is really the backbone of our team.”

Sophomore point guard Claire Faucher overcame a rough night from the field and managed ten points of her own, adding eight assists and seven rebounds.

“It is so much fun to play with this team. Claire does such a good job of distributing the ball and finding people when they need the ball,” Kahle said. “She makes things easy for us.”

Faucher’s most important play may not be visible from the box score, but was the fuel that powered the Vikings’ flame during a 25-8 run to close the first half. With 13 minutes left in the first half, Faucher drove aggressively to the hole, and was fouled by Natalie Doma, the senior center’s second foul.

Doma, who leads the conference in scoring, would come out for the rest of the half to avoid further foul trouble. The Vikings took advantage, proceeding to dominate what had been an even game until that point to secure a 45-28 halftime lead.

The win keeps the Viking’s atop the Big Sky Conference and brings further excitement to the program.

Trying to “Stuff the Stott”

The Portland State Athletic Department promoted Saturday’s game against the Bengals as “Stuff the Stott,” where admission was free to everyone in an attempt to break the attendance record of 1,056 fans at a Vikings women’s basketball game.

With only 829 in attendance to see the Vikings win 97-57 over Idaho State, the attempt at breaking the record fell short, though the gym was alive, the crowd was loud and emotions were high.

Kasey Swathorne, a Portlander who attended the game with a couple friends, heard about the free admission through an organization with which he volunteers.

“Normally I probably wouldn’t attend a game here. But this is a very fun, intimate environment, and the team is very good and exciting,” Swathorne said.

Portland State students also opted to take part in the “Stuff the Stott” promotion, encountering a couple surprises along the way.

“I haven’t been to a game this year, but I came to a few last year, and this is much better and more exciting,” Corey Fetterie said. “I actually like watching girls basketball better than guys, because it seems more teamwork-oriented.”

Women’s basketball honors

Portland State has sprinted out to its best start since joining the Big Sky Conference at 14-3, and a perfect 4-0 against conference foes.

Now the Vikings’ best all-around player is receiving some recognition, as junior forward Kelsey Kahle was named Big Sky Player of the Week on Monday.

Kahle, who received the award earlier this season and eight times in her three-year career, averaged 18 points, 7.5 rebounds and 3.5 steals to help the Vikings prevail versus Weber State and Idaho State this past week.

In Portland State’s 97-57 victory over Idaho State Saturday, Kahle scored a team-high 22 points and shot nine of 11 from the field. The 5-foot-10 forward is the Big Sky’s second leading scorer at 17.8 points per contest through 17 games this season.

Like Kahle, senior forward Delaney Conway was honored with the conference player of the week award twice this season.