The guards are going to be running the show this year for Portland State. In fact, they might well be the main attraction. Relying on their outside shooters, the Vikings toughed out an 83-74 win over plucky Division II school Seattle University Friday at the Stott Center in their season-opening exhibition match.
The Redhawks came out hard and had the game tied up at the half, but the Vikings fought back in their first game under new head coach Ken Bone. Junior-college transfer Juma Kamara sparked a 13-0 Viking run with a three-pointer off a Jake Schroeder assist to start the second half. Senior forward Tyler Hollist hit a jumper and Schroeder, the Viks’ senior starting off-guard, added another three.
The Vikings had the game iced three minutes into the second half with the score 54-41. Seattle University would get no closer than six the rest of the way. The Viks would finish shooting 47 percent overall and 45 percent from three while holding Seattle to 34 percent shooting in the second half. Seattle finished shooting 45 percent overall.
With nine three-pointers on only 20 tries, Portland State proved it is stacked with shooters this year, something that will help mask the fact that this team needs probably 10 more games to gel before they are ready to play Big Sky basketball.
But when the Vikings do start their conference season, they’ll have some potent offensive weapons. Junior guard Paul Hafford came off the bench to shock the Redhawks with 19 points, including four threes after red-shirting in 2005. Hafford also recorded three assists, a rebound and two steals.
“My plan [was] just to play solid basketball,” Hafford said. “On our team, everyone is going to have their night.”
Many Vikings had their night on Friday. There are several names to watch and many of them will be unfamiliar to those who followed last year’s 19-9 team that featured star Seamus Boxley at power forward, crowd-pleasing highflier Blake Walker and the nation’s assists leader, point guard Will Funn. There is no Boxley this year to bail Portland State out. If the Vikings hope to win games this year, they’ll win with the team effort they got Friday night.
Veteran starter Schroeder came away with 15 points and JC transfer Ryan Sommer added 13 points and seven assists in his Viking debut. Freshman forward Tyrell Mara was impressive in 17 minutes of action, scoring six points and grabbing two boards while being a vocal leader on the court. Kamara finished with eight points on 2-3 shooting and five rebounds.
In his first action in over a year and a half, junior 6-foot-9-inch center Anthony Washington scored six points and grabbed eight boards in 23 minutes. Washington announced his arrival in the South Park Blocks with a thunderous one-handed alleyoop dunk over a couple of Redhawks in the second half that brought the crowd of 1,208 to their feet. Sophomore center Scott Morrison came off the bench and had 10 points and four rebounds, at times sharing the court with Washington.
“I hadn’t been on the court in a year and a half. I was a little too excited,” Washington said. “We could have played better but we closed the game.”
The Vikings did appear sloppy at times in the win. They committed 17 turnovers, including seven by new starting point guard Ryan Sommer. Washington and Schroeder both recorded four turns. Eleven of the Vikings’ 17 turnovers were committed in the first half when the Redhawks were still in the game.
“I liked the fact that they were trapping but we only had 17 turnovers,” head coach Ken Bone said. “And it was good to see Anthony Washington out there.”
Bone will now go about preparing his team for their extended road trip, which includes dates at Arkansas and a Thanksgiving berth in the Cyclone Challenge hosted by Iowa State. There are still some problems to fix, and the competition does not get any easier from here on out.
“The transition defense is not as good as it should be,” Bone said. “We need to get better at fronting the post.”
The Vikings will have to adjust on the fly. Their next game is Friday night in Fayetteville, Ark. The team will then face Bethune-Cookman before heading off to the Iowa State tourney. The team will not return home until Nov. 26.