Portland State lights up Linfield

Portland State won’t have too many problems scoring points this season.

Portland State won’t have too many problems scoring points this season. The Vikings showed off the run-and-gun style that made them the highest scoring Big Sky offense last season, torching Linfield 119-74 at the Stott Center on Friday night.  

Nearly a thousand fans came out to see the Vikings’ final exhibition game before the regular season, which begins next Friday, and were treated to a balanced offensive attack that saw six players score in double figures. Ten of the 11

Vikings who checked into the game found their way onto the scoring sheet, led by senior guard Melvin Jones, who poured in a game-high 24 points.

After storming out to a 5-0 lead, Portland State appeared to tighten up, allowing Linfield to gather some early momentum. Despite being over-matched physically, Linfield took advantage of the Vikings’ porous defense, moving the ball freely, hitting cutters through the middle and even taking a 19-16 lead at one point.   

“A lot of it had to do with it being the first game of the season,” Jones said. “You know, the first time getting on the uniforms and actually playing with a crowd.”

“We came out a little hesitant, a little flat,” head coach Tyler Geving added. “That’s kind of expected the first time you come out and play in front of a crowd, but (the guys) responded well.”  

Once they got past the opening jitters, the Viking’s athleticism and overall talent started to wear down the smaller Linfield team. Portland State began to pick apart Linfield’s 2-3 zone, eventually leading to a three-pointer by sharp-shooting sophomore guard Chris Harriel (17 points, 5 rebounds, 2 assists, 3 of 6 3-pointers for the game), giving the team a 28-26 lead 10 minutes into the first half.  

The Vikings would never look back.

Finishing the last five minutes of the first half on an 18-8 run, PSU took a 61-41 lead into the break. They opened the second half with the same intensity with which they closed the first—stepping up their defensive pressure, getting their hands on loose balls and forcing turnovers. The Vikings outscored Linfield 16-4 in the opening five minutes of the second half, essentially putting the game out of reach.  

The aggressive and fast-paced tone the Vikings set was evident in the stat sheet. Portland State won the turnover battle 24-13, creating 39 points off of turnovers and gaining a 26-2 advantage in fast-break points. They out-rebounded Linfield 44-23 and also dominated the inside, outscoring their opponents 34-28 in the paint.  

Individually, many Vikings had solid nights as well.

Junior forward Chehales Tapscott led the team with seven boards, pulling down four offensive rebounds to go along with his nine points. Senior forward Phil Nelson displayed his deadly stroke from long-distance, hitting 4-of-9 from beyond the arc on his way to 16 points.

Off the bench, junior guard Charles Odum provided energy, defense and an all-around game with 11 points, four rebounds, four assists and three steals for the night. Senior forward Phillip “Tree” Thomas was a force inside for the second unit as well, scoring 15 points and grabbing four rebounds.

In the end, it was Jones who stole the show. Making the transition from the shooting-guard to the starting point-guard this season, the senior played a complete floor game, dishing out a team-high six assists to go along with his four rebounds, three steals and 24 points.  

“This year I’m out there to run the offense and get other people involved,” Jones said. “So, I just try to play within the offense and take the shots when they come to me.”

Jones recognized the impact that his experience has had.  

“I felt a lot more relaxed [tonight],” Jones noted. “I’ve been through it before, and I just felt a lot more comfortable out there.”

However, after the game Coach Geving wasn’t all smiles. Geving was upset about his team’s lack of defensive intensity for the full 40 minutes.  The Vikings allowed Linfield to shoot nearly 50 percent from the field, capped by center K.C. Wiser’s 19 points on 9-of-16 shooting.  

“[Linfield] moved the ball too easy,” Geving said. “Our help defense wasn’t very good either.”  

But when times get tough, you rely on your strengths, and that’s what the Vikings did. Portland State’s explosive offense pushed the ball quickly up the court and probed the perimeter, knocking down 15 of 31 shots from 3-point range.    

“[Shooting] has been a strength of ours in the past,” Geving said. “It’s something we can definitely hang our hats on.”

The big game-hat may go to Jones tonight (4-of-6 3-pointers), but Jones knows that it’s his senior year, his “last chance” as he calls it, and was eager to get out there and soak up every moment.  

“Ever since last year ended I couldn’t wait to get back on the court in front of the fans,” Jones said with a smile. “It felt really good.”

Portland State starts the regular season against Pepperdine Friday at the Stott Center. ?