Portland State Vikings vs. Montana State Bobcats

Mens basketball

Saturday, Jan. 29, 7 p.m.
Stott Center
(13-6, 5-2 Big Sky) (10-9, 5-1 Big Sky)
The Vikings battled a scrappy Montana team Thursday night, finally putting the Grizzlies away 89-77. Portland State was led by once again by Seamus Boxely, who poured in 19 points, 8 boards and 7 assists. The Bobcats stand as definitive proof that the Big Sky is one of the most unpredictable conferences in the nation. Picked by media and coaches to finish last in the conference, the Cats success is a testament to head coach Mick Durham’s ability to integrate four new JC transfers into the starting lineup and seemingly avoid the transition period. Transfers Marvin Moss, Branden Miller and Ja’Ron Jefferson are ranked in the top six in conference scoring, while Moss and fellow transfer Al Beye are averaging over five rebounds per game.

Three weeks ago, with a roster full of JC transfers and a 5-8 record the Cats looked destined for a rebuilding season and likely to finish near the bottom of the Big Sky. But three consecutive road wins to start the conference season, one in overtime and one on a last second three pointer, got MSU off to a hot start, though they fell to Eastern Washington by double digits Thursday. Portland State now gets a chance to see whether Montana State’s Big Sky spurt was due to skill or simply early season luck.

The Vikings should have a muscle and size advantage against MSU and they will need to use if they hope to beat one of the most well-rounded offensive attacks in the conference. The Cats don’t turn the ball over much (14.7/game) and have a deeper bench than PSU thanks to Jake Schroeder’s broken foot, so the Vikings will have to keep their intensity and energy up to create the fast break opportunities they have thrived on.

Fun fact: In a testament to the fact that nepotism is alive and well, Cats freshman guard Casey Durham is in fact head coach Mick Durham’s son.



Women’s basketball
Saturday, Jan. 29

Portland State (2-13, 0-4 Big Sky) finishes its swing through Montana with a Saturday evening match-up against the Montana State Bobcats (7-11, 0-4 Big Sky). The Vikings will face a team in similar turmoil when they roll into Bozeman. The Bobcats are riding a eight-game losing streak, with all those losses coming on the road. Their most recent defeat came at Northern Arizona, where they were blown away 60-86.

Portland State finds itself in the midst of its own seven-game slide, though the team showed signs of life in a close 74-82 loss to Idaho State Saturday night, only to lose 53-73 at Montana Thursday. Heather Arns is averaging 15.7 points in Big Sky play so far and is only one of a multitude of players that have been stepping up offensive production of late. Ashley Brown has gone from bench warmer to solid contributor and leads the Vikings with three assists per game in Big Sky competition, to go along with her six points per contest.

The Vikings must shut down Kati Burrows, a 5-10 senior forward who is averaging 15 points and 7.3 boards per contest. She leads an offense as anemic as Portland State’s and is the Bobcats’ only double-digit scorer. After Thursday, one team will have a huge monkey off its back and the loser will still be searching for a bushel of bananas.

Fun fact: In a Jan. 6 game against Utah Valley State, Montana State and UVS combined for 65 points, with Utah Valley State pulling out an ugly 37-28 win at home. The Vikings defeated UVS 75-66 Dec. 28 at Stott Center.