Post up, or shut up

For most of the season, the Vikings’ prolific outside shooting has masked their biggest weakness: inconsistent post presence on the offensive end.

For most of the season, the Vikings’ prolific outside shooting has masked their biggest weakness: inconsistent post presence on the offensive end.

Senior center Scott Morrison, the team’s third leading scorer at 9.7 points per contest, has done a yeoman’s work on the boards this year, but has rarely been a focal point of the offense. But the further Portland State (10-8, 3-2 BSC) moves into the Big Sky schedule, the more imperative it will be for post players like Morrison and sophomore forward Julius Thomas to score from the low block.

“It’s important for us to have a post presence,” said head coach Ken Bone. “Weber State pushed [Morrison and Thomas] off the block and made things difficult. But at Idaho State we were able to capitalize on a post presence and get to the free-throw line.”

The said presence, which led to a 71-61 victory over the Bengals (5-11, 2-1 BSC), came in the form of Morrison, who was aggressive in hitting the offensive boards and looking for his shot.

The result was his best performance of the season-16 points and 10 rebounds-while going 8 of 11 from the free-throw line. Eleven free-throw attempts are a season high for a Vikings player and just the second time a player has gotten to the line for double-digit attempts this year.

With Morrison providing a scoring threat down low, Idaho State was forced to collapse their zone and focus on the paint, freeing up the Vikings’ outside shooters to go to work.

“If I’m getting great post position, around 7 or 8 feet, I need to turn and look at the basket,” Morrison said. “Usually I kick it back out, but coaches have been stressing that more, they want me to be more selfish.”

In 18 games this season, Portland State has fired up 407 three-point field goals, which is almost 23 a night. That represents 41 percent of all the field goals the Vikings have attempted, a sizeable increase from 33 percent a year ago.

Morrison and Thomas have been key contributors to the team’s success from beyond the arc, routinely passing out of the post to find open shooters. However, every once in a while they need to turn and look to score from the post. The inside threat will keep opponents honest defensively, preventing them from extending their pressure and overplaying on the perimeter.

“It makes it pretty easy for me,” said senior guard Deonte Huff. “Having someone scoring down low opens up a lot for the wings.”

Morrison, a 6-foot-11 native of British Columbia, has the size and athleticism to dominate night in and night out, but as the saying goes, size isn’t everything. Without a doubt, Morrison will go down as one of the greatest defensive centers in Portland State history for his knack to block shots (he is currently fifth in the BSC at 1.1 blocks per game). But over the last 11 games of his career, it may be his ability to play aggressively and put pressure on opposing defenders that defines his final season.

“Scott’s a big kid, and maybe at times he’s a little too nice. When he gets nasty is when he’s at his best,” Bone said.

Spending three days in Pocatello last weekend, Morrison was asked by junior guard Mickey Polis what it is like to travel to all the Big Sky schools for the final time.

It forced him to reflect.

“It feels weird. It’s starting to click more and more each day,” Morrison said. “Coach was saying there’s only seven weeks left. Seven weeks, man. I don’t know where the time went.”

Just a peek: Vikings’ season

Points per game: 69.1Points in the paint: 25.4 per gamePoints from 3-pointers: 26.4 per gamePoints from free throws: 11 per game3-point percentage: 38 percentOverall field-goal percentage: 45 percentField goals attempted: 9843-point field goals: 407; 41 percent of attempts Average 3-pointers made: 8.8