Seniors come up big on Senior Night

In a fitting end to Senior Night at the Stott Center, the Portland State men’s basketball team pulled out a 69-64 win against the Montana State Bobcats, thanks to a clutch play by a pair of their senior leaders.

In a fitting end to Senior Night at the Stott Center, the Portland State men’s basketball team pulled out a 69-64 win against the Montana State Bobcats, thanks to a clutch play by a pair of their senior leaders. With .54 seconds left on the clock and the Vikings clinging to a 61-59 lead, senior guard Melvin Jones found fellow senior Phillip “Tree” Thomas open on the wing. Thomas turned and calmly nailed a jumper near the elbow that would ultimately prove to be the game-winning basket.

“I was supposed to come off the screen and swing it back to the other guard,” Jones explained. “But I saw Tree open and thought, why not give it to him for a wide-open jump shot, so it was senior to senior [for the last shot] and it doesn’t get any better than that on senior night.”

“It was perfect,” Thomas added. “Melvin is always looking for me, so all I had to do was catch the pass and knock it down.”

For the five seniors on the Vikings’ roster who started the game—forwards Phil Nelson and Paul Guede, guard Alonzo Brandon, along with Thomas and Jones—a win in the last home game of their college careers was all they could ask for.

“It was a great feeling. I love the support that the Portland State fans have given me and I’m just glad that we were able to give them a good show for our last night,” Thomas said.

“It was a very nice ending, especially with my family members here,” Jones said with a smile. “And it’s always good to get a win on your last home game, there’s no better feeling.”

After a tough 85-84 loss to Montana last Thursday night, the team found themselves in another intense back-and-forth battle against Montana State, although this didn’t come as a surprise to head coach Tyler Geving.

“Thursday night was an emotional game, and guys are tired,” Geving said. “So I knew it was going to be a tough one.”

Added Geving with pride, “But they responded when we needed to. They could have easily quit and packed it in, but we didn’t.”

Despite taking a 30-23 lead into halftime, Portland State came out of the break sluggish, allowing Montana State to begin the period on a 10-2 run. The Bobcats (12-17, 6-9 BSC), took their biggest lead at 53-43 with just over nine minutes remaining in the game. However, the Vikings remained resilient, responding with a 15-4 run of their own. Junior guard and the team’s leading scorer, Charles Odum, took over the game, scoring 10 of the Viking’s 15 points during the crucial stretch, including back-to-back three-pointers to spark the run.

“Charles was huge. He’s such a competitive kid. [His] strength is his weakness. [He’s] so stubborn at times, but that’s also what makes him good, because he’s a stubborn kid that’s going to will his way to a win,” Geving remarked. “Sometimes it gets the best of him and [we] joke about it, but it’s [part] of what makes him a good player…he won’t back down from anyone or take no for an answer.”

“We knew they were going to go on a run in the second half, but we just made sure we were prepared for it,” Thomas said. “The game’s never over no matter how many points you’re down, so we just stayed poised, and fortunately we were able to pull it out.”

Overall, the Vikings won the key hustle categories. They out-rebounded Montana State 41-36, had more points off turnovers (14-9), more points in the paint (12-5), and more fast break points (8-6). Portland State was efficient offensively, dishing out 14 assists and only committing eight turnovers. They were also solid defensively, holding the Bobcats to 39.7 percent shooting for the game.

“We look at three things every game: Did we out-rebound them? Hold them to 40 percent [shooting]? And not turning it over more than 10 times?” Geving pointed out. “If you do all three of those, then you give yourself a pretty good chance to win.”

The Vikings are currently in seventh place in the Big Sky with a record of 13-15, 5-10 BSC. With two road games left in the season, the Vikings need just one win to better last year’s mark of 13-19. Portland State will face Northern Arizona on the road tomorrow night with tipoff scheduled for 5:35 p.m. The game can be followed through Big Sky TV, and the link is located at under ‘LIVE EVENTS’. The game will also be televised on Fox Sports Northwest.

“It means a lot to [improve on last season],” Thomas said. “It’s not going to be easy out on the road. We’re going to have to focus, work hard and play together as a team.” ?