The Vikings dominated the Northern Arizona Lumberjacks (7-8, 0-2) in an impressive 91-78 victory Saturday night at the Stott Center to cap a clean seven-game sweep of the longest homestand in program history. Both teams were cited as favorites to win the Big Sky Conference by coaches in a recent media conference call, but the Vikings left little doubt as to who is the stronger team at this point in the season.
With the win the Vikings moved to a conference best 11-4 on the season and remained undefeated in conference play at 3-0. Perhaps more importantly considering the Vikings easy early schedule, they defeated a quality NAU team and put together their most consistent 40 minutes to date.
Junior Jake Schroeder staked the Vikings to an early 16-8 lead with nine quick points and they never looked back, holding the lead the entire game. Head coach Heath Schroyer recruited Schroeder after last year’s team struggled to make outside shots, and was excited about how Saturday’s results bode for the future. "He gives us a different dimension that we haven’t had since I’ve been here," he said. "Jake makes the floor wider and he extends the floor because defensively you have to chase him which opens up more driving lanes for our perimeter players."
Schroeder’s hot hand (23 points, 6-12 3-pt field goals) led the Vikings to a season-best 59.6 percent from the floor as they had their way with the lumbering Lumberjack defense from both the perimeter (42.9 percent on 3-pt field goals) and the paint, where they outscored NAU by 14.
Kyle Feuerbach, one of only two seniors on the NAU squad, kept the Lumberjacks in the game with 13 straight points in a four-minute period before and after halftime, but his heroics were not enough to overcome the Vikings otherworldly shooting.
Whether Boxley earns conference MVP honors won’t be determined until March, but his performances last week against NAU and Sacramento State (43 points on 75 percent shooting) did earn him Co-Big Sky Player of the Week honors.
By the time Adras’ frustration boiled over and the referees gave him a technical, PSU led by 11 with a little over seven minutes remaining and the game in hand.
The strong performances of Schroeder and Boxley were but two of many highlights in what Schroyer agreed was the Vikings best game of the year. "I thought we had some breakdowns, but I thought our effort and intensity were there for 40 minutes," he said. "As a coach I can live with mistakes, but I was just glad we played on our toes for 40 minutes."
The Vikings’ strong play also made a believer out of Adras: "They’re a good team. The difference is that they have so many seniors. Four of them are big time contributors. Seamus is probably the premier player in the conference and he’s not alone."
The Vikings travel to Cheney, Wash. later this week for a Saturday night showdown with the reigning Big Sky champion Eastern Washington Eagles (5-10, 2-0 Big Sky). A Big Sky road win would go a long way towards answering any outstanding questions about the Vikings, and would extend PSU’s winning streak to a school record-tying eight games. It would also entrench the Vikings atop the Big Sky.