Starting a new streak

Behind a breakthrough performance from junior forward Phil Nelson, the Vikings trounced the Bengals and improved their conference record to 3-1.

Behind a breakthrough performance from junior forward Phil Nelson, the Vikings trounced the Bengals and improved their conference record to 3-1.

Nelson had perhaps his best performance this season, scoring 23 points and connecting on seven of 10 shots from the field, in a satisfying victory in front of a Stott Center crowd of 1,431.

Nelson and the rest of the starters got off to a hot start to begin the game, taking a quick 12-2 lead over the visiting Bengals. Nelson’s play highlighted the early lead as the Washington transfer demonstrated his athleticism with two flashy dunks.

“Thinking about that last game against Weber State we didn’t play that hard,” Nelson said. “We played great in the first half tonight.”

Nelson’s fine offensive play continued throughout the game as the McNary High product connected on four of his six three-point attempts, despite wearing a protective face mask for the first time in his career.

Nelson wore the mask because of an injury around his right eye that was diagnosed on Friday. 

Although he said the mask felt uncomfortable and Nelson was seen constantly fidgeting and adjusting it during breaks in the game, he played one of his finest games of the season, according to head coach Ken Bone, who also offered Nelson some advice.

“He [Phil] looks good in it [the mask]. He should wear it to class,” Bone said.

Nelson’s play highlighted the solid victory for the Vikings, but the squad looked to be much improved and more energetic on the defensive end of the court compared with a lackluster effort against Weber State.

Portland State won the rebound battle, snatched 12 steals away from Idaho State and shared the basketball nicely, totaling 17 assists. The Bengals ended up with 14 turnovers that the Vikings converted into 30 points.

Idaho State was led by Chron Tatum’s 12 points, but the Bengals struggled to find an offensive rhythm for most of the night. Idaho State junior guard Amorrow Morgan had led the conference in scoring but was held to just 10 points on four field goal attempts.

After their hot start, the Vikings continued to increase the lead throughout the first half and led at intermission, 38-24.

On their way to their respected locker rooms the two teams managed to get in an altercation with some pushing and shoving. Most of the action in the fracas was unobservable to the game officials and the crowd and, as a result, there were no fouls or ejections assessed.

Portland State carried their intensity into the second half. The team scored 47 points as the Vikings pulled away from Idaho State down the stretch.

In addition to strong play from Nelson, junior point guard Jeremiah Dominguez scored nine points and had four steals, while big men Julius Thomas and Jamie Jones combined for 21 points, eight rebounds and four assists.

Now given a week off before their next game at Northern Colorado Sunday, the Vikings will hope to continue to get healthy and re-energized before a stretch run of conference games at the beginning of February.

“We need some time. It’s a good time to prepare physically and mentally,” Bone said.