The women’s basketball team grabbed their first victory of the year against a Big Sky Conference opponent as part of a two-game homestand this weekend at the Stott Center. After falling to Weber State 71-54 on Friday, the Vikings regrouped and pulled out a gritty 84-82 win the following night against Eastern Washington, in a seesaw battle that went down to the final seconds.
The women’s basketball team grabbed their first victory of the year against a Big Sky Conference opponent as part of a two-game homestand this weekend at the Stott Center.
After falling to Weber State 71-54 on Friday, the Vikings regrouped and pulled out a gritty 84-82 win the following night against Eastern Washington, in a seesaw battle that went down to the final seconds.
Eastern Washington held the lead most of the way, but the Vikings drew even at 80 points with three minutes left. The score remained tied going into the final minute of play, when sophomore forward Kelsey Kahle hit three of four free throw attempts, giving Portland State the lead, 83-80. Eastern Washington cut the lead to one on a Phynique Allen layup with 13 seconds to go. Sophomore guard Stephisha Walton was fouled on the in-bounds pass, then sunk one of two free throws to push the lead to 2 points, at 84-82, in favor of the Vikings. A last-second desperation shot by Eastern Washington was well off the mark, giving Portland State the win.
“It feels amazing,” Kahle said of the team’s first conference win. “I think it’s just a boost for our team that everybody needed. We were pretty down, but we all know we can do it, and it just showed that we all came out tonight and played hard.”
Kahle led all players with 27 points, to go along with 11 rebounds, in what is becoming a trend of usual double-doubles for the Viking forward. Three other Portland State players, including Walton, freshman forward Erin Yankus and junior guard Delaney Conway, also scored in double-figures. After battling several games of cold shooting from the field, including Friday’s loss to Weber State, the Vikings broke out on Saturday, hitting 43.5 percent of their attempts.
“The first half we were at our normal 34 percent, second half we shot 54 percent. We just knocked down shots,” said Portland State head coach Charity Elliott. “Defensively, we did so many things right last night [against Weber State], but we couldn’t hit shots. Tonight we rewarded ourselves, we got some easy looks.”
The Vikings were also aided by a strong performance from freshman guard Claire Faucher, who logged a season-high 32 minutes in the game. Recently coming off an injury that sidelined her for nine games, Faucher facilitated the offense by dealing out 11 assists.
“Tonight was the Claire Faucher we’ve kind of been waiting for. She did a fantastic job, so we are really proud of her,” Elliott said.
The Vikings seemed to play with a sense of urgency, one day after a blowout defeat at the hands of Weber State. Saturday, Portland State fought its way to a victory-taking charges, diving for balls, stealing in-bounds passes, etc. The Vikings gave an overall gritty performance, energizing the home crowd at the Stott Center.
“What a great crowd we had tonight,” Elliott said of Saturday’s attendance. “I just felt like, you know what, we need a little extra energy in here. I thought the students were great, I thought the fans were great, and they helped us. We needed every single person in this gym here tonight.”
Portland State now heads out on the road for their next two games. Games away from the Stott Center have been the team’s Achilles’ heel this year, as they have yet to win one on the road. They look to change that starting Thursday, Jan. 18 against Northern Colorado. Two days later, they head to Flagstaff, Ariz. to take on Northern Arizona.
“Every game is going to be a battle. Every game. We knew that, we know that. Now, we’ve got to be able to go on the road now and steal a win from somebody. So that’s our next goal, trying to get a win on the road,” Elliott said.