Three games in three days

Portland State men’s basketball hardly has time to catch its breath after an emotional last-second win in the team’s season-opener against Pepperdine last Friday.

Portland State men’s basketball hardly has time to catch its breath after an emotional last-second win in the team’s season-opener against Pepperdine last Friday.

This weekend, the Vikings play three games in three days at the Southern Methodist University Classic in Dallas, Texas. Lamar University and UC Riverside, along with Portland State and hosts SMU, will compete in the four-team, round-robin tournament.

The tournament will run two games per day, starting this morning and finishing Sunday afternoon, as each team plays every participant once. Though Portland State will not be able to play in the NCAA Tournament this year due to NCAA sanctions for past season’s academic violations, the SMU Classic will offer the team a chance to gain experience in a tournament-style setting.

“Whether you win or lose, it doesn’t matter, you’ve got to come back and play the next night. So you’ve got to turn the page quickly,” second-year head coach Tyler Geving said. “It tests your mental capabilities as a team.”

Junior Charles Odum said the Southern Methodist Classic will be a valuable experience for the Vikings.

“Back-to-back-to-back games are real tough, especially when you take into account injuries, sore bodies, aches and pains,” Odum said. “So, it’s more of mental thing—getting over that mental wall that will probably come after the second game.”

“Mentally, are we going to be able to bounce back and play another game the next day?” Geving wondered.

Mental toughness and focus won’t be the only challenges this weekend. Playing three consecutive games will be a physical burden and the Vikings’ depth will be put to the test.

Portland State is already down one senior. Phil Nelson—the team’s leading scorer with 12.9 points per game last season—injured his ankle and is expected to be out four to six weeks. Now, the Vikings will need production from players like Odum, who’s usually the first guard off the bench, and other supporting players like juniors Terry Coleman, Nate Lozeau and Dane Johnson.

“Hopefully, we can develop a little more depth,” Gevin said. “[Players] will have a chance to show what they can do…and earn minutes.”

Portland State opens the tournament playing SMU, with tip-off scheduled for 1 p.m. today. The Vikings then face Lamar at 1 p.m. Saturday, and UC Riverside at 2:30 p.m. Sunday.

“We’re taking every game one at a time,” Odum said. “We’re focused. Everybody is preparing to play hard and compete. No distractions; it’s a business trip.”

“All three games should come down to the wire,” Geving said. “All four teams are evenly matched, I don’t think there’s one team that’s way ahead of the others.”

For the Vikings to have success this weekend, sophomore Chehales Tapscott (15 points, eight rebounds, 7 of 10 free throws) must be a consistent force inside. Sophomore guard Chris Harriel (16 points, six rebounds, two blocks and one steal) will need to keep up his contributions as well.

Additionally, seniors Melvin Jones, Paul Guede, and Philip “Tree” Thomas need to show the value of their leadership and experience. Jones led the way in the season-opener against Pepperdine with 23 points, five assists, and five three-pointers.

“Once again, we feel we’ve got something to prove, every game we feel we have something to prove,” Odum said. “A lot of people don’t [expect much] from us this year, so every game we have to bring that intensity to prove [them] wrong.”

Geving has confidence that his team can overcome the challenges that face them.

Geving said about his team’s chances this weekend, “Play hard, get better defensively, get better on the glass—if we can improve on those areas then it should be a pretty good weekend for us.” ?