Viking basketball fans rushed the court Wednesday night to celebrate a Big Sky Tournament Championship and an automatic berth in the NCAA Tournament–both firsts in Portland State history. Senior point guard Brian Curtis dribbled out the final 15 seconds near center court while his teammates danced around him. When the horn finally sounded, confetti and streamers fell from the ceiling of the Rose Garden and Portland State fans flooded the court to be with the team. “It’s a great feeling,” said senior forward Deonte Huff. “You dream about this all your life.”
Viking basketball fans rushed the court Wednesday night to celebrate a Big Sky Tournament Championship and an automatic berth in the NCAA Tournament–both firsts in Portland State history.
Senior point guard Brian Curtis dribbled out the final 15 seconds near center court while his teammates danced around him. When the horn finally sounded, confetti and streamers fell from the ceiling of the Rose Garden and Portland State fans flooded the court to be with the team.
“It’s a great feeling,” said senior forward Deonte Huff. “You dream about this all your life.”
With a 67-51 victory over Northern Arizona Wednesday night in the championship game of the Big Sky Tournament, the Vikings secured a spot in the 65-team NCAA Tournament field, and the chance to make a run at a national championship.
“Just real happy and proud of the kids on the team,” said Portland State head coach Ken Bone. “I know how much goes into having a championship program. It’s not just the kids in the program, [it’s the] administration, assistant coaches, strength coach. Everybody’s played a big part in helping Portland State basketball get to this point.”
In the biggest game of the season so far, the Vikings, owners of the Big Sky’s highest powered offense, turned up the defensive pressure. Tuesday night the Lumberjacks shot a blistering 73 percent from beyond the three point line in their 75-70 semifinal win over Weber State. On Wednesday, the Vikings held them to 22 percent shooting from outside and 34 percent overall for the game. To make matters worse, Portland State scored 28 points off of 22 Northern Arizona turnovers.
The Vikings put the clamps on the Lumberjacks midway through the first half. With the game tied at 16-16, Portland State held Northern Arizona to four points over the last 12 minutes of the half, and took a 34-20 lead into the locker room.
Big Sky Player of the Year, junior point guard Jeremiah Dominguez, did not have his best outing of the season, scoring only nine points on 3 of 12 shooting, but had four crucial steals for the Vikings and a game-high six assists. Dominguez helped the Vikings manufacture extra possessions and scoring opportunities by hounding Lumberjack players and diving for lose balls.
“In these kinds of games, we’ve got to make up with effort plays and hustling all over the place,” said Northern Arizona senior forward Kyle Landry. “They sort of beat us to those plays.”
The Vikings had a four-minute scoring drought in the first half that senior forward Deonte Huff broke single handedly with two dramatic finishes at the rim. First, Huff scored and was then fouled on a lay-in after receiving a pass from Dominguez on a two-on-two fast break. On the ensuing possession, Huff intercepted a pass on the right wing and took it coast-to-coast for a high-flying, uncontested, one-handed jam in front of the Northern Arizona bench and Portland State cheering section.
“[Huff] played a key part at the start of the game. He had five points right off the bat,” Dominguez said. “He got us going, and once he got us going I think everybody picked up and followed along.”
Huff scored 13 of his game-high 17 points in the first half, but the second half belonged to Kyle Coston. The sophomore forward caught fire from the outside, knocking down 3 of 4 from beyond the arc in the final 20 minutes and scoring 14 points overall to help the Vikings secure the championship.
Landry managed 10 points and a game-high 11 rebounds, but senior center Scott Morrison was able to keep him ineffective for most of the game.
“I don’t think it’ll show up in the stats,” Landry said. “But [Morrison] played a hell of a game.”
Morrison failed to score a field goal in the Vikings’ two tournament games, but the Big Sky Defensive Player of the Year made his presence felt in other ways. He finished with three blocks and one steal Wednesday night, and was a consistent physical presence for the Vikings on the defensive block.
Deonte Huff was named Big Sky Tournament MVP. Coston and Dominguez joined the Lancaster, Calif., native on the All-Tournament team.
Portland State will not know whom it faces in the first round of the NCAA Tournament until Sunday afternoon. A selection party for the Vikings will be held at the downtown Buffalo Wild Wings starting at 2 p.m.