Vikings clip Eagles’ wings

Led by a pair of double-doubles posted by Chris Harriel and Chehales Tapscott, Portland State men’s basketball defeated visiting Eastern Washington, 75-58, Saturday night at the Stott Center.

Led by a pair of double-doubles posted by Chris Harriel and Chehales Tapscott, Portland State men’s basketball defeated visiting Eastern Washington, 75-58, Saturday night at the Stott Center.

With the win, the Vikings advance to 9-6 on the season and 2-1 in the Big Sky Conference. The Eagles now sit at 4-11 overall and 1-2 in conference.

Harriel, who is coming off a career-high 25-point performance in last week’s win over Idaho State, scored a team-leading 16 points Saturday. The sophomore guard’s 12 rebounds—all but one coming from the defensive end of the court—earned him his first double-double of the season. Harriel also chalked up three steals and three assists on the night.

Junior forward Tapscott, meanwhile, put up 12 points off 4-of-11 shooting, matching his 12 rebounds and earning him his league-leading fifth double-double of the season.

The Vikings now hold a six-game winning streak over the Eagles and will have the chance to extend the streak to seven games when they travel to Cheney, Wash. later this month. Portland State faces Eastern Washington for the second game of the series on Jan. 27.

Before an official attendance of 1,252—including Portland Trail Blazer Greg Oden—Tapscott kicked off the Viking attack with a jumper that was followed by a three-pointer from junior guard Charles Odum. With an early 5-0 lead in the opening minute, the Vikings never looked back.

PSU never trailed and the score was never tied.

“[Odum] is playing really well,” said second-year head coach Tyler Geving in a postgame radio interview. “He gets going with that full head of steam into the rim, and he’s tough to stop.”

Odum scored 15 points and had five assists and two steals in 30 minutes of play. He hit 5 of 6 from the field and 1 of 2 from a distance. In Big Sky Conference play, Odum is shooting .690 on 20 of 29 shots.

Though Eastern Washington’s Tremayne Johnson led the floor with 21 points from 8-17 shooting, the Portland State defense held the Eagles to a .308 shooting mark (20 of 65 shots), including .276 from beyond the arc (8 of 29). In a statement released to the media, Geving attributed his team’s success to the defensive pressure the Vikings were able to maintain.

“We did a pretty good job of getting out and stopping them, and we got out and guarded the three-point line very well,” he said.

The Vikings hit 24 of their 54 shots from the field for an overall shooting percentage of .444 on the night. They shot .333 from three-point range on 8-of-24 shooting and made 18 of 27 free throws.

In addition to the win, Portland State also saw the return of senior forward Phil Nelson, who had missed 26 consecutive games leading up to Saturday because of a broken foot. Nelson originally injured his foot last January and missed the last 12 games of the 2009–10 season. He then reinjured his foot in November, causing him to miss the first half of this season.

Nelson entered the game early in the first half and played 16 minutes, hitting one trey and grabbing one rebound. In a radio interview he said his foot feels good and he hasn’t felt any pain since being cleared to play by the training staff.

“I’m ready to get up and down the court a little more and get my breath back,” he said. “Working on the bike is definitely different than coming out here and playing in a game.”

Prior to Saturday, Nelson’s last appearance was Jan. 23, 2009 at Idaho State, where his late three-pointer sent the game into an overtime period that PSU eventually lost.

“It’s hard to sit on the sidelines and watch the whole team,” Nelson said.

The Vikings are now 6-2 on their home court this season.

“That’s the thing I’m proud of, that we’ve kind of done it without Phil,” Geving said. “Now we’ve worked Phil back into the lineup a little bit, and I think those guys can play even better because they’re not playing as many minutes a night.”

Saturday’s victory also gave Portland State an edge over Eastern Washington in the race for the inaugural Dam Cup, a five-sport, yearlong rivalry competition between the two schools. The Vikings currently lead the competition 7-6, and with just two basketball games remaining, PSU will win the rivalry with a victory in either game.

Portland State senior guard Melvin Jones, who is scheduled to be highlighted on NBC’s Today Show at a date yet to be determined, had no problem performing with the spotlight on him. Jones led the floor with 11 points at the half and finished the night with 14 points.

“You know, [Jones] shot it well, and I think he’s having good floor games,” Geving said. “I’d like to see him have a few more assists, but he’s not turning the ball over and he’s doing a little bit better of a job of playing the point and becoming a little more comfortable there.”

Up next for the Vikings is a road trip to Bozeman, Mont., where they will continue league play as they face the Montana State Bobcats on Thursday. Geving said during his postgame radio interview that he feels the Big Sky is as balanced now as he has ever seen it.

“You’ve got to be ready to play. On the road, at home—it doesn’t matter.”

First tipoff against Montana State is set for 6:05 p.m., and the game will be broadcast on the radio at Freedom 970 AM. Live stats will also be available on ?