The Vikings have lived and died by the three-point shot all season long. On Thursday night Portland State (11-15, 4-9 Big Sky) extended their season by easily dismissing the undermanned Montana State Bobcats 82-59 with a flurry of threes in the first half to build an insurmountable 48-28 lead.
The Bobcats (14-13, 6-6 Big Sky) and Vikings traded buckets early before PSU went on a 11-4 run to claim a 25-17 lead, capped by Ryan Sommer’s three-pointer. The Bobcats would rally to within three before falling behind 36-25 on Tyrell Mara’s lone hoop of the night. Senior forward Tyler Hollist hit one of his two three’s to end the half and give the Viks a 20-point lead.
The Vikings held the Bobcats to 34 percent shooting in the second stanza and cruised to a crucial win, preserving their chances at making the Big Sky tournament. Head coach Ken Bone was pleased with the easy win but realized the season could be over soon if the team cannot beat Montana on Saturday.
“It’s hard to have fun when it could be over in 45 hours,” Bone said. “But we’re playing with a good level of energy and confidence.”
The Vikings’ energy and confidence led to a season low eight turnovers to go with 23 assists. Senior guard Josh Neeley came off the bench to lead the Vikings with seven assists, to go along with seven points and a game high eight rebounds.
Junior center Anthony Washington scored 16 points and was a force down low all night long, capping his night with a forceful dunk in the second half. Junior forward Juma Kamara netted 12 points on 4-6 shooting and sophomore guard Ryan Sommer had 13 points and four assists with no turnovers.
“We knew we had to win it and we came out with a lot of energy,” Sommer said. “Our bigs, they’re starting to get it, when they get doubled we’re getting wide open shots.”
Portland State’s big men are indeed starting to play with confidence. Washington’s 16 points were a game high and Scott Morrison battled through a 1-10 shooting night to record four assists, including an assist on a Juma Kamara three to open the game.
“In the beginning it was back and forth, we got a couple stops here and there and busted the game wide open,” Kamara said. “Once we get the ball moving we’re hard to stop. Inside out, that’s our bread and butter.”
With the win the Vikings remain in contention for the sixth and final spot in the Big Sky tournament. At 4-9 in the Big Sky, the Vikings currently own the final spot with one game to play and largely control their own destiny. A win against Montana and a loss by 3-9 Idaho State would secure the berth. If PSU, ISU and Weber State all end the season at 4-10, the Vikings would get in due to their winning records over those two schools.
“We want to go after them (Montana) and show them what we got, we’re just fighting to stay alive,” Sommer said. “We have to come out and keep it close. There’s 40 minutes we have to play with our season on the line.”
The Vikings will take on the Montana Grizzlies this Saturday at 1 p.m. to close out the regular season. In other basketball news, the Portland State women’s basketball team beat MSU in Montana 88-82 to move to 11-13 on the year, including 5-6 in the Big Sky.