Vikings look for success on the road

Portland State men’s basketball has taken its act on the road this week to face Sacramento State and Northern Colorado in Big Sky Conference play.

Portland State men’s basketball has taken its act on the road this week to face Sacramento State and Northern Colorado in Big Sky Conference play.

The Vikings (11-10, 4-5 Big Sky) are tied with Eastern Washington for sixth place in the conference standings and look to make their way to the top of the table with wins over the Hornets and Bears.

Although players are still hampered by injuries, head coach Tyler Geving isn’t ready to make any excuses for his team.

“We have the talent on this roster to be one of the top teams in this conference—I think we’ve proven that,” Geving said. “It’s about playing at a high level consistently.”

The Vikings played Sacramento State last night, the results of which were not available as of press time. This was the second game of a back-to-back two-game series with Sacramento State, and the Vikings already beat them last week 86-80 at the Stott Center. The odds may be in the Vikings’ favor, as they have won their last eight meetings with Sacramento State, and are 22-9 all-time in the series, but the team isn’t taking anything for granted.

“We can’t overlook [Sacramento State],” senior guard Melvin Jones said. “Playing them at their place, on the road, is totally different.”

Portland State has had its difficulties away from home this season, managing only a 1-7 record in road games. However, if the Vikings hope to separate themselves from the middle of the pack in the Big Sky, it is essential for them to prove they can go into hostile environments and find success.

“We haven’t really won on the road,” junior guard Charles Odum said. “But there were games we played pretty well and maybe should have won. We just have to keep working.”

On Saturday night, Portland State faces a stiff challenge as the team squares off against second-place Northern Colorado at Butler-Hancock Pavilion in Greeley, Colo. The Bears enter the contest with an 11-9 record overall and 7-2 in league play. The two teams already met this season in late December, with the Vikings falling to the Bears 79-66 at the Stott Center.

Although Northern Colorado is currently riding a two-game losing streak, the Bears have dominated Big Sky play with solid defense, sharp shooting and tough rebounding. They rank second in the conference in three-point percentage and fourth in rebounds per game. Portland State is second in the Big Sky in scoring average, but ranks seventh in rebounds per game.

Without starting junior forward Chehales Tapscott and junior center Nate Lozeau, who are both sidelined due to injuries, the Vikings have been searching for consistent inside play and production on the glass.

Lozeau has missed four games with a severe ankle sprain, but could return to action sometime in the next week. Tapscott underwent surgery last week to repair damaged cartilage in his knee and could miss up to 2-3 weeks. In total, Portland State players have missed 30 games to injury so far this season.

“We can’t think about the [injuries],” Geving said. “We have to go with what we have and keep moving forward.”

Despite the setbacks, the Vikings are still within striking distance for a top-four finish in the Big Sky. Senior forward Phillip “Tree” Thomas has stepped up to help fill the void up front, scoring a career-high 29 points against Sacramento State last week. Odum continued his strong play in recent weeks and is averaging 17.0 points, 4.4 rebounds and 2.8 assists in Big Sky games.

In Geving’s second year as head coach, Portland State is on pace to outdo their 13-19 overall record last season. With seven games left in the conference play and four of those seven on the road, the Vikings are motivated to show they’re truly one of the top teams in the conference this season.

“It’s a big test for us,” Jones said. “And they beat us at home, so we have to get them back.” ?