Vikings lose tough road games in “Big Sky State”

Portland State men’s basketball got a reality check in the state of Montana last week, as the team dropped close games to Montana State Thursday night and Montana on Saturday.

Portland State men’s basketball got a reality check in the state of Montana last week, as the team dropped close games to Montana State Thursday night and Montana on Saturday.

The Vikings (9-8, 2-3 Big Sky) have now dropped into a tie for fifth place in the Big Sky Conference after the two-game winning streak they held last week has been replaced by their current two-game losing streak.

Against Montana State, the Vikings shot the ball relatively well as a team. They hit 24 of 53 from the field, 6 of 16 from behind the arc and nailed 11 of their 16 free throws, but it wasn’t enough. The Bobcats dominated the glass and controlled the paint on their way to a 74-65 victory.

Montana State out-rebounded the Vikings 42-33 and had more points inside with 42 compared to Portland State’s 30.

“Look at the rebounding stats, that’s the difference in the game,” said head coach Tyler Geving. “They had 19 offensive rebounds.”

Despite the losing effort, the Vikings were led by sophomore guard Chris Harriel, who had a team-high 17 points and eight rebounds. Harriel shot 7 of 15 from the field, and also recorded two steals.

Junior guard Charles Odum turned in an efficient performance, scoring 14 points on 5 of 7 shooting from the field. Odum was also a perfect 2 of 2 from distance and 2 of 2 from the free throw line, with three rebounds and three assists as well.

Things wouldn’t get any better for the Vikings over the weekend.

On Saturday night, Portland State lost another close road game 77-70 to Montana, despite keeping the game interesting down to the final moments.

The Vikings took a 32-30 lead into halftime, but Montana came out focused, taking a 62-51 lead with 5:21 to play. A pair of Harriel free throws would pull the Vikings within four points at 70-66, but ultimately, Montana’s aggressive defense made the difference in a competitive game that had 10 ties and eight lead-changes overall.

“Defensive breakdowns hurt us,” Odum explained after the loss. “They were able to take advantage and we gave up open shots on three consecutive possessions. That’s how they made their big run.”

Odum continued his stellar play, posting a career-high 24 points along with six rebounds and two assists. Since being inserted into the starting lineup, he is averaging 17.8 points in six games, while shooting .650 from the field, .688 from three-point range and .760 at the line.

“I’ve been keeping a clear mind,” Odum said about his recent outburst. “[I’m] just focusing on the moment, and going out and playing hard every night.”

The Vikings got another career performance from senior forward Phillip “Tree” Thomas, who scored a career-high 18 points on 7-of-10 shooting from the field. Portland State’s leading scorer Harriel struggled to really find his rhythm, hitting only 4-of-15 from the field and 0-of-5 from three-point range. However, Harriel still managed to record a double-double with 12 points and 10 rebounds.

Playing the Montana schools hasn’t been the most positive of experiences for Portland State. The Vikings are now 3-12 all-time at Montana and 3-13 all-time at Montana State in Big Sky conference action.

This week served as an early measuring stick in the Big Sky Conference, as three teams have started to separate themselves from the rest of the pack. Both Montana schools are tied for second with 4-1 records and Northern Colorado sits atop the standings at 5-0. The Vikings are stuck in the middle, currently tied for fifth place with Northern Arizona, both with records of 2-3 in conference.

The Vikings will return home to host fourth-place Weber State (9-7, 3-2 Big Sky) on Thursday night. Tipoff is scheduled for 7:05 p.m. at the Stott Center.

“We’ve got to focus on our practice habits and making sure we put the work in,” Odum said. “And we have to keep improving and keep getting better as a team every week.” ?