Women take on Bobcats

Portland State women’s basketball got the raw end of the deal when their schedule came out.

Portland State women’s basketball got the raw end of the deal when their schedule came out. With back-to-back weekends against the top-ranked Montana teams, PSU is in for a tough end of the season.

The Vikings play at Montana State on Saturday at 6:05 p.m. They already played the Montana Grizzlies on Thursday, the results of which were not ready as of press time. PSU still has a chance at claiming a Big Sky regular season title, but it will take a sweep or near sweep of the remaining three games to achieve that feat.

The Vikings (15-10, 8-4 Big Sky) swept last weekend’s home slate, putting the team on a two-game winning streak overall and a five-game winning stretch at the Stott. PSU is sitting in third place in the rankings, but Montana and Montana State sit one game ahead, tied for second place with identical 9-3 conference records.

PSU has already secured a spot in the Big Sky Tournament, but needs to move up in the standings one place to earn an automatic bid to the semifinal round, and needs to claim nearly all wins to claim the regular season title.

Last Thursday, PSU beat the Weber State Wildcats, 68-60, to even the series after the Wildcats beat the Viks earlier in the season. In this matchup, junior guard Eryn Jones led the team in the first half with her signature three-point shooting. Jones made three treys in the opening half, and from there junior forward Shauneice Samms took the reigns in the second half, making 17 of the Viks’ 35 second-half points.

On Saturday, PSU took on Northern Arizona again in Park Blocks. The Vikings beat the Lumberjacks 76-55. After forwards such as Samms and senior Kelli Valentine led the offense much of the last few weeks, it was back to the guards against the ‘Jacks. Jones and sophomore Courtney VanBrocklin led the team in points with 16 and 18, respectively.

The Viks will need to bring this game they’ve been playing at home on the road against Montana State. PSU has struggled away from the Stott Center, with all of its conference losses occurring away from home.

Head coach Sherri Murrell said that with the three games remaining, it is crucial to just focus on each game separately.

“I think our Big Sky Conference got something mixed up there [in the schedule],” Murrell said. “This is unreal that we’re playing them back-to-back, but we just have to focus one game at a time… and take some of the things we have done well this year and just apply it to [the Montanas].”

The Bobcats dominated the beginning of Big Sky play. The team went on a six-game winning streak halted by instate rivals Montana. The Bobcats continue to be a top team in Big Sky competition, although the second-ranked team did suffer an upset by the fifth-place Idaho State Bengals last Saturday, 74-65. The Bobcats played a Thursday game against Eastern Washington, but the results were not available as of press time.

Against the Bengals it was cold second-half shooting combined with tight defense from ISU that ended the game for the higher-ranked home team. Despite the loss, Montana State sophomore forward Rachel Semansky posted a game-high 23 points with seven rebounds.

Additionally, the Bobcats’ usual high-scorer, junior guard Katie Bussey, chalked up 12 points, and senior guard Lyndi Seidensticker pitched in 11.

Because of the unusual scheduling, the Viks and Bobcats have yet to face each other this season. The two teams have a huge memory of each other from last season, however—for the Bobcats the memory is bitter; for the Viks, a superior one. The Vikings knocked the Bobcats out of the Championship title last season, as the underdogs headed to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in PSU history.

It was a nail-biting 62-58 win over the Bobcats that surprised Big Sky fans and left Montana State in awe of the conclusion. Montana State is the only school in the Big Sky that has a winning record against Viking head coach Sherri Murrell, with MSU taking four of the six regular season meetings. In contrast, the Viks have taken the past two post-season matchups against the Bobcats. The results in wins and losses peg these two teams as relatively equal in play. The record for the past five years stands at 5-5 between the two.

The pressure is on for the Vikings this weekend and in the second weekend against the Montanas. In accordance with the standings, the Viks are one game behind Montana State and Montana, who are tied for second place, and only 1.5 games behind the conference leader Northern Colorado.

This position of needing to win out games is not unfamiliar for the Vikings. The team proved itself last season as a group that can defy all odds when the players beat MSU in the championship game, and they will need to give the remaining teams a taste of Portland State persistency as the team heads against high-powered MSU.

VanBrocklin said that the pressure of a solid team is something that the Vikings use to their advantage.

“We play up to better teams, so we’re going to play hard and get after it,” said the sophomore about the upcoming Montana State game. 

Saturday’s tipoff is set for 6:05 p.m. in Bozeman, Mont. Live video and stats will be available through GoViks.com. ?