Women’s basketball opens season with win

With less than a second on the clock, junior forward Kelli Valentine tossed up the final shot of the Portland State women’s basketball season opener against Washington on Saturday.

With less than a second on the clock, junior forward Kelli Valentine tossed up the final shot of the Portland State women’s basketball season opener against Washington on Saturday.

The final buzzer rang through the Stott Center as the ball sailed toward the basket, and when the ball dropped through the net, the Vikings chalked up their first win of the season in dramatic form.

The Vikings celebrated a narrow 67-66 victory over the Huskies, a Pac-10 team that Portland failed to beat in seven previous tries.

Though the first half saw the Vikings struggling to keep up, the end of the second half displayed Portland State players at their finest. The game began with the Vikings gaining a slight lead early on, but a high number of turnovers in the first half were not in Portland State’s favor.

“At halftime our assist number was lower than usual, so it was pretty much a team effort [after that],” Valentine said after the victory.

The Vikings posted only five assists in the first half, all coming from senior guard Claire Faucher. The number of turnovers was relatively high coming out of the first half, with the Vikings posting 12 to Washington’s eight.

The Vikings knew they would have to work to beat the Huskies, but with a number of missed shots in the first half, along with missed passes from the outside, Portland State struggled to keep up with its competition.

Head coach Sherri Murrell credits the missed shots to her players becoming overly worried about the size of the Washington squad.

The Huskies managed to increase their lead to 11 points in a portion of the first half, largely by dominating over the Vikings’ defense. Washington finished the half, making 14 of their 33 field goal attempts, with leading scorer forward Sami Whitcomb posting four.

After the first half, Portland State was ready to show they meant business. Valentine said the overall intensity and confidence level of her team were keys to the second-half success.

“We just realized we needed to focus on playing our game,” she said.

Murrell agreed that her squad’s confidence differed in the first and second halves.

“We did not display confidence through the whole game, but we did display confidence in the last five minutes,” Murrell said. “When you have an opponent that has had struggles, then the last five minutes is all about confidence.”

And confidence they had. During the first half, Valentine scored eight points. She doubled her number during the second half and ended the game as the team’s leader with 24 points. As a team, the Vikings moved from a 36.7 field-goal percentage in the first half, to 40.6 percent in the second. Even more drastically, accuracy on the line improved from 58.3 percent to 75 percent.

In the game’s final minutes, the Vikings demonstrated confidence and ability by coming back and scoring 11 of the last 13 points of the game. With less than a minute on the clock, Faucher nailed two free throws to bring the team to within five points.

Jumpers by freshman guard Karley Lampman and Valentine sliced Washington’s lead to one, and with Faucher fouling out with 14 seconds left, Murrell called a time-out with 2.8 seconds remaining to set up the winning play.

In what is probably her most memorable assist yet, according to Murrell, sophomore guard Eryn Jones made the pass from the sideline to Valentine, who was open for the 13-foot game-winning jumper.

“She was the only one lighting it up, so we were designing pick-and-pop plays for her,” Murrell said.

She also noted that not only was Valentine’s shooting impressive, but also, her rebounding was equally on-point.

Murrell said that it wasn’t just Valentine’s last-second shot that led to the win—she also credits Lampman.

“She did a heck of a job with the jumper down at the end. She just has confidence,” Murrell said.

She added that the team, as a whole, kicked it into high gear during the second half. She said her girls knew that although Washington was a good team, they were better—Pac-10 or not, they expect to win every game.

With Saturday’s nail-biting finish, the Vikings proved themselves as competitors, even against a team outside their league. Increased shot accuracy, fast-paced offense and tighter defense all lent to an improved second half, and a winning game.

Portland State travels to Boise State for their next game at 6 p.m. on Thursday.