After completing a grueling six-game road trip, the Vikings (7-9, 1-2 Big Sky) finally return to face some fierce competition as the regular season winds down to its last 11 games. All of the remaining games will determine the standings in the Big Sky Conference and a chance at the Big Sky tournament. Seven of those remaining games will be at the Stott Center.
The weekend capped a harsh end to a road trip for the Viks with a great showing out of Heather Arns in last Saturday’s game. Arns finally came out and led her team with a stellar performance scoring a career-high 28 points. The 93-80 win over Idaho State snapped a five-game losing streak. Arns went 11 of 15 from the floor, including four of six from beyond the arc, and just missed a double-double by notching a team-high nine rebounds.
The Bengals stayed in the game with 17:47 left to go on a three-pointer to tie the game at 52-52. But after two big free-throws by Kelsey Kahle, the Viks went on a 10-3 run that ended Idaho’s chances at a win.
Kelsey Kahle is having an awesome freshman year coming out of the gate and is dominating. She is number one in the Big Sky Conference in points per game and rebounds per game. She also leads the Big Sky in 20-point games with seven. Although Kahle stands 5-foot-10 she plays big. She shags in rebounds and hits hard lay-ups in heavy traffic. Expect her to be a staple on the team in years to come.
Brianna Thompson has also taken her role as an undersized center in stride and looks fantastic on the court. She is third and fourth in rebounding and points per game in the Big Sky respectively, right behind Kahle. It is no surprise that Arns’ numbers are down from last year because with weapons like Kahle and Thompson she no longer needs to take over for her team.
Arns’ awakening from her slumber may ignite a flame under the team and put them in a competitive position in the Big Sky. Portland State may be fifth in conference play but is not far from the leaders. PSU’s conference record stands at 1-2 while Big Sky leaders Weber State and Northern Arizona sit at 3-1 each. With Arns rolling, Kahle playing like Yao Ming and Thompson making defenders look silly, the Vikings have become a competitive, fun and exciting team.
Last Thursday’s game against the Weber State was disastrous and another loss against one of the best teams in the Big Sky. Although Kelsey Kahle had a strong outing, scoring her seventh 20-point game, Wildcats guard Chelsey Warburton and forward Laura Porter had a combined 51 points, including 15-18 from three-point land.
The Wildcats dominated the boards, snagging 45 compared to PSU’s 28. The 61-80 loss put Weber State on the top of the pedestal in the Big Sky. The Vikings have a chance to redeem themselves when the Wildcats come to Stott Center on Feb. 18.
The Vikings will be home for the next few games against Montana and Montana State on Thursday and Saturday. Although Montana is looking like a tough team to beat, the floundering Montana State may become fodder for the Vikings. With a couple more conference wins PSU could end the season on a good note and a possible playoff berth.