(16-6, 8-2 Big Sky) (7-15, 4-5 Big Sky)
Saturday, Feb. 12, 7 p.m.
Saturday night when PSU tips off with the Eastern Washington Eagles, the Vikings will look for their fifth-straight win and third-consecutive week atop the Big Sky conference. A win would be the Viks’ 11th-straight home win, leaving them in no worse than third place.
The Eagles will bring little of the flair that characterized their championship run last year to the Stott Center Saturday night. Mired in its worst season since 1998-99, EW has lost three in a row and has consistently struggled to score, averaging a conference-low 62 points per game.
EW’s five-year run of finishing in first or second place is all but over. Gone from last year’s team are hard-nosed point guard Brenden Merritt and Big Sky Player of the Year Alvin Snow, and in their place are an inexperienced backcourt that has struggled to adjust to Big Sky play. Two-time All Big Sky forward Marc Axton is averaging 16.0 points per game and leads the team in three-point shooting, but has disappointed with his 39 percent shooting.
In the two teams’ last match-up, PSU took advantage of the Eagles’ lack of experience and controlled the game from start to finish, leading by eight or more for the entire second half. To win again, the Viks need to contain Eagles big man Matt Nelson, who torched PSU for 26 points and 12 rebounds in 24 minutes in the last meeting. The Viks also need to be on their tiptoes to rebound the Eagles’ frequent misses (41.6 percent from the field). Since Coach Schroyer made rebounding a "point of emphasis" after a three-game period last month where PSU was out-rebounded by 25 and lost twice, the Vikings have out-rebounded all of their opponents.
Fun fact: If Eagles redshirt freshman Henry Bekkering looks familiar, it may be from his stint on Fox Sports Net’s "The Best Damn Sports Show." Bekkering and his 39-inch vertical wowed the show with a sensational set of dunks that quickly became Internet legend. The handheld video commonly seen on the internet was shot by the person sitting next to Viking freshman center Scott Morrison at a Canadian high school all-star game.