PORTLAND STATE VIKINGS (8-9, 5-5) at NORTHERN COLORADO BEARS (9-8, 5-6)
Thursday, February 25, 2021, 5:30 p.m. PT • Bank of Colorado Arena (2,950), Greeley, CO
Saturday, February 27, 2021, 11 a.m. PT • Bank of Colorado Arena (2,950), Greeley, CO
Live Video Stream: Pluto TV Channel 1059, www.pluto.tv, www.WatchBigSky.com
Live Stats: https://uncbears.com/sidearmstats/mbball/summary
THE OPENING TIP
Portland State will take a season-best four-game winning streak into a rare road trip this week as the sixth-place Vikings take on the seventh-place Northern Colorado Bears in a pair of games.
In this strange COVID-tinged season, this week marks only the third Big Sky Conference road trip for the Vikings. And, it will be the final one until the Big Sky Tournament in early March. PSU has played seven Big Sky home games and only three Big Sky road games to this point due to COVID-related issues with opponent programs earlier in the season.
None of that matters though, as the Vikings have to forge ahead with the schedule as presented to them. And they are happy to do as they are currently playing their best basketball of the season. PSU (8-9, 5-5) jumped four spots in the Big Sky standings last week – from 10th to 6th – with a pair of wins over cellar-dwelling Idaho. Now the Vikings need no worse than a split at UNC (9-8, 5-6) to maintain its spot in the standings. A pair of wins would give the Vikings the potential to jump over Montana State (6-4) in the Big Sky standings. The Bobcats have a pair of games at last-place Idaho this week.
PSU’s wins against the Vandals last week were convincing by an average of 25.5 points. The Viking offense continues to perform at a higher level than earlier in the season (.478 FG%, 20 3-pt FGM in the two games). SR G James Scott had a good week for the Vikings, averaging 15.0 points, 6.0 assists, 3.5 rebounds and 3.0 steals in the two wins. He shot .529 from the field, 3-6 from three-point range and .750 at the line.
Moreover, the defense looks better than ever. The 71-40 win at Idaho on Saturday marked the fewest points allowed to a Division I program in PSU’s Big Sky Conference history (1996 to present). No opponent has scored over 70 points against the Vikings in the last nine games.
In Portland State’s last seven games, six of which were wins and the seventh a loss in overtime, the defense has truly been suffocating. The Vikings have given up only 57.0 points per game and forced 20.3 turnovers during that stretch.
Northern Colorado played its last Big Sky Conference game on Jan. 29. The program has been on pause due to COVID-related issues. The Bears returned to play on Monday – after a 24-day hiatus – with an 89-60 non-conference win over Warner Pacific. UNC is 5-4 at home this season.
Thursday’s (5:30 p.m. PT) and Saturday’s (11 a.m. PT) games will be live streamed on Pluto TV Channel 1059, www.pluto.tv and www.WatchBigSky.com.
The Vikings close out the Big Sky regular season at home against Southern Utah on Mar. 4 and 6.
The Big Sky Conference Tournament takes place Mar. 10-13 at Idaho Central Arena in Boise.
IF THE BIG SKY CONFERENCE TOURNAMENT STARTED TODAY…
The Big Sky Conference Tournament takes place Mar. 10-13 at Idaho Central Arena in Boise, ID. First-round games are on Wednesday, March 10. The top five teams in league play earn a bye into the quarterfinals on Thursday.
There are four games to go in the Big Sky regular season for most teams. The Vikings are currently in sixth place at 5-5. If the Big Sky Tournament began today, Portland State would be playing Idaho (11th seed) in a first-round game.
THE UPCOMING BIG SKY SCHEDULE
1. Eastern Washington (11-2) – 3/3, 3/5 ISU
2. Southern Utah (8-2) – 2/24, 2/26 NAU; 3/4, 3/6 at PSU
3. Weber State (9-3) – 2/25, 2/27 at SAC; 3/4, 3/6 UNC
4. Idaho State (7-3) – 2/25, 2/27 UM; 3/3, 3/5 at EWU
5. Montana State (6-4) – 2/24, 2/26 at UI; 3/4, 3/6 SAC
6. Portland State (5-5) – 2/25, 2/27 at UNC; 3/4, 3/6 SUU
7. Northern Colorado (5-6) – 2/25, 2/27 PSU; 3/4, 3/6 at WSU
8. Sacramento State (4-6) – 2/25, 2/27 WSU; 3/4, 3/6 at MSU
9. Montana (5-9) – 2/25, 2/27 at ISU; 3/4, 3/6 UI
10. Northern Arizona (4-8) – 2/24 at SUU; 2/26 SUU
11. Idaho (0-16) – 2/24, 2/26 MSU; 3/4, 3/6 at UM
2021 Big Sky Conference Men’s Basketball Championship Schedule
Wednesday, March 10, 2021, live streamed on Pluto TV, WatchBigSky.com
Game 1 – No. 8 Seed vs. No. 9 Seed, 9 a.m.
Game 2 – No. 7 Seed vs. No. 10 Seed, Noon
Game 3 – No. 6 Seed vs. No. 11 Seed, 3 p.m.
Thursday, March 11, 2021, live streamed on Pluto TV, WatchBigSky.com
Game 4 – No. 1 Seed vs. Game 1 Winner, 11 a.m.
Game 5 – No. 4 Seed vs. No. 5 Seed, 2 p.m.
Game 6 – No. 2 Seed vs. Game 2 Winner, 5 p.m.
Game 7 – No. 3 Seed vs. Game 3 Winner, 8 p.m.
Friday, March 12, 2021, live streamed on Pluto TV, WatchBigSky.com
Game 8 – Game 4 Winner vs. Game 5 Winner (Semifinals), 5 p.m.
Game 9 – Game 6 Winner vs. Game 7 Winner (Semifinals), 8 p.m.
Saturday, March 13, 2021, televised on ESPNU
Game 10 – Championship Game, 6 p.m.
All times listed are Mountain
GAME NOTES: PORTLAND STATE vs. NORTHERN COLORADO
ALL-TIME SERIES: Portland State leads the all-time series, 20-11, and the Big Sky Conference series, 16-11… the Vikings swept the season series last year… PSU leads the Big Sky series 7-6 in Greeley.
LAST SEASON: Dec. 28, 2019 at Viking Pavilion, PSU 69, UNC 65: It looked like a blowout early for the Vikings as they led by 22 points in the first half, but Northern Colorado rallied all the way back to within a point in the late-going. PSU shot .508 from the field, but made only 4-11 free throws and was out-rebounded 36-32 by the Bears. In the end, Lamar Hamrick led the Vikings with 16 points in 16 minutes off the bench. Holland Woods had 15 points, six assists and three rebounds in a game in which he set the PSU career record for assists. Bodie Hume scored 22 points to lead UNC. Jonah Radebaugh had 14 points, nine assists and seven rebounds. Feb. 10, 2020 at Greeley, PSU 83, UNC 71: A dominant inside game, led by the 22 points of Alonzo Walker, led Portland State to a big road win… the Vikings scored 60 of 65 points from the field in the paint, and had a 60-26 advantage in the paint overall… the inside play led to PSU’s best shooting performance of the season (32-56, .571)… Walker’s 22 points were one off his career high. The senior forward made 10-15 from the field and 2-2 at the line. Sal Nuhu scored 13 points on 4-6 from the field and 5-6 at the line. He had a team-high eight rebounds… Lamar Hamrick came off the bench to score 13 points on 6-8 from the field. He also had six rebounds and a team-high five assists… Bodie Hume scored 26 points with eight rebounds for Northern Colorado.
COACHES: Vikings Coach Barret Peery (Southern Utah, 1996) is in his third season on the Park Blocks and has a 62-53 career record. Peery is 2-3 all-time against Northern Colorado… Peery’s other head coaching experience is at the junior college level where he was 178-30 in six seasons (2005-08, College of Southern Idaho; 2011-14, Indian Hills (IA) CC)… the Bears are coached by Steve Smiley (Northern State, 2004) in his first season.
NORTHERN COLORADO BEARS
- Northern Colorado is located in Greeley. UNC joined the Big Sky Conference in 2006-07. The Bears program has won one Big Sky Conference title and made one appearance in the NCAA Tournament.
- The Bears were 22-9 last season, 15-5 and second place in the Big Sky Conference. All-Conference performer Bode Hume returns from that team.
- This season the Bears are 9-8 overall, 5-6 in the Big Sky Conference. They average 69.9 points per game and allow 67.5 points per game.
- Junior forward Bodie Hume leads the team with 15.2 points and 7.1 rebounds per game. He has made a team-high 35 three-point field goals.
- Junior guard Matt Johnson averages 13.6 points, shoots .494 from three-point range to lead the Big Sky Conference and has a team-high 44 assists.
- Junior guard Daylen Kountz averages 12.9 points per game.
WHO IS HOT
- The Vikings have won four in a row and six of their last seven games, with the only loss in overtime.
- Portland State’s defense has allowed only 57.0 points and forced 20.3 turnovers the past seven games… the Vikings allowed the fewest points (40) to a Division I opponent since joining the Big Sky Conference in 1996-97 in the 71-40 win over Idaho (2/20).
- In two wins last week, SR G James Scott averaged 15.0 points, 6.0 assists, 3.5 rebounds and 3.0 steals. He shot .529 from the field, 3-6 from three-point range and .750 at the line.
- FR G Paris Dawson has averaged 12.0 ppg during the four-game winning streak, raising his scoring average to 8.6 for the season. Dawson has made 14-28 from the field (.500), 12-22 from three-point range (.545) and 8-11 at the line (.727) in that span.
- JR G Elijah Hardy has averaged 10.0 ppg off the bench over the last three contests, hitting 13-21 from the field (.619), and 4-6 from the three-point line (.667).
- SO C Jacob Eyman’s season numbers are modest at 4.0 points and 3.4 rebounds per game. However, as a starter the last five games, he averages 6.5 points, 6.0 rebounds and 2.6 blocks per game while shooting .519 from the field… he now leads the Big Sky in blocked shots (1.3 season, 1.8 conference)… PSU is 4-1 when Eyman starts.
- PSU shot a season-high .512 from the field (22-43) in a win over Montana (2/6)… the Vikings have shot 118-242 (.488) during the four-game winning streak.
- In their last three games, the Vikings have made 34-84 three-point field goals (11.3 pg, .405).
- PSU ranks 11th in the nation in offensive rebounding at 13.6 per game.
- PSU had a season-high 16 steals in the win over Idaho (2/18) and ranks 14th in the nation for the season (8.9).
PEERY PRESSURE, PART 4
Portland State’s defense has been a trademark in the Barret Peery era. The full-court pressure has created havoc and lots of turnovers. This season, the Vikings are keeping opponent point totals low as well. PSU gives up 65.5 points per game, which is the fewest in the Big Sky Conference era (1996-97-present, 25 seasons).
Portland State has allowed just 57.0 points per game and forced 20.3 turnovers over the last seven games.
Only five opponents have scored more than 70 points against PSU and none in the last nine games.
Opponents are shooting only .426 from the field and commit 17.1 turnovers per game… PSU also out-rebounds opponents by 4.7 per game.
PSU held Idaho to the fewest points (40) by a Division I opponent during the Big Sky Conference era (1996-97-present).
FEWEST POINTS ALLOWED BY PSU IN THE BIG SKY ERA
40, Idaho, 2/20/21 (71-40)
42, Sacramento State, 1/8/09 (59-42)
43, Idaho State, 1/23/21 (69-43)
43, Northern Colorado, 1/18/09 (57-43)
44, Maryland-Eastern Shore, 12/29/04 (89-44)
A LOOK AT ADJUSTMENTS
The unique 2020-21 Big Sky Conference schedule that has teams playing back-to-back games against the same opponent creates an interesting look at adjustments. PSU appears to adjust fairly well through five two-game sets in league play this season. In the first game of the back-to-back series’ played so far, PSU is 1-4 in game one, scoring 67.0 points and allowing 72.6 points. In game two of those series, PSU is 4-1, scoring 67.8 points and allowing only 56.0 points. PSU has cut opponent scoring by 16 points in the second game of the back-to-back.
ANOTHER LATE-SEASON RUN EMERGES
One trend that has developed in Head Coach Barret Peery‘s tenure on the Park Blocks has been a late-season run of success in Big Sky Conference play. In each season, there has been a definite rally that has started in the second half of conference play and carried on to the end of the conference season. The combined Big Sky record in those late season runs was 17-2 (.895). The combined Big Sky record prior was 16-27 (.372). Adding in this year’s numbers, PSU is 21-3 (.875) during late-season runs. Add in a pair non-conference games and PSU is 23-3 (.885).
- In 2017-18, PSU was 15-11 overall/5-8 in the Big Sky before winning four of five (Feb. 17-Mar. 3) to close out the conference schedule (19-12/9-9). Final record 20-14.
- In 2018-19, PSU 9-14/4-8 in the Big Sky before winning seven of the last eight (Feb. 14-Mar. 9) to close out the conference schedule (16-15/11-9). Final record 16-16.
- In 2019-20, PSU was 12-14/6-8 in the Big Sky before winning the final six (Feb. 17-Mar. 7) to close out the conference schedule (18-14/12-8). Final record 18-14.
- So far in 2020-21… PSU was 2-8/1-3 in the Big Sky, but has won six of the last seven games (four of five in conference games). The Vikings are now 8-9/5-5.