What: Portland State (9-7, 3-3) at Weber State (8-9, 3-3)
Where: Dee Events Center (11,500), Ogden, Utah
When: Thursday, 6 p.m. PT
Internet: Live Video Stream at www.WatchBigSky.com; Live Audio Stream at www.GoViks.com (Tom Hewitt, play by play).
There are challenging places to play, and then there are Houses of Horror.
Weber State falls into the latter category for Portland State, which is just 1-19 against the Wildcats all-time in Big Sky games at the Dee Events Center in Ogden, where the two teams clash Thursday night. However, while the Wildcats are traditionally one of the strongest teams in the Big Sky, WSU is struggling this season with a below .500 record past the midway point of the 2014-15 season.
“We haven’t done very well there over the years,” Portland State coach Tyler Geving told Viking Tales on Tuesday. “But, obviously, they’ve had good teams and they’re well coached. They have another good team. They are always one of the top teams in the league. It will definitely be a challenge, but that’s true anytime you’re on the road in this league.”
With identical 3-3 conference marks, Portland State and Weber State are tied for sixth place in the Big Sky standings.
Weber State leads the Big Sky in average attendance by a wide margin, averaging 6,795 fans per home game. Montana is second at 3,235 fans for each game in Missoula.
After battling Weber, PSU travels to Idaho State, another hostile environment, for a 6:05 p.m. PT tipoff Saturday at Holt Arena.
“Weber and Idaho State are both tough environments,” Geving said. “They offer different challenges. We just have to be road warriors, no other way to look at it.”
Portland State is coming off one of its best performances of the season in last Saturday’s 85-73 victory over Idaho at the Stott Center. The Vikings took care of the basketball (six turnovers), dominated the defensive glass (Idaho had three offensive rebounds) and shot a respectable 45.2 percent from the field (28-62).
“I thought we played extremely well against Idaho,” Geving said. “Our guys battled back after losing to Eastern Washington. They responded well.”
Geving says he told the Vikings players after Saturday night’s win over Idaho that they must come close to duplicating their performance at USC in the season opener in order to have a realistic chance at victory in Ogden.
PSU beat the Trojans, 76-68, in the 2014-15 season opener at Los Angeles largely because of a wide gap in turnovers. Playing mistake-free basketball, the Vikings committed just four miscues in 40 minutes, while forcing 23 turnovers from USC. The enormous differential (+19 in turnover margin) resulted in a decisive 31-6 advantage for PSU in points off turnovers.
“I told the players that it was a good win at USC, but that’s the type of performance you’re going to need at Weber,” Geving said. “They’ve been the (Big Sky) team to beat year in and year out. We have to go there with some confidence. If you can win at a Pac-12 school, why can’t we win at Weber? It’s a big psychological game. You have to keep your kids positive and believe you can do it.”
The Vikings committed just 13 turnovers in splitting a pair of games last week against Eastern Washington (7 turnovers) and Idaho (6), and head into Thursday’s contest at Weber atop the Big Sky in turnover margin (+2.9). They rank 18th nationally in fewest turnovers per game.
“You have to take care of the ball, especially when you’re on the road,” Geving said.
In addition to keeping a firm grasp on the basketball, Portland State has significantly improved on the offensive end by connecting on 48.5 percent of its field goal attempts in the last four games. As a result, the Vikings have scored 80 or more points in four consecutive games, averaging 84.3 points per contest.
“We’re functioning better on the offensive end,” Geving said. “Over the last four games, we’re shooting a high percentage and we’re sharing the ball better. Guys are understanding their roles better. We’re getting more inside touches. That opens it up more on the perimeter for us, which is good.”
However, PSU’s last five opponents are shooting 50.0 percent from the field (145-290), so the Vikings must clamp down defensively. Northern Colorado and Eastern Washington have both reached the 90-point plateau against the Vikings in the last two weeks.
“You look at our league, it’s difficult trying to slow anybody down,” Geving said. “It seems everybody has a potent offense. But turnovers hurt too. It’s like a Pick-6 in football. You turn it over three or four times or take a bad shot and they go the other way and lay it in, that goes against your defense. That’s been our case sometimes over the years.”
PROBABLE STARTING LINEUP
G – DaShaun Wiggins (Sr.)(15.3)
G – Gary Winston (Sr.)(12.6)
F – Bryce White (So.)(9.5)
F – Tiegbe Bamba (Sr.)(10.4)
F – Braxton Tucker (So.)(12.1)
Jan. 22 at Weber State, 6 p.m.
Jan. 24 at Idaho State, 6:05 p.m.
Jan. 29 MONTANA, 7:05 p.m.
Jan. 31 MONTANA STATE, 7:05 p.m.
Feb. 7 at Sacramento State, 2:05 p.m.
(All Times Pacific)
LAST FIVE RESULTS
Jan. 3 NORTHERN ARIZONA, L 73-60*
Jan. 8 at Northern Colorado, L 90-85*
Jan. 10 at North Dakota, W 82-75*
Jan. 15 EASTERN WASHINGTON, L 92-85*
Jan. 17 IDAHO, W 85-73*
(* Big Sky Conference game)
Points Per Game: DaShaun Wiggins (15.3)
Total Points: DaShaun Wiggins (244)
Minutes: Gary Winston (494)
Field Goals Made: Braxton Tucker (69)
Field Goals Attempted: Gary Winston (169)
Field Goal Pct: Tiegbe Bamba (.531)
3-Point Field Goals Made: DaShaun Wiggins (29)
3-Point Field Goals Attempted: Gary Winston (72)
Free Throws Made: DaShaun Wiggins (81)
Free Throws Attempted: DaShaun Wiggins (118)
Total Rebounds: Tiegbe Bamba (81)
Offensive Rebounds: Braxton Tucker (41)
Defensive Rebounds: Tiegbe Bamba (56)
Assists: Gary Winston (58)
Turnovers: DaShaun Wiggins (37)
Blocks: Collin Spickerman (28)
Steals: DaShaun Wiggins (26)
BIG SKY SCHEDULE (Thur. Jan. 22)
Northern Colorado at Eastern Washington, 6:05 p.m.
North Dakota at Idaho, 7:05 p.m.
Portland State at Weber State, 7:05
Southern Utah at Montana State, 7:05
Sacramento State at Idaho State, 7:05
Northern Arizona at Montana, 7:05
(All Times Local)
BIG SKY STANDINGS
Sacramento State 5-1
Eastern Washington 4-1
Northern Colorado 4-1
Northern Arizona 3-2
Weber State 3-3
Portland State 3-3
Southern Utah 2-3
North Dakota 1-4
Idaho State 1-5
Montana State 0-5
— Geving on sophomore guard Zach Gengler, who played 25 minutes in the win over Idaho and scored 9 points with 5 rebounds: “The plan is to play him a little bit more. Offensively, he can really shoot it. So, you have to guard him. He does a good job of moving the basketball. He is not a selfish kid. He knows his role. He is a capable defender. He did a great job defensively the other night (vs. Idaho).”
— Geving on senior point guard Tim Douglas scoring 20 points on 9-12 shooting and dishing out 7 assists vs. Eastern Washington: “He shot it well, which he hadn’t been doing, so it was nice to see him make some baskets. More than anything, he had seven assists and he was making plays. Defensively, he set the tempo in the second half with a few steals. He got us going a little bit. He is a senior, so he knows how to play. We need him to keep knocking down shots.”
— Weber State leads the all-time series with Portland State, 33-12. Overall, Weber is 21-1 all-time against PSU at home.
— Weber State guard Richaud Gittens leads the Big Sky Conference in 3-point field goal percentage, shooting 54.9 percent from beyond the arc. He has made nine of his last 10 3-point field goal attempts and is 11 of 20 from 3-point range in the six Big Sky games. Gittens is averaging 10.8 points, 2.4 assists and 1.4 steals per game this season.
— Weber State’s Jeremy Senglin has scored in double figures 15 times in 17 games this season, including seven straight games. He scored a career-high 25 points in leading the Wildcats to a win at Northern Arizona last Thursday. He is seventh in the Big Sky in scoring at 15.6 points per game and ranks fifth in scoring in conference games at 18.2 ppg per game. Senglin was the 2014 Big Sky Freshman of the Year and started all 47 games of his career at Weber State. He has already scored over 600 points in his career.
— Weber State is 8-1 this season when holding opponents under 70 points. However, the Wildcats are 0-8 when allowing their opponents to score 70 or more points.
— Weber State coach Randy Rahe is in his ninth season with the Wildcats. He has led WSU to four Big Sky Championships and seven post-season tournament appearances. He has been named Big Sky Coach of the Year a conference record four times and has coached five Big Sky MVP’s. He has a career overall record of 177-96 (.648) at Weber State and is 109-33 (.768) in Big Sky Conference games.
— Sacramento State senior guard Mikh McKinney was named the Big Sky’s Player of the Week after leading the Hornets to pair of home victories over Idaho and Eastern Washington. McKinney averaged 23 points, 8.5 assists, 3.5 steals and two rebounds per game as the Hornets grabbed first place in the league standings with a 5-1 conference mark.
— The Big Sky is No. 26 in conference RPI. Eastern Washington is the highest rated Big Sky team at No. 60. Sacramento State is No. 156. Portland State stands at No. 240 entering Thursday night’s game at Weber State.