A pair of relatively new starters for the Vikings led the way as Portland State wiped away a five-game losing streak, beating Cal State Fullerton, 89-82, at the Stott Center.
Forward Isaiah Pineiro, making his second straight start, had a team-high 21 points (9-14 FG), and five rebounds. Point guard Donivine Stewart, making his third straight start at point guard, went for season-high 17 points (6-8 FG, 3-4 3-pt FG) and five assists, making two steals.
“We put Donivine there (in the starting lineup) because we knew he could do it. Sometimes it takes a while when you are new,” said Head Coach Tyler Geving of his transfer guard. “You have to get familiar with the system and the players. He’s a great leader and probably our highest IQ on the court. Pineiro has been really good, outworking everyone in practice and games. It has been really easy to start him.”
Those two provided the glue in one of the most efficient offensive performances of the season for the Vikings. PSU shot 30-57 from the field (.526), including 18-26 in the second half (.692). The Vikings had just 10 turnovers overall and made 17-23 free throws in the second half, with most coming in the closing moments.
The win stopped a five-game losing streak for the Vikings as they complete their non-conference schedule with a 4-7 record. Cal State Fullerton fell to 6-6 on the season with the loss.
Portland State eliminated a pesky problem early. The Vikings had been troubled by turnovers during their five-game losing streak, but handled the ball well against the Titans. PSU did not make a turnover in the opening 14 minutes.
The game was tied 16-16 before Pineiro scored eight points, including three jump shots, in a 15-5 Viking run. That appeared to give PSU command at 31-21, but the Titans scored the last seven points of the half. Still, the Vikings had only two turnovers at halftime – to 10 for the Titans – and most important, the lead, at 31-28.
Portland State picked up its offense coming out in the second half, making 11 of its first 13 shots. Pineiro scored nine more during that burst. However, the Titans were able to stay close with good shooting of their own and trailed only 57-56 following a driving three-point play by Malcolm Brooks with 8:56 left.
PSU pulled away with a 12-1 run from there, capped by a three-pointer from Stewart. The Vikings were ahead 69-57 with 3:27 to play and spent the rest of the night shooting free throws as the Titans tried to catch up.
Five Vikings were in double figures as Bryce White and Zach Gengler added 13 points. Cameron Forte scored 10 off the bench. Gengler was key in the late-going, hitting 8-8 free throws down the stretch.
Calaen Robinson had five assists to match Stewart, Gengler and Pineiro each had three.
“I think we are doing a great job sharing the ball now. I think we lead the league in assists and if we keep doing that we will be alright,” said Geving.
Now the Vikings look ahead to Big Sky Conference play, which begins at home on Saturday. They will savor this win and hope it kick-starts their season.
“It definitely helps, they way we have lost a few. It is good to feel confident going into conference,” said Geving.
GAME NOTES: The Vikings are now 3-2 at home… Tre’ Coggins scored 23 points to lead the Titans. Brooks had 22 points… PSU leads the Portland State opens Big Sky Conference play on Saturday when it hosts Sacramento State. The Hornets come to the Stott Center with a 7-4 record. Live video, audio and stats are available at www.GoViks.com.