Monday, December 29, 2008

Vikings suffer first home loss of season

For just the second time in two seasons the women's basketball team stumbled at the Stott Center. The Vikings were defeated by Utah Valley University 102-92 in a overtime game.

The Vikings trailed for nearly the entire game and fell behind by eight points with just 1:30 to play before a three-point play by senior forward Kelsey Kahle cut the lead to just five.

Missed free throws by the Wolverines, offensive rebounds, and some timely shooting from freshman guard Eryn Jones gave the Vikings an opportunity to tie trailing 82-79 with under a minute to play.

After a busted play, sophomore post Courtney Cremer found herself with the ball at the top of the circle and launched a desperation three-pointer from well behind the men's arc. It was just her fourth attempt of the season but Cremer's prayer banked in (although judging from her reaction, it wasn't called).

A shot by the aforementioned Asumi Nakayama was off and the teams headed to overtime.

Despite blowing the lead in the waning moments of regulation the Wolverines regrouped and dominated the overtime period outscoring the Vikings 20-10. The victory improved Utah Valley's record to 4-7 and dropped Portland State to 8-4. Two of the Vikings losses have come in overtime.

It was Portland State's final tune-up before the Big Sky season play begins later this week, but the team looked anything but well-oiled in their non-conference finale. Point guard Claire Faucher struggled all game and finished with just five points on two for 10 shooting.

It was unclear if Sherri Murrell was experimenting with a different lineup, giving some of her starters some rest before the conference stretch run or reacting to lackluster performances from some of her starters but the head coach went with an unconventional strategy down the stretch. 10 Portland State players played more than 10 minutes.

With Faucher out of the game the Vikings would have struggled mightily were it not for the performance of Kahle. She finished the game with 30 points which included a 12 for 12 performance from the charity stripe. She also had four rebounds, four assists and three steals.

The Vikings certainly were lucky to find themselves even in the game after committing 13 costly turnovers and shooting 36 percent from the field and 27 percent from the three point arc.

Even more discouraging for Viking fans is the fact that this team, again, gave up more than 100 points to Utah State. The Vikings will likely face far more talented teams in Big Sky opponents Montana, Montana State and Northern Colorado.

In Monday's game the Vikings inability to get stops on the defensive end forced them into playing a fast-tempo shooting match with the Wolverines. Normally with Faucher at the helm this would seem like a winning idea. But the honorable mention All-American player was on the bench.

With inexperienced, and often tired-looking players, on the court, the Vikings looked like a team that still has some growing pains to experience.

Portland State will face Sacramento State and Northern Arizona this weekend.

PSU women trail Utah Valley at the half

With the men's squad out of town tonight, no good bowl games to watch I decided to watch the Vikings take on Utah Valley in the Stott Center.

The result so far: unimpressive.

Taking on a squad that they gave up 104 points to in a game last season in Orem, Utah, the Vikings have yet to play solid defense on two consecutive Wolverine possessions.

Utah Valley is in their final year of transitioning to become a full-fledged member of Division I. They seem to be making a good go of it. I know they have fielded competitive men's and women's basketball squads this season. This comes less than 10 years after serving as a junior college feeder school to BYU, Utah and Utah State.

Back to the game-

Attendance is pretty scarce. I am not going to bail out the students on this one. It seems weird sitting on press row and being able to hear every cheer, complaint and comment from either bench. I guess I have been attending to many men's games.

Freshman point guard Eryn Jones started her third consecutive game and has played well although I have not quite figured out the logic to head coach Sherri Murrell's rotation yet. She seems to be favoring her bench heavily and point guard Claire Faucher and wing Katia Hadj-Hamou have yet to look comfortable on the floor.

It has been interesting to watch the development of former walk-on Kate DePaepe
. After a solid career at Tualatin High and playing sparingly in nine games last season the southpaw is serving as one of the more consistent performers coming off the bench this year replacing some of the scholarship players that she played behind last season.

The Vikings have kept the game close thanks in large part to Kelsey Kahle's 14 points but have hindered their own ability to come back by missing several close-range layups. they have also committed dozens of turnovers. (I do not know the actual number but I do know they have been very careless with the ball)

I am not sure if it's the post-Christmas spirit kicking in but the dainty crowd is all over the referee's here. The zebra's aren't helping themselves either, missing a few painfully obvious calls.

One fashion note for you uniform heads... I know that this is small college women's basketball but Utah Vally looks more like a high-school team than any I have ever seen. Maybe it's the font on their jerseys... They are also all wearing some sort of black knee-pads. Not quite as big as the ones that Patrick Ewing used to wear but nonetheless interesting.

The Wolverines aslo feature a 5-4 point guard from Saitama, Japan. Reading from her bio she isn't some exchange student or someone who prepped in the United States, (a la Donotas Visockis) she is actually from Japan and led her team to the National Championship in high school.

I point this out because the player, Asumi Nakayama, is wearing the first pair of Asics basketball shoes I have ever seen. Besides being pretty unique they stick out like a sore thumb in contrast to the rest of hte players Nike's and Addidas'.