Wednesday, March 11, 2009

PSU headed to the Dance again, 79-77

Written by: Tom Sedun, Vanguard staff

The Portland State Vikings are headed to the NCAA tournament again after defeating Montana State in a wire to wire 79-77 victory over Montana State in front of 1546 at the Dee Event Center in Ogden, Utah.

“We beat an impressive team in Montana State, said head coach Ken Bone who has now led the Vikings to its second NCAA tournament in school history. “This victory is a tribute to our team.”

Senior captain Jeremiah Dominguez led all scorers with 22 points and was named the Big Sky tournament Most Valuable Player. Divaldo Mbunga led the Bobcats with 20 points and ten rebounds.

“It’s a great feeling after working so hard,” Dominguez said. “We had some struggles in the middle of the season, but we were able to come out and win the championship.”

“Jeremiah put us on his back,” said junior forward Julius Thomas who scored 17, including the game winning slam from Dominic Waters with five seconds remaining.”He is the leader of this team.”

The first half was nip and tuck with both teams exchanging baskets en route to a 40-39 halftime lead for the Vikings. Kyle Coston provided much of the energy for the high scoring half for Portland State with seven points.

“Kyle came out with tremendous confidence,” said Bone. “He was a definite presence on the defensive end.”

In the second half with the game tied at 50 and Montana State being the early aggressors, Dominguez ignited his team to a 11-1 run giving Portland State a ten-point advantage with 12:25 to play.

“I didn’t want to go out like that,” Dominguez said. “I got a feeling in my stomach and sometimes you feel confident in yourself; luckily I hit some big shots and made some plays down the stretch.”

Montana State had a chance to force overtime or win the game outright with 2.5 seconds remaining. But junior guard Dominic Waters stripped Brendan Johnson in the middle of his game winning shot attempt.

“They (Montana State) threw it to Howard and Dom’ (Waters) guarded him well,” Bone said.
Now the Vikings wait for selection Sunday to see who and where they will play their first round game.

“Last year was exciting to get to the tournament, this year we’re excited to be going again, but lets try to build from last year’s experience and go win a game.

Vikings look to be pulling away: lead 71-62

If your dancing shoes got a little dusty over the past 12 months, you better shine them up because it looks like the Vikings are pulling away from Montana State. A win, of course, would earn the club their second consecutive trip to the NCAA Tournament.

Men’s Basketball Preview: Big Sky Championship Edition

What: Portland State (22-9, 12-5 BSC) vs. Montana State (14-16, 7-10)
Where: Dee Events Center, Ogden, Utah
When: 7:30 p.m., Tonight
On the air: 800 AM KPDQ (audio, Tom Hewitt play-by-play), ESPN2 (Comcast channel 36)

Stars: Montana State has had an inconsistent year thus far, but when the Bobcats have played well it has been based heavily on the inside presence of senior All Big Sky center Divaldo Mbunga.

Mbunga, the Zach Randolph lookalike, is a force on the glass and on defense. In their win over Weber State he had 11 points, 10 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 blocks and 1 steal.

The Montana State backcourt tandem of Marquis Navarre and Will Bynum form a strong duo of players capable of running the offense and scoring. Combined, they average 15 points per game but have been effective in hounding opposing ball handlers with their quickness.

In addition to those three stars, Junior Branden Johnson was the player of the game for Montana State in their semifinal victory. The southpaw shooter hit four of his six threes en route to a team high 16 points.

Portland State will need a strong game from at least two of their perimeter players. In their semifinal victory over Idaho State, it was junior Dominic Waters who sparked the team in the first half and senior guard Andre Murray who brought the team to life in a stagnant second half.

A key matchup should be Johnson and Portland State junior forward Kyle Coston. Both players like to roam outside the three point line and three’s by either will help either team establish the spacing and tempo that both of these teams will want to play at.

Just a taste: An unlikely pairing, the two squads will meet for the third time this season, but this time a Big Sky Championship and a trip to the NCAA Tournament will be on the line.

Montana State has bulldozed through two of the top three seeds in the conference, all on the road, and will have an opportunity to knock off the Vikings and earn the school’s third ever trip to the Big Dance.

Portland State is making their second consecutive trip to the championship game and will have to give a more consistent effort should they earn a subsequent berth in the NCAA Tournament.

The Vikings have struggled with consistency within games this season and only played well during the first half of their 61-53 semifinal victory over the Bengals.

The two teams split their matchups this season, with Montana State eking out a narrow three point victory in Bozeman and Portland State picking up a six point win at the Stott Center.

With host Weber State dropping their semifinal yesterday and nearby Idaho State also stumbling, the Big Sky Championship will likely be played in front of just a few hundred fans as neither Montana State nor Portland State looked well supported in their semifinal.

This will be the second time this season that the Vikings have appeared in a ESPN game. Portland State defeated Boise Stat on Feb. 21 in the other game.

The two squads met last in the Big Sky Tournament in 2007, when Portland State defeated the Bobcats, 96-71 in a quarterfinal game played at the Stott Center.