GAME NOTES: The Idaho State Bengals come calling on the Portland State Vikings in Big Sky Conference action on Saturday night.
Idaho State lost to Eastern Washington on Thursday night, 77-69. That was the fourth defeat in the last five game for the Bengals, who will not be participating in the Big Sky tournament, as that put them in 10th place in the conference.
Portland State has won its last three games, most recently claiming a 66-59 decision at home over first-place Weber State. The Vikings are in a three-way tie with Eastern Washington and Northern Colorado for fifth in the Big Sky. With the final three spots in the tournament up for grabs, the Vikings are in with a win. They might still make it with a loss, but it would come down to a variety of tiebreakers.
The Vikings lead the all-time series with the Bengals, 28-17. Idaho State has won the last two meetings, both in Pocatello. Most recently, the Bengals took a 87-76 decision on Jan. 2. Portland State won three straight previously.
Andre Hatchett finished with 20 points and Tomas Sanchez had 14 for the Bengals in their recent loss to Eastern Washington. Chris Hansen and Evann Hall tallied 11 and 10 points, respectively, and Jeffrey Solarin brought down 13 rebounds in the losing effort. Idaho State struggled early and made just 28.6 percent of its field goal attempts in the first half, including 1-of-12 from 3-point range and trailed 37-23 at the break. The Bengals cut their deficit to five early in the second, but the Eagles responded with a 13-4 run to move their advantage up to 14 points and put the game away.
Taking the lead in the scoring department for the Bengals is Hansen (16.5 ppg, fifth-best in the Big Sky), as he shoots a shade over 40 percent from behind the 3-point line. Sanchez checks in with 15.1 ppg and while he is converting only 39.9 percent of his field goal tries, makes up for that by having dished out 120 assists. Hatchett (14.3 ppg) and Jeffrey Solarin (10.1 ppg) round out the scoring attack. As a collective unit, the Bengals are scoring 70.7 ppg and giving up 69.9 ppg. The Bengals have excelled on the glass, pulling down 34.7 rpg, good enough for second in the conference, led by Solarin's 8.6 rpg, also second-best in the Big Sky.
DaShaun Wiggins netted a game-high 20 points off the bench, as the Vikings held off the Weber State Wildcats. Gary Winston scored 18 points for Portland State, while Kyle Richardson posted 13 points and eight rebounds. The Vikings shot 45.8 percent from the field in the first half while holding Weber State to a meager 22.7 percent, as they took a 29-17 lead into intermission. The Wildcats managed to improve to 52 percent in the second stanza and knotted the game at 43-43 with under six minutes remaining, but the Vikings pulled away thanks to a 12-1 surge.
Wiggins paces Portland State in the scoring department with 13.1 ppg, but immediately behind him is Tim Douglas, who had just six points in the game against Weber State, but who adds another 12.5 ppg to the attack, thanks to his team-high 45 3-pointers. Richardson, who along with Douglas are the only players to have started all 28 games for PSU, gives the group a presence on the glass with 6.1 rpg and he is first with 28 blocked shots. The Vikings are scoring a respectable 73.0 ppg while allowing 71.7 ppg, giving them the fourth-best scoring margin in the Big Sky.
The Bengals are playing for nothing but pride, but the Vikings need a win to guarantee their chance to make some noise in the conference tournament. The Vikings have been playing much better ball of late, and should be able to send the Bengals home for the season.
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