GAME NOTES: After a minor upset of two-time defending champion Montana, the Portland State Vikings now find themselves pitted against North Dakota in the semifinals of the 39th annual Big Sky Conference Tournament at the Dee Events Center.
Portland State, the fifth seed in the tourney and a two-time winner of this event, did the remaining schools in the tournament a favor by knocking off Montana on Thursday in a 70-63 final. The Grizzlies not only won the crown each of the last two years and three times in the last four, they have the most of any school in the Big Sky with nine overall.
Going up against PSU in this battle is North Dakota, the second seed this year. One of the newest additions to the league, UND barely slipped by seventh-seeded Sacramento State in the quarterfinals yesterday, 79-76.
The teams split their two regular season meetings in 2013-14, with each winning on their home floor. As a result, North Dakota's advantage in the all- time series now stands at 5-1.
The winner of this battle will head to the tournament title game on Saturday to face either Northern Colorado or Weber State for the right to represent the conference in the NCAA Tournament.
In a game that featured seven ties and eight lead changes, the Vikings bounced back from a mediocre 32 percent shooting from the floor in the first half to connect on 57.1 percent in the second in order to capture the win over Montana last night. It also didn't hurt that PSU outscored the Grizzlies at the free- throw line, 26-12, and missed just four chances at the stripe. Kyle Richardson led the attack with 19 points, DaShaun Wiggins 18 off the bench and Gary Winston 11 points.
Despite being a reserve almost exclusively this season, Wiggins is still the leading scorer for the program with 12.9 ppg, while Tim Douglas checks in with 12.1 ppg and is first on the unit with 98 assists.
As was the case with the Vikings, North Dakota also had trouble putting away the opposition last night during a game that experienced seven ties and 14 lead changes before UND's Aaron Anderson put the meeting out of reach with a pair of field goals in the final seconds. Anderson finished with 16 points, two behind Troy Huff who knocked down 6-of-15 shots from the floor, followed by Alonzo Traylor and Josh Schuler with 11 points apiece. North Dakota connected on 51.8 percent from the floor which was key since the squad lost the battle of the boards, 34-25.
A quick turn-around for both of these teams will not be easy, but if you had to count on one player to lead the charge for either side it would be Huff for North Dakota this evening.
Game Date and Time