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Viking Watch

The Portland State women’s basketball team has run the gantlet this preseason.

Playing one team each from the Pac-12 and the ACC, and two teams each from the West Coast Conference and the Ivy League, the Vikings have struggled, finishing the preseason 2-7 with wins against Corban and Columbia.

While the record is not nearly what PSU wanted, the team says it will take confidence into the rest of the season, having faced Oregon, Gonzaga, Georgia Tech and others.

“If anything, we know that (in the Big Sky) we’re not going to go against people who are as big, that athletic, that quick, that fast,” PSU point guard Kate Lanz says.

The biggest concern for the Vikings heading into Big Sky play is their inability to put the ball in the basket. The Viks are averaging 63.9 points per game, but they are shooting just .366 from the field, including .301 from beyond the 3-point line.

And the Vikings have even been iffy when they step to the free-throw line, shooting just .640.

Coach Sherri Murrell points out that part of PSU’s offensive stat line comes from tough games against Gonzaga (in which Portland State shot .328), Oregon (.451) and Georgia Tech (.294).

“Take out the three games we played against ACC, Pac-12 and top 25,” Murrell says. “Up until then we were pretty good.”

Lanz, who leads the Vikings in scoring with 12.4 points per game, says she believes the solution to the Viks’ shooting woes is the team showing more confidence.

“We just need to believe in ourselves a little bit more,” Lanz says. “We shoot every day in practice. What it really comes down to is we need to believe the shot is going to go in, and it will.”

Lanz adds that Portland State needs to work the ball around the court better to get good looks at the basket.

“When we move the ball and we work with each other, we’re really good,” Lanz says. “But we’re just getting a little rushed, and that’s when we fall off.”

Another concern for Portland State is that the Vikings have had a difficult time finishing games. Last Saturday against the University of Portland, Portland State trailed just 48-49 with six minutes remaining. PSU was outscored 27-1 over the rest of the game to finish with a 76-49 homecourt loss.

“We’ve showed glimpses, but we’re not putting a whole string together, or we’re not digging in toward the end of the game,” Murrell says. “We’ve shown really good glimpses of playing well, but we really haven’t been able to put it together for the whole game.

“We’re learning a lot about ourselves, and we still have a lot of new players on the floor. It’s just a mentality of, ‘When the going gets tough and there’s some adversity, I’ve got to get tougher and not get softer.’ That’s the main thing. We’re not handling adversity well during a game.”

Murrell says the best way for the Vikings to get better at adversity is to use practice time to create high-pressure drills.

“We’ve got to create practice to where there’s a lot of adverse situations, and they’ve got to get through that,” Murrell says. “That’s the mental block they have right now.”

The Vikings will begin Big Sky play on Dec. 29 against Eastern Washington (2 p.m., Cheney, Wash). Portland State was picked to finish seventh in the Big Sky in both the preseason coaches poll and the preseason media poll.

The Vikings will hope that their tough preseason has prepared them for a higher finish than that. Despite their record, forward Allie Brock says the Vikings’ spirits are high.

“It’s tough to lose so many games during the preseason,” Brock says. “But our morale is high. We love each other. We’re just going to move up from here.”

n The PSU men also are set for Big Sky play. The Vikings are off until their conference opener at Idaho State on Jan. 2. They’ll complete the first weekend with a trip to Ogden, Utah, to face Weber State on Jan. 4.

Portland State’s home conference debut comes at 7 p.m. Jan. 9 against Montana State. The Montana Grizzlies pay a visit to Stott Center at 7 p.m. Jan. 11.