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PSU teeters in quest for Big Sky berth

by: COURTESY OF PORTLAND STATE UNIVERSITY - Kyle Richardson, a 6-7 senior forward, has provided a spark with his inside play and scoring for the Portland State Vikings.After 12 games, and with eight to go, the Portland State men’s basketball team is essentially back to square one as it tries to earn a spot in the Big Sky playoffs.

PSU is .500 (6-6) in league and is one of nine teams within two games of one another in the Nos. 2 through 10 spots. The top seven finishers advance to the conference tournament.

“I think we can finish 5-3, that would get us in, and 4-4 might do it,” Vikings coach

Tyler Geving says.

The Viks have four home games and four road games left in the regular season. They will play host to Northern Arizona at 7 p.m. Thursday, then meet Sacramento State at 7 p.m. Saturday, also at Stott Center.

Sac State has won four in a row.

PSU is 10-3 overall at home this season.

Weber State leads the Big Sky at 10-2. Four teams are tied for second at 7-5: Northern Colorado, Montana, North Dakota and Northern Arizona. PSU, Montana State and Sac State are 6-6. Eastern Washington and Idaho State are 5-7. The only team out of the race is Southern Utah at 0-12.

The Vikings are coming off a disappointing week in which they lost in overtime to Montana after a controversial end of regulation, then kicked away a 10-point lead in the final one-fourth of the game at Montana State.

“We were a couple of plays away from 2-0,” Geving says.

Portland State had a chance to beat Montana at the regulation buzzer, but Kyle Richardson’s putback of a miss by teammate Tim Douglas was ruled too late. Montana then won 82-76 in OT.

“The ball was through the net as the red light went on, but the ref waved it off, and they didn’t have replay,” Geving says. “Later, we found out that the red light was not in sync with the clock. Nobody knew that.

“It was one of those bang-bang, 50-50 calls.”

Two nights later, Montana State rallied to beat the Vikings 69-64.

“We missed 12 shots within 2 feet of the basket. Those are killers,” Geving says. “Not to take credit away from Montana State, but we beat ourselves. We played well for 10 minutes in the second half, and then we were awful for 10 minutes.”

PSU shot 38.3 percent from the floor, its lowest mark since making 31.1 percent in the season opener at UNLV.

The Vikings fell to 1-7 on the road.

“You’ve got to be more consistent at both ends of the floor,” Geving says, “especially this time of year.”

Richardson, a 6-7 senior forward, continued his strong play. He averaged 18 points and 11.5 rebounds, making 15 of 26 shots from the field.

“He’s been a big spark for us,” Geving says.

n The Portland State women’s basketball team stayed alive in its Big Sky race, earning a split at home against the Montana schools.

Sophomore guard Emily Easom’s 27 points led the Vikings to a 72-61 win over Montana State, after PSU’s 65-55 loss to Montana.

The Viks (4-8 in the Big Sky) are two games out of a tournament spot, with eight games left in their regular season.

PSU will hit the road this week to play at NAU at 11 a.m. PT Thursday and at Sac State, 1 p.m. Saturday.

n In softball, Portland State went 2-3 in the season-opening Kajikawa Classic at Tempe, Ariz., scoring 26 runs and allowing 30. Freshman Shae Nelson from Southridge High joined key returnees Crysta Conn, Brittany Hendrickson, Becca Bliss and Aubrey Nitschelm in a top-half of the batting order that performed well.