The first night of Big Sky Conference men’s basketball action featured big offensive performances from several teams. Weber State dropped 17 3-pointers in a win at Montana State, Portland State nearly crossed the century mark in a victory over North Dakota, and Montana saw two players cross the 20-point threshold in a home win over Idaho State.
Portland State 99, North Dakota 62 – The Vikings (8-4, 1-0 BSC) earned their fifth straight win as they defeated North Dakota (5-6, 0-1 BSC) in Portland. Seven Vikings, including all five starters, reached double-figures with senior guard Calaen Robinson leading the way with 18 points on 7-of-12 shooting including 4-of-8 from beyond the arc. Junior Bryce Canda was one rebound shy of a double-double with 10 points and nine boards as the hosts shot 56.5 precent and hit 13 3-pointers.
PSU put on a 26-2 first-half blitz of North Dakota on its way to a huge early lead. And when it looked like the Fighting Hawks might get back into it in the second half, the Vikings launched another 22-1 outburst to put things on ice.
Both rallies were ignited by a PSU defense that forced 26 turnovers and made 19 steals. In all, the Vikings scored 51 points off UND turnovers.
“Defense set the tone for us and we got a lot of transition baskets,” Viking Coach Tyler Geving in a PSU press release. “The steal deal was crazy for us… 19! That was pretty impressive. We just have to bottle it up and keep it going.”
With the win Portland State gets to 8-4 on the season – the best overall record in the Big Sky – and is 1-0 in league play. The Vikings also stretched their winning streak to five games, the longest since a six-gamer in 2009. PSU has had eight four-game winning streaks since that time.
Sophomore Connor Avants led the Fighting Hawks with 16 points as UND shot 41 percent as a team. Preseason MVP Quinton Hooker hit four of 11 shots and scored 12 points.
PSU dished out 20 assists on 39 made baskets. Senior forward De’Sean Parsons (16), senior guard Zach Gengler (14), Deontae North (14), Brandon Hollins (10) and and Traylin Ferris (10) all scored in double figures for the Vikings.
Northern Colorado 69, Sacramento State 53 – UNC (5-7, 1-0 BSC) rode 21 points from sophomore point guard Jordan Davis to pick up a conference-opening win at Sacramento State (3-9, 0-1 BSC). Davis went 8-of-17 from the floor with five assists and four rebounds. DJ Miles was the only other UNC player to reach double-digits with 11 points.
“I give our guys a lot of credit. Coming off of break we basically had just two days of practice and Jordan Davis didn’t practice on Tuesday and then Gerad [Davis] caught the same thing by living with his brother, so he’s back in the hotel room right now sick,” UNC first-year head coach Jeff Linder said in a Northern Colorado press release. “For our guys to understand the game plan on both ends of the floor, they’re taking great strides and that’s why we’re seeing these results.”
Junior Justin Strings shot 60 percent from the field and scored 13 points to lead a Hornet team that shot 32.4 percent overall.
Big Sky Conference men’s basketball action continues tomorrow as Eastern Washington and Idaho open conference play. Tip-off from Moscow, Idaho is set for 7 p.m. Pacific. Northern Arizona and Southern Utah open the conference season on Saturday afternoon.
Press release written by Jason Ashcraft, Big Sky Conference communications. Click on game score for link to official box score.