GAME NOTES: The Portland Pilots try to run their win streak to four in a row today as they host the Montana State Bobcats in non-conference play at the Chiles Center.
Portland has won three straight and five of the last six outings overall, the lone setback being a 77-72 double-overtime loss to North Texas back on Nov. 13. More recently, the team dismissed rival Portland State in a 92-76 romp last Saturday on the road.
Meanwhile, the Bobcats have had difficulty putting together consistent efforts from one game to the next, alternating wins and losses over the last six outings. The latest turn in that trend came eight days ago when the squad followed up a 79-54 setback versus Wyoming on Nov. 30 with a massive 109-54 rout of Walla Walla at home.
According to Portland sources, the Pilots lead the all-time series by a count of 13-10, although MSU won the most recent meeting last season by a score of 83-64 at home.
Montana State had little trouble doubling-up on Walla Walla the last time out, matching the overall production of the visitors by halftime as the hosts shot 54.8 percent from the floor over the first 20 minutes, a staggering 75.0 percent in the second half to finish with 62.9 percent accuracy overall. Stephan Holm scored a team-best 21 points, Flavien Davis 18 and Paul Egwuonwu 14 points and 11 rebounds in the triumph. Marcus Colbert pitched in with 12 points and six assists, followed by Calen Coleman and Antonio Biglow with 10 points apiece.
At this point in the campaign, the Bobcats have only one player (Coleman) who has started every game, so it isn't too surprising to find that there are only two double-digit performers on the roster. Colbert and Egwuonwu both check in with 10.3 ppg, with each shooting at least 52.5 percent from the floor, but while the latter tends to do the majority of his work in the paint where he is also credited with 8.9 rpg, the former is responsible for 15-of-30 shooting behind the 3-point line.
The rivalry between Portland and Portland State went in favor of the Pilots the last time out as the visitors survived 10-of-18 shooting beyond the arc by the Vikings by outscoring the hosts by a 29-16 advantage at the free-throw line. Kevin Bailey was the top scorer for Portland with 23 points, but making even more of an impact was Thomas van der Mars who registered a huge double- double with 19 points and a career-high 18 rebounds. Before fouling out. Alec Wintering contributed 12 points and four assists in 21 minutes of action.
Named the West Coast Conference Player of the Week for his effort against the Vikings, van der Mars has averaged 16.2 points and 9.5 rebounds over his last six outings. The big man is second on the team overall with his 13.2 ppg and 7.2 rpg, trailing Bailey (16.7 ppg) in the scoring department and Ryan Nicholas (13.0 ppg, 9.6 rpg) on the glass. Thanks to some high-scoring affairs, Portland is now being credited with 81.4 ppg, considerably more than the 72.1 ppg being allowed.
With van der Mars asserting himself more and more in the paint, opponents of the Pilots are finding it harder to keep up with Portland on the glass, and in the end that could be the undoing of Montana State today as well.
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