GAME NOTES: Still searching for their first Big Sky Conference win of the season, the Portland State Vikings will try to make it happen tonight when they host the Montana Grizzlies at the Stott Center.
Since putting together a four-game win streak in the first month of the season, the Vikings have fallen on hard times. The team has registered just a single win in the last seven outings and that was against Evergreen State on Dec. 23. More recently, the team bowed to Montana State at home two nights ago, 79-76, marking the third loss in as many tries in conference play.
As for the Grizzlies, they've been heading in the opposite direction as PSU for the most part. Montana was just 1-4 after the first five games of the season, but then won four in a row and five of six. However, the Grizz are now just 1-2 in league play after bowing to Eastern Washington in a 69-62 final on Thursday night.
Having won nine in a row against PSU, the Grizzlies own a 31-20 advantage in the all-time series.
Trailing by just a single point at the break two nights ago, the Grizzlies then allowed EWU to knock down 53.6 percent from the field over the final 20 minutes and ended up on the wrong side of a seven-point decision. Keron DeShields tallied a team-best 17 points, the only one to convert more than just three field goals for Montana, followed by Jordan Gregory and Kareem Jamar with 13 and 10 points, respectively.
Jamar, a double-digit scorer in every game this season, is producing 18.5 ppg as a 50 percent shooter from the floor over the course of 12 outings. He is also first on the unit in rebounding (5.9 rpg) and assists (56), making him a rare breed at the Division I level these days. However, for as much effort as Jamar puts into working the glass, it must be noted that Montana is one of the weakest rebounding programs in the country, coming away with only 26.0 rpg, while opponents are pulling down an average of 34.7 rpg.
Sporting 14 ties and just as many lead changes through the first 28 minutes of action, PSU's meeting with Montana State ended up being a disappointment for the hosts two nights ago. The Vikings shot an impressive 54.5 percent from the field and 8-of-18 beyond the arc in the meeting, but were outscored 17-8 at the free-throw line and pulled down just four offensive rebounds. DaShaun Wiggins led all scorers with 20 points, Marcus Hall posted 19, Tim Douglas 14 points and Kyle Richardson 10 in the losing cause.
Four times this season the Vikings have been held to seven offensive rebounds or less, twice in the last two outings, which is one of the reasons why the team is struggling to come up with wins. Richardson may not be the most aggressive scorer for the team with his 5.7 ppg, but the fact that he leads the group with 26 offensive boards in 12 appearances is more than enough reason to keep him on the floor as much as possible with Douglas (15.0 ppg) and Wiggins (13.8 ppg).
While Montana isn't exactly setting the basketball world on fire, having a player like Jamar ready to pull the trigger when he has the ball in his hands is reason enough to give the visitors the edge in this meeting.
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