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Road struggles continue for Vikings

The men’s basketball team (4-20 overall, 2-9 in Big Sky) began this weekend with hopes of securing a playoff spot in the Big Sky Tournament race by beating Northern Arizona and Sacramento State, which it has been chasing in the standings. Unfortunately, the road just got longer.

On Thursday, Portland State started the two-game trip at Arizona, with NAU defeating the Vikings in the end, 75-64. On Saturday, the Vikings took on Sacramento State, which they had had success against recently. The Hornets, however, performed strong on their home floor, with a 72-58 win.

The Lumberjacks came out executing their game plan Thursday night. Leading scorer Ryan McDade was the focal point of their offense and worked effectively. As a team, NAU shot 56 percent in the first half. Coming out hot, the Lumberjacks built a 20-point lead in the first half. McDade scored 17 in the first half to lead everyone. At halftime, the score read 45-25 in favor of NAU.

“We came out really flat and didn’t play a full game. But we fought back, played hard and never gave up,” said second-year post Jeff Eischen.

In the second half, the Vikings picked up their production on both ends of the floor. The lead was cut down to just seven, with around 12 minutes remaining in the second half. Led by Jeb Ivey and Eischen, the Vikings outscored the Lumberjacks 39-30 in the second half. After trimming the lead down to just seven on a Kevin Briggs jump shot, NAU boosted the lead back to 15 points. Down the stretch, the Lumberjacks made key plays to hold off the Vikings from erasing another lead.

Briggs scored 18 in the losing effort on 7-17 from the floor. Eischen had career highs of 13 points and six rebounds. Ivey was the other Viking in double figures, with 12 on 5-10 shooting. McDade finished with 30 points for NAU on 9-17 from the floor and 12-17 from the line. Portland State did dominate the glass by a 38-26 margin, but were hindered by turnovers, with 26.

“We had some other guys come out and play well for us off the bench. Kevin (Briggs) played well for us, but some of our key players got in foul trouble,” Eischen said.

On Saturday, Portland State went into the game winning the last three meetings against the Hornets. Both teams battled in the first half, with Sacramento State taking a 31-28 lead into the locker room at halftime.

In the second half the Vikings were outscored 41-30. The Hornets distributed the ball well, putting five players in double figures to finish the game. Derek Lambeth led the Hornets with 17 points, backed by Chris Lange who had 13 and Rashad Hooks with 12.

The Vikings struggled from the field, hitting only one of 15 three-pointers and 20-55 from the field. Briggs had 18 points to lead Portland State, and Ivey contributed 10. Rebounds ended in a tie between both teams at 36 apiece, with B. Haughton grabbing 13 for a game high.

Portland State still has a small chance of making the playoffs by winning its last three games.

Next up, the Vikings take on Eastern Washington at home Saturday. Tip-off is set for 7:05 p.m.