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Vikings fall short in Big Sky Country

The Vikings’ Montana road trip proved to be a complete bust on Saturday night when the women followed up Thursday’s 63-44 loss to Montana’s Griz with an 83-66 defeat at the claws of the Montana State Bobcats.

When the Griz came out Thursday and made their first five shots of the game, virtually shutting down all Viking attempts at a basket, it looked like a long night was in store for Portland State. The Vikings were able to fight their way back, however, only trailing by two, 25-23, with just under five minutes remaining in the half.

The Griz dashed all hopes of a Viking comeback when they made a quick 10-2 run and took a solid 38-28 lead at the break.

The Vikings’ troubles followed them into the second half. A 10-0 run put the Griz up 48-29 with 12:20 left on the clock. Montana’s excellent defense ensured that the Vikings would never make up the deficit, holding them to merely a 16 percent field goal average in the second half, 28 percent in the game. Comparatively, the Griz shot 42 percent in the second half and 40 percent overall.

Ten of Montana’s eleven players scored in the game, and no one played more than 30 minutes. Holly Tyler led all scorers with nine points and 12 rebounds. The Griz went on to complete their successful week at home with a 72-57 over Eastern Washington on Saturday night. They are now 14-6 overall, 5-2 in Big Sky Conference play.

Viking Sarah Hedgepeth racked up her fifth double-double of the season, with 15 points and 10 rebounds. Heidi Stuart came off the bench and added nine points, while Jenny Poe, in only her second career start, had eight points and six rebounds.

The Vikings loss to Montana was significant for a couple of reasons. First of all, the Vikings have been keeping pace with Montana since last season, when the team defeated them in the first round of the Big Sky Championships.

Before the game on Thursday, both teams were tied with 3-2 records in the Big Sky Conference. Needless to say, the Vikings have once again been beat out in the rankings by the Griz and will no doubt be looking to even the score in their next match-up with the team, March 8 at the Peter Stott Center.

Saturday’s game was close for much of the first half, but the Bobcats were able to open up their two-point lead with an 8-2 run, taking the 27-19 advantage. Shooting 62 percent from the field, Montana State built its lead up to 10 at 45-35 by the break.

Bobcat forward Kati Burrows was unstoppable in the second half, scoring 17 points for her team and spurring on a charge that would result in a 17-point Viking loss.

Montana State lived up to its reputation as the most well-rounded team in the Big Sky Conference, with three of its starters racking up double-digit point totals. Nine of its 10 players registered in the points column, and everyone on the team saw playing time.

Six-foot-2 Australian forward Isabel Stubbs had 25 points, 12 rebounds and three steals for the Bobcats. Kati Burrows ended the game with 21 points and four rebounds. Guard Candis Wilcox had 13 points. Montana State is currently ranked first in the conference with an impressive 7-0 record. It has won 22 consecutive home-court games.

Viking forward Nikki Petticrew led her team with 20 points and three rebounds. Hedgepeth, who has proven herself to be a pivotal player this season, had 10 points and 11 rebounds. Niki Sadowski added another 10 points, five rebounds.

Recently, the Vikings have struggled with their shooting and routinely average well below 50 percent from the floor. Road games have also presented a mental challenge for the Vikings. Head coach George Wolfe admits that his team is “overly affected by home crowds.”

“We do well when we have support behind us,” he said.

The loss to Montana State dropped the Vikings to 8-12 overall, 3-4 in the Big Sky. Next up, PSU returns to the Stott Center for games against Northern Arizona on Thursday and Sacramento State on Saturday. Tip off for both games is at 7:05 p.m.