The Vikings men’s basketball team fell short in their rivalry matchup with the University of Portland Pilots at the Viking Pavilion on Nov. 20. Foul trouble for Portland State helped the Pilots pull away late for an 82-75 victory in a game that was tightly contested and competitive throughout.
Despite only five returning players on the roster, the Vikings’ 2019–20 team has shown signs early in the season of their excellent chemistry and communication. The Vikings came out with intensity and hustle on the defensive end, limiting the Pilots to five points in the first six minutes of the game while jumping out an early 12-4 lead.
Foul trouble for the Vikings disrupted what was a strong start for PSU. After the Vikings jumped out to a 10-point lead in the first half, the Pilots managed to fight their way back. The Pilots knocked down a three-pointer late in the first half to get within two points and a steal in the closing seconds led to a buzzer-beating layup, leaving the game tied 33-33 at the half.
The second half began with scoring runs from each team. The Pilots opened the half on a 10-2 run, but the Vikings answered with a 12-1 run of their own, regaining the lead 45-44. It was a back-and-forth matchup after that, with both teams trading buckets for most of the second half.
Injuries and foul trouble forced PSU into unfamiliar rotations and kept them from gaining momentum. Portland’s shooting percentage significantly improved in the second half as they shot over 60% from the field. A deep three-pointer by Takiula Fahrensohn with 8:16 remaining in the second half gave the Pilots a 56-53 lead, and they would not trail for the remainder of the game. The Pilots relied on free throws for the majority of their final points to seal the 82-75 victory.
Holland Woods was a bright spot for the Vikings, displaying his leadership and playmaking abilities with a 22 point performance along with 5 assists and 4 rebounds. Alonzo Walker chipped in with 13 points, and Rashaad Goolsby kept the energy in the arena with two breakaway dunks that sent the crowd into an uproar.
Head coach Barret Peery acknowledged the role foul trouble played in keeping the Vikings from building momentum. The Pilots shot 16 free throws in the second half. “We could have played smarter,” Peery said.
The Vikings were called for 29 fouls in the game. This, along with injuries to key players in the rotation, forced the Vikings to adjust their gameplan. “We lost a couple of [players] early on,” Peery said. Limited by a smaller rotation of players, Peery said the Vikings couldn’t get “their flow back again.”
Despite the loss, the Vikings showed promise for a team that hasn’t had much time to work together and build chemistry. Holland Woods, a returning starter for the Vikings and the leading scorer on the roster, remarked that he has taken the leadership role of the Vikings and “will continue to lead.”
Woods is now in his third year of play for PSU and has garnered recognition for his talent, including 2017 Big Sky Conference Freshman of the Year honors and a nod as one of the 2019-20 preseason All-Big Sky Conference players.
The Vikings have demonstrated their potential as a well-rounded team with the capability for explosive plays on both ends of the court. If the Vikings can continue to build chemistry with their new faces and improve the level of consistency—already impressive for a team with little experience together on the court—then the future is bright for this team still learning to play together.
The Vikings’ next opportunity will come Nov. 23 when they face off against the San Jose State Spartans. PSU will return to the Pavilion for their next home game on Dec. 6.