Portland St. closes in on Big Sky title with 88-79 win
GREELEY, Colo. (AP)—Portland State’s chance to get closer to clinching a Big Sky Conference regular season championship with a win over Northern Colorado was more than enough incentive for the Vikings.
“We realized we would at least clinch a tie with a win even if we lose out and if everyone else wins out,” center Scott Morrison said. “So we were definitely thinking about it.”
Morrison had 19 points and nine rebounds leading Portland State to an 88-79 victory over Northern Colorado Wednesday night.
“Winning the title has been one of our goals from the start,” Portland State coach Ken Bone said. “We’re not the champions yet. We’re at least co-champs and that’s important to us.”
The win for Portland State (18-8, 11-2 Big Sky) was the ninth straight for the Vikings and got them close to the title and a chance to host the conference tournament. By beating Northern Colorado, Northern Arizona was eliminated from the conference title chase.
Idle Weber State (7-5) and Montana State (7-5) are 3 1/2 games back and retain slim hopes with four games each.
Deonte Huff and Kyle Coston also had 19 points for Portland State. The two combined for seven of the Vikings’ 12 3-pointers.
“Our 3-point shooting early opened the inside for me,” Morrison said. “When their guards had to defend the 3-pointer, it opened up the inside paint for me.”
Northern Colorado coach Tad Boyle agreed.
“They came out and whacked four 3s on us,” Boyle said. “Our game was to make them drive on us and put it on the floor and we obviously didn’t do that.”
Jabril Banks led Northern Colorado (11-15, 4-9), losers of two of its last three, with 16 points. Jefferson Mason had 14 points and 12 rebounds for the Bears, losers of all eight games between the two schools.
Trailing by 13 at the break, Will Figures’ 3-pointer got Northern Colorado to within 58-52 with 9:50 left in the second half. Morrison’s two free throws with 5:46 to play for Portland State made it a 66-57 game.
The Bears made one final run, cutting the lead to 71-67 on Mason’s layup with 3:08 left. Portland State sealed it with 2:39 to play on Coston’s fifth 3-pointer and a dunk and free throw by Huff.
“We could never get over the hump,” Northern Colorado guard Will Figures said. “We got as close as four points and then they got aggressive and made free throws down the stretch.”
Morrison had 11 points and Portland State hit eight 3-pointers including its first four attempts as the Vikings took a 44-31 lead at the half. Northern Colorado hurt itself with 11 turnovers and 36 percent shooting in the first period.
The victory completed a sweep of the two-game season series for Portland State. The Vikings won the earlier meeting over Northern Colorado in overtime, 85-83. on Jan. 19.