by: COURTESY OF STEVE BRENNER - Portland State guard Marcus Hall puts the Vikings ahead for good with a last-minute 3-pointer against Southern Utah.The Portland State men’s basketball team does not have much size. The Vikings have only three players on the roster who can play in the frontcourt, and forward Tiegbe Bamba has yet to play this season because he has been recovering from an Achilles tendon injury.

The Vikings have embraced their abundance of guards, though.

Portland State has made a habit of starting four guards, and at times coach Tyler Geving puts five guards on the court.

With that small of a lineup, the Vikings are at a disadvantage for rebounds and defending opposing bigs in the post. However, PSU can turn the game into a track meet when its backcourt group is clicking.

“We struggle with being on the ball sometimes, so we just go small,” Geving says. “We just take the philosophy of, ‘Let’s fly around and create havoc on the defensive end with our small lineup.'

“We’re going to give up some stuff inside. But we try to take away the 3-pointers.”

Guard Andre Winston says the small lineup necessitates selling out on the defensive end.

“The small lineup is fine as long as our defensive pressure is there,” Winston says. “We all need to play defense together and buy in as a team on the defensive end.”

Guard Tim Douglas says: “When we lock down defensively, everything seems to go right on the offensive end. That’s a big key.”

Douglas and guard DaShaun Wiggins lead the Vikings on offense, averaging 14.3 and 12.3 points per game, respectively.

“We’ve got a lot of people who can score, so someone’s going to be there to score, always,” Winston says.

Douglas says the most important thing about playing with a small lineup is for everyone on the team to trust that teammates will follow their assignments on offense and defense.

“You have to trust everyone to box out and rebound," he says.

Portland State (9-8, 4-4 in the Big Sky) has been getting it done recently, winning its last two home games, against Southern Utah and Eastern Washington.

The Vikings will continue their four-game homestand tonight with a 7 p.m. game against Big Sky co-leader Northern Colorado (7-1). PSU will play host at 7 p.m. Saturday to North Dakota, which is tied for third at 5-3.

“This is the fun time of the year. It’s almost February. It’s league play," Geving says. "The further you go, the games become more intense. I keep telling my kids, ‘Embrace the challenge. That’s why you’re playing.’ ”

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