VIKING WATCH: Learning from home streak, PSU focuses on better rebounding

Four straight home wins have put Portland State back on the Big Sky men’s basketball map — and showed the Vikings what it takes for them to have success.

But now the Viks must head east for dangerous games at Montana on Thursday and Montana State on Saturday.

What lessons came out of PSU’s 4-0 homestand, capped by last Saturday’s victory over North Dakota?

“When we share the ball, we get good stuff on offense. And when we play hard on defense, good things happen,” coach Tyler Geving says. “It’s just a matter of being consistent, and doing it on the road.”

The Vikings are tied for third in the conference with a 6-4 record (11-8) overall, but they are 1-5 in away games. They are 1-4 in Big Sky road games, with an overtime victory at Sacramento State.

Winning away from home and rebounding better are two keys as the second half of the conference season begins for Portland State. The Vikings have an almost equal number of shot attempts and baskets as their opponents after 19 games, but PSU has been outrebounded 33.0-31.1 per game.

Two rebounds a game doesn’t sound like a lot.

“But it can be,” Geving says. “We’ve got to try to eliminate those one or two extra shots teams are getting. We’re so small, the rebounding (issue) might catch up with us. We’ve got to become a better rebounding team.”

The Vikings beat Montana in three overtimes at Stott Center on Jan. 11 and lost at home by three points to Montana State on Jan. 9.

On Monday, Montana beat Montana State 70-66 at Bozeman. Both teams are 5-5 in conference play.GARY WINSTON

Geving doesn’t know which players will step up for him this weekend — and that can be a good thing. All five of his primary guards have had at least one 20-point-plus game: Tim Douglas (13.7 point average), DaShaun Wiggins (12.6), Andre Winston (9.7), Gary Winston (9-6) and Marcus Hall (8.1).

“It’s nice to have good balance like that,” Geving says.

Lately, the team’s top two big men, Kyle Richardson and Brandon Cataldo, have added to the complementary inside threat. They often rotate in and out of games and have combined for 12.1 points and 4.5 rebounds in 36.7 minutes per game, shooting 56.7 percent from the field.

“The last six or seven games, teams have had to at least be aware of them,” Geving says. “Neither has played a lot of college ball, but both are good back-to-the-basket scorers and effective around the basket.”

The four-game stretch at Stott Center began with a bang: Hall hit the winning 3-pointer with 28 seconds left, giving PSU a 66-64 lead en route to a 67-64 win against Southern Utah.

“That was big to win that one,” Geving says. “Sometimes I think there is more pressure in this league to win at home (than on the road).”

Then came an 92-83 victory against Eastern Washington. The Vikings, down 40-30 at the half, outscored the Eagles 62-43 over the final 20 minutes. “The guys played really good,” Geving says.

Next was an 80-57 upset of Northern Colorado last Thursday. “I don’t think we could have played any better,” Geving says.

Then the Vikings held off North Dakota, overcoming their 19 turnovers. “We were real sloppy with the ball,” he says.

So, this week another focus will be on better, small ball movement.

“You share the ball and be patient, you get open shots,” Geving says.

n The Portland State women are at home this week, taking on Montana at 7 p.m. Thursday and Montana State at 2 p.m. Saturday.

The Vikings (3-7) have lost four in a row and need to turn things around in order to make the seven-team Big Sky tourney.

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