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ON COLLEGE HOOPS/BY PAUL DANZER/PORTLAND TRIBUNE/Invitational honoring Phil Knight draws crowds and gets an intriguing story out of Portland State

TRIBUNE PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Nike co-founder Phil Knight enjoys the basketball event named in his honor, PK80, at Moda Center. The PK80 Invitational college basketball tournament delivered.

Top-ranked Duke teetered on the edge of losing three consecutive days but left Portland as Motion Bracket champions with a comeback win Sunday over Florida.

A subpar tournament from hobbled Miles Bridges did not derail fourth-ranked Michigan State's march to the Victory Bracket championship.

Gonzaga played like a team not ready to release its grip on West Coast Conference supremacy on its way to a third-place finish in the Motion Bracket.

There were stirring comebacks and multiple overtime games.

That more than 118,000 fans showed up over three days was nice.

But locally the most intriguing story was ... Portland State?

Yes.

First-year coach Barret Peery and his 40-minutes-of-chaos approach has the Vikings playing energetic, entertaining and effective ball.

After leading in the second half against Duke on Thanksgiving Day and taking Butler to the brink on Friday, Portland State harassed Stanford into submission on Sunday, beating the Pac-12 team, 87-78.

Surprised? The Vikings weren't. They were disappointed to leave the tournament with only one win.

"Honestly, we were heartbroken on Friday night when we lost to Butler," Peery said. "So I really wanted to see who we were (against Stanford) — see how wounded we were, but see how well we can bounce back."

Bounce back they did — and needed to after falling behind by 14 points in the first half and trailing the Cardinal by nine at halftime.

"At halftime, coach told us that over time our playing style would wear on them, and it did," said Deontae North, after leading the Vikings with 22 points and seven rebounds against Stanford.

That style impressed Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski.

"They do a few unconventional things. I'm not saying that's bad, it's what they do," Krzyzewski said. "They'll have at least four guys on the boards and so a lot of times the guards aren't accustomed to blocking out another guard because they have defensive balance. These guys sometimes just go (to the offensive glass), and their defensive balance is getting the offensive rebound. It's a different way, but it's a good way.

"There's a lot of different ways to do this game. (Peery) does it well. I like what he's done with his team. I told our guys, this will be a very tough game. They believe in what they're doing."

PSU outscored the Cardinal 52-34 in the second half. The Vikings' full-court press and amoeba traps caused 28 turnovers — 18 of them steals — for 40 points.

The PK80 opportunity gave the Vikings motivation during preseason practices, and their successes over the weekend should provide momentum.

For Peery, this will be a reference point when the Vikings hit Big Sky play, which starts Dec. 30 at Sacramento State.

"Now the test is to come down off of a high from the PK80 and not come down at all," Peery said. "Come off of the PK80 and see that we can get better, that we've got things to work on."

Bryce Canda, the Grant High grad, played 39 minutes against Stanford — Peery would prefer to limit players to 30 minutes or less given the frenetic pace he wants from them. It was the Vikings' fifth game in eight days, but Canda finished with 17 points and four steals and never seemed to tire.

"We work so hard in practice that when we get to the game it's easier for us to run up and down and play all those minutes," Canda said. "We really value how we play and our tempo. I think if we stick with those principles we can really hang with any team in the nation."

At the very least, they will be fun to watch.

• While the Vikings were opening some eyes, the tournament was an eye-opening experience for the young Portland Pilots. Terry Porter's team had stretches of success, but fell behind early in each of its double-digit losses to North Carolina, Oklahoma and DePaul.

The Pilots have four freshmen and a couple of redshirt sophomores in key roles. and their youth was evident — especially at the start of their games.

"The caliber of teams and the caliber of players we played in this tournament was high-major," Porter said. "Our guys gained a lot of experience with regards to how we have to compete."

Porter said the exposure from playing in such a prestigious tournament can help in terms of recruiting. More immediately, it will help the Pilots prepare for West Coast Conference action.

Freshman guard Jo Jo Walker said the Pilots got better at on-court communication and grew tougher.

"It was different" than wins over small colleges Walla Walla and Oregon Tech heading into PK80, Walker said. "The speed, and the people were stronger. But as the games went by, I got used to it, and at the end it was just another basketball game."

The best thing the Pilots did during the tournament was shoot from distance. Portland made almost half of its 3-point shots (39 of 82).

• Despite the losses, Porter said he enjoyed being back at Memorial Coliseum, where he played alongside Clyde Drexler for the early-1990s Trail Blazers teams that twice reached the NBA Finals.

"First time I've been in the building that I wasn't making baskets," Porter said with a smile. "It felt great to be in this building. Obviously this building is a special place for me. ... I have a lot of fond memories. It's always nice to come back to it and think about those great days. It's nice to see them play basketball in this building again, that's for sure."

• Porter wasn't alone in enjoying basketball again at the MC. For those of us of a certain vintage, PK80 sparked memories of holiday vacations spent hanging out at the Far West Classic. This was maybe the best collection of college basketball talent in Portland since December 1978, when Magic Johnson's Michigan State team won the Classic. 

• The Oregon Ducks finished 1-2, and returned to Eugene with plenty to work on — defending without committing fouls being one of the prime areas. Given that point guard Payton Pritchard is the only remaining Duck who played a real role in last season's Final Four run, Oregon's struggles are neither surprising nor alarming.

The talent is there. As coach Dana Altman noted after Sunday's loss to Oklahoma, the Ducks did manage to score 80 points despite some atrocious execution.

• Announced attendance at the PK80 was 118,659. At the Moda Center, the six sessions averaged 13,282 fans. At the coliseum, the average was 6,495. Sunday's consolation games at the coliseum did not attract much interest. The Sunday morning session, which included the 10 a.m. Oregon-Oklahoma game, drew 5,910. The Sunday afternoon session, involving both Portland and Portland State, drew only 2,771. Those games were going up against the championship games next door. Those drew 15,365, the largest single-session crowd of the tournament.

• The all-tournament teams were headlined by players who could become NBA stars soon. Duke's Marvin Bagley III was MVP of the Motion Bracket. A freshman who could still be in high school, Bagley had consecutive games with at least 30 points and 15 rebounds and was the only Duke player on his bracket's all-tourney team. That team included Gonzaga's Johnathan Williams and a trio of Florida guards: senior Chris Chiozza and juniors Jalen Hudson and KeVaughn Allen.

The Victory Bracket MVP was Michigan State sophomore guard Cassius Winston. The Spartans' Joshua Langford also made the all-tournament team along with North Carolina's Luke Maye, Arkansas' Jaylen Barford and Oklahoma's Trae Young. Young, a freshman guard, torched Oregon for 43 points after putting up 33 against Portland on Friday. 

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