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Paul Danzer On College Hoops: Oregon men to vie for first; Civil War women's games on tap

COURTESY PHOTO: PORTLAND STATE UNIVERSITY - Sal Nuhu's double-double helped the Portland State Vikings get a win over Weber State.Portland State men's basketball coach Barret Peery called Monday's 92-76 win over Weber State the most complete performance this season from his Vikings.

"That was probably our most complete game at both ends of the floor," Peery said after PSU improved to 10-10, 4-4 in Big Sky action. "I was really pleased that everybody contributed. I thought everybody was really locked in and had a piece in what we did."

The Vikings succeeded Monday the way Peery's teams are built to thrive — with relentless offensive rebounding, defensive pressure and waves of substitutions wearing down opponents. Portland State attempted 16 more shots than Weber State, thanks in large part to a 47-28 rebounding advantage that included 20 offensive boards for 20 second-chance points.

PSU dominated in the paint 56-36, and its bench outscored Weber State's substitutes 36-10.

Seniors Alonzo Walker and Sal Nuhu led the way. Walker, a 6-6 Toronto native in his first season with the Vikings, scored a career-high 23 points and grabbed nine rebounds. Nuhu, the 6-8 center from the Bronx, had 14 points and a career-high 15 rebounds.

Portland State is the fourth program for Walker, who is studying for a master's degree in education. He started his college journey at Kent State, spent a year in junior college, then played last season at Idaho State, where he saw Peery's style from the opposing side.

"I knew I could be a real good fit here with the way I rebound, the way I play defense. I fit in very well," Walker said.

Monday's performance came two days after Walker helped the Vikings sink his former team. On that night, it was former Clackamas High standout Markus Golder scoring a season-high 18 points to lead the way.

Golder and Walker are two of six contributors who are transfers in their first season with the Viks. One of those is guard Matt Hauser, who at 15.3 points per game is second to Holland "Boo Boo" Woods on the Viks' scoring list. But the guard who played in 85 games over three seasons at Santa Clara has missed the last four games with an ankle sprain. Peery termed Hauser as day to day, but he was in a walking boot Monday, so it seems unlikely he is available for a Thursday game at Sacramento State.

Portland State is 3-1 in the four games without Hauser, the loss coming at Big Sky leader Montana and without an ill Nuhu.

"We're getting used to having to say 'next man up' and whoever is happy and healthy and ready to go we're going with," Peery said.

Perry's style is entertaining, if not pretty. Viking fans haven't had many opportunities to be entertained lately. Monday's win over Weber State and Saturday's win over Idaho State were the only two home games in an eight-game stretch, part of a run of nine of 12 away from Viking Pavilion.

That will flip for the home stretch of conference play when PSU plays five of its last seven at home. Peery is hoping his team can be healthy, and still in contention, by the time mid-February arrives.

"We've got to weather the storm. We've got to take care of business at home and then try to get games on the road that we can win," Peery said. "I like our group, and when we have a full team I think we're really good."

• Portland's other NCAA Division I program didn't have the same success from two home games last week, with the Portland Pilots dropping home games they thought were winnable.

A 10-point loss to Damon Stoudamire's Pacific Tigers on Friday was followed by a disheartening 77-67 loss to a San Diego team that came to Chiles Center winless in conference play.

Portland started well on Saturday, quickly building a nine-point lead before some sloppy play on offense helped give the Toreros footing.

"Our character is going to be tested now," Porter said after Saturday's loss dropped his Pilots to 9-11, 1-4 in West Coast Conference games. "We've got to get back to the basics, get back to playing hard and playing clean basketball."

This week, the Pilots visit Loyola Marymount and Pepperdine, teams around them in the lower third of the WCC.

The San Diego game got away from the Pilots when the Toreros (8-13, 1-5) scored 10 in a row midway through the second half. But the tone changed at the start of the second half, when USD grabbed 13 of the first 14 rebounds — after Portland had outrebounded San Diego 22-14 in the first half.

"We didn't take the initiative and do the things we needed to do when it came to rebounding," Porter said. "At times our (defensive) possessions were good, but we didn't finish those possessions by getting a rebound."

Portland is struggling for consistency in half-court offense. Versus Pacific and San Diego, the Pilots totaled 31 turnovers and 14 assists.

It would be easy to point to the freshman point guard to explain those numbers, but Porter said it's not fair to put the Pilots' struggles on Chase Adams, who had five assists and seven turnovers in the two games.

"We've got to do a better job of delivering passes," Porter said. "Guys receiving got to do a better job being ready for them and catching them cleanly with two hands and then being able to go make plays out of it."

One guy the Pilots need more from is graduate transfer Isaiah White, who missed all three of his shots against Pacific, then went 5 of 15 against San Diego. The team's leading scorer overall, White is averaging only 8.3 points in conference play.

Porter wants to see the 6-4 graduate transfer assert himself by driving more and getting to the foul line.

• In the Pac-12, Oregon can move into first place with wins this week over USC at 8 p.m. Thursday and UCLA at 2 p.m. Sunday at home. If the Ducks, now No. 12 in the rankings, end up winning what looks like a wide-open conference, the unlikely win at Washington might be the big one.

Oregon State returns home to play UCLA at 8 p.m. Thursday and USC at 2 p.m. Saturday needing to rebound from two losses in the state of Washington.

• With six blocked shots in Lewis & Clark's win over Puget Sound on Jan. 18, senior Zeke Crawford tied the Pioneers' single-game record. His 112 career blocked shots is a program record.

• Last week's games against Stanford were significant for the women's basketball teams in the Willamette Valley. Oregon's runaway win over the Cardinal was a statement.

But this is THE big week for women's basketball in these parts.

At 7 p.m. Friday, it's Beavers at Ducks. At 1 p.m. Sunday, it's Ducks at Beavers. More than 21,000 fans will attend the two games.

Oregon is coming off impressive wins over Stanford and Cal. Oregon State will be desperate to sweep, having dropped two of its last three, including Sunday's three-point loss to Stanford.

For all of his success, Oregon coach Kelly Graves is 0-5 at Gill Coliseum.

• Sabrina Ionescu was named Pac-12 player of the week and espnW national player of the week after scoring a career-high 37 points against Stanford. Now at 2,279 points, against the Cardinal Ionescu surpassed Allison Lang (1980-84) to become the Ducks' career leading scorer

• For a warmup to Friday's Civil War, consider visiting Chiles Center on Thursday. First-year coach Michael Meek, despite some injury challenges, has Portland in third place in the WCC at 4-3 with three consecutive wins.

In the most recent of those, freshman Alex Fowler scored 35 points and Kate Andersen hit the game-winning 3 at the buzzer in a 80-77 win at Santa Clara. A Portland native and former Jesuit standout, Andersen is having a strong senior season, averaging career highs of 14.1 points, 3.7 rebounds and 3.0 assists.

Fowler, whose 17.4 scoring average leads the conference, earned WCC player of the week honors for the second time. She was one of six players considered for the espnW national player of the week honor won by Ionescu.

The Pilots play host to Loyola Marymount at 7 p.m. Thursday, a homecoming for LMU freshman Cierra Ellington, who helped Benson to the state title last March. Ellington is averaging 10.9 points and 5.4 rebounds for the Lions.

• Another homecoming takes place at 2 p.m. Saturday at Viking Pavilion as Northern Arizona visits Portland State.

Former Grant standouts Khiarica Rasheed and Nina Radford are leading NAU in scoring, and the Lumberjacks will bring a five-game winning streak to town. PSU has won three in a row to improve to 11-7 and 5-3 entering a 7:30 p.m. Thursday home game against Sacramento State.

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