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Day after Portland State

Where to begin the day after Portland State post? By giving proper credit to the visiting Vikings, who overcame travel issues and were the hungrier team in knocking off No. 7 Gonzaga 77-70 on Tuesday at the McCarthey Athletic Center.

Portland State hopped off a charter bus, which arrived in Spokane about 3 hours and 30 minutes before tip off, and managed to play with more energy, effort and intensity than the Zags, who flew back on their charter plane from Seattle on Saturday night after losing to UConn in overtime.

Much more below.

 


First, the links. Here are game stories from the S-R, the Oregonian (authored by the S-R’s Dave Trimmer), the Tacoma News Tribune and Seattle P-I carried the same article from a stringer, and A.P.

Portland State guard Jeremiah Dominguez, who said he’s 5-feet-6 “with shoes on,” stole the show with 25 points, six rebounds and five assists. He connected on 7 of 10 3s and he had help from Andre Murray and Dominic Waters, who each hit two 3s.

Sometimes it was as easy as stepping around a ball screen for Dominguez to get an open look. With four minutes left, he ran down a rebound and buried a clutch 3-pointer. He did that at the 13-minute mark, too. He also had a nifty pass fake that freed him from defender Jeremy Pargo and he cooly hit a 3-pointer. 

“We run a motion offense; it’s kind of scrambled,” Dominguez said. “I seemed to be open the majority of the time and I hit some shots.”

PSU was 12 of 31 from beyond the 3-point line. That stat was one of many that disappointed Gonzaga coach Mark Few.

“He’s a terrific player,” Few said of Dominguez. “He really understands how to play the game, and if you let him make 3s, like we did, then he can really be effective. He shoots a higher percentage from 3 than 2. We had talked at length for two days not to allow him to get any 3s off. So, there you have it.”

Gonzaga guard Matt Bouldin said Dominguez “is a player. It’s not like the coaches didn’t prepare us. We did everything pretty much the coaches told us not to.”

—There was plenty of talk afterward from the players that they simply didn’t take Portland State seriously enough and that they didn’t take GU’s game plan from the drawing board to the floor.

“We like to talk about Zag effort; it wasn’t a Zag effort at all,” Pargo said. “We played lackadaisical. We gave up a lot of shots. We didn’t do things we talked about in practice.

“We got out there and just played like we didn’t want to play. Anytime you have an opportunity to play basketball it’s always a gift and we didn’t take advantage of it.”

Said Bouldin: “When a team comes out and plays with more fire than we do, it should hurt us. We definitely didn’t come out with the same fire we have been. You could see it in our faces in warm-ups. That should never happen, especially after a loss like UConn. It’s not going to sit well in my stomach over the (holiday) break.”

—Few juggled the lineup to start the second half. Steven Gray started in place of Micah Downs, who was scoreless while playing 11 first-half minutes. Gray then went scoreless in the second half and Downs chipped in six points.

The discussion at half was “just that we played lazy,” Josh Heytvelt said. “He (Few) got into us and yelled a little bit, like a coach should in those situations, and told us we needed to go out and play like we usually do. And we didn’t.”

“We’ve got 20 minutes to fix what we did,” Bouldin said of the halftime message. “We were all pretty embarrassed with that first half.”

—Few didn’t sugarcoat his post-game analysis.

“You can’t fix anything if you don’t have effort and energy,” he said. “Execution doesn’t matter. Yeah, execution was poor, but our defense was horrendous, our rebounding was horrendous. You have to get that shored up before you can worry about the other things.”

More Few: “We’d have three guys playing hard and two that weren’t or four guys that were alert and one that wasn’t. Portland State did a marvelous job of cutting that up. Hey, I knew they were good. This game had concerned me from this summer, when I saw it was following the Connecticut game. We had a team meeting right when we got back (from Seattle). We spent a lot of time preparing about how we have to get after these guys and really take it to them. You know what, the guys just didn’t take it serious enough. And obviously, I think our confidence got knocked back after the UConn game, and that showed a little today, but it was more of an effort thing.”

—Rebounding was one of the telling stats. PSU won the glass 39-30, 13-8 on the offensive glass. The Vikings’ starting five measured 5-6, 6-2, 6-7, 6-7, 6-8. GU’s first unit stands 6-2, 6-5, 6-8, 6-11, 6-11. PSU’s tallest player is 6-8 Kyle Coston.

“I think our offensive and defensive rebounding won the game,” Dominguez said. “Limiting them to one shot with a bunch of bigger guys, and we tried to stop their fastbreak points.”

Austin Daye led Gonzaga with nine boards and Heytvelt had eight.

“We were slow to everything,” Daye said. “We weren’t our usual selves. Myself, I made some dumb plays, plays I usually don’t make. I missed a dunk (with 5:31 left), I missed a five-footer at the end of the game (with 1:14 remaining). As a whole, we didn’t execute like we needed to and come out with fire in the first half.”

“They shoot a lot of long shots and we just did a poor job of getting the long rebounds,” Heytvelt said.

PSU came in plus 2.7 per game in rebounding; GU plus 4.4.

“That was huge,” Vikings coach Ken Bone said. “That was highlighted in our scout. They are a big team, they’re aggressive and they’re on their home floor. We just had to do something about being as hungry as possible and being aggressive and a few of our guys did that.”

Dominguez, who had seven offensive rebounds in nine games, came up with three on the offensive end and three on the defensive end.

—Make no mistake, the Vikings are a quality team. They won 23 games overall and the Big Sky title last season before falling to eventual national champion Kansas in the first round of the NCAAs. They’re 25-6 in the 2008 calendar year. They crushed Montana 72-45 in their conference opener Saturday. They defeated Portland of the WCC 81-76, beat Cal State Fullerton, an NCAA tournament qualifier last season, 76-75; and fell to the Washington Huskies 84-83 10 days ago.

They already have wins over teams from Conference USA, the WCC, the Big West and Mid-American this season. They started two seniors, two juniors and Washington transfer Phil Nelson, a sophomore.

Next up for PSU: Texas Southern and No. 21 Baylor on the road.

—Portland State joined a short list of Big Sky teams to upset a ranked opponent. Here’s the list (researched by S-R’s John Blanchette):

Montana 87, No. 20 Nevada 79                   2006     in Salt Lake City                       

EWU 68, No. 10 St. Joseph’s 67                 2001     in Berkeley

Weber State 76, No. 13 No. Carolina 74       1999     in Seattle

Weber State 79, No. 11 Mich. State 72         1995     in Tallahassee

Idaho State 76, No. 2 UCLA 75                   1977     in Provo

—With students on holiday break, the atmosphere inside the MAC was subdued. There were perhaps 200 students wedged into a small section near the east baseline. One of the loudest cheers came at halftime when a fan’s half-court shot swirled the rim but didn’t go in.

There wasn’t much noise in the building until the final 3-4 minutes. Then again, the fans didn’t have a whole lot to get excited about.

“That was the least of our problems tonight,” Few said. “We talked about creating our own energy anyway. That’s what we have to do on the road or in neutral court games. It all starts with us.”

 


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Jim Allen (@srjimallen) Sports reporter Jim Allen's primary coverage areas are Eastern Washington University football and men's basketball, and college and high school soccer. He also contributes to the SportsLink Blog.

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