Saturday, March 3, 2012

Semifinals Are Set as Portland State Rolls to Victory

I knew Montana State was going to have trouble scoring enough to keep up with Portland State. I also knew that the teams were coming in with opposite momentum. However, I didn't expect PSU to dominate the game like they did on Saturday night, beating the Bobcats 75-53 in the Big Sky quarterfinals.

It was a familiar script for Portland State. Excellent production from their stars, Chehales Tapscott (20 points, 12 rebounds) and Charles Odum (16 points, seven rebounds); and solid efforts from a couple of role players, Lateef McMullan (14 points, four assists, and Renado Parker (13 points, nine rebounds off the bench). More or less, this is what they have done all season long.

Montana State came out of the gate playing pretty well because of their defense. They ran multiple zone looks, and it confused the Vikings early. PSU turned the ball over often early on, and MSU was able to get some easy baskets. That was big for them, and it was an eight point deficit at the break, as the Viks were unable to create a ton of separation in the first half.

However, PSU began to figure out the zone in the second half, and Montana State simply didn't have the weapons to respond. They needed a big day from Shawn Reid, but he was held to four points on 2/10 shooting. Simply put, the Bobcats were unable to consistently get good looks from their half-court offense. They weren't hitting anything from the outside (3/16 threes), and they weren't able to aggressively attack the rim (11 free throws). They simply didn't have the personnel to score effectively or consistently in the half court offense, and once they stopped forcing turnovers, PSU ran away from them.

It ends a disappointing season for Montana State. After a 6-2 start to the Big Sky season, their world ends with a whimper. Montana State fans have seen this movie before, and I am not sure how much longer they will tolerate it. Obviously we will look at everything more in depth in the offseason, but safe to say Brad Huse probably doesn't head into next season feeling too comfortable about job security.

For Portland State, the dream lives on. They get Weber State in a neutral court game, and if they can find a way to slow down Damian Lillard (who has torched them this season), they will have a chance. They have the offensive talent, it is all about digging in defensively. They will meet on 5:30pm Tuesday night, in what should be an outstanding game.

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