Eastern Washington got the Big Sky started with a win over Texas Southern on Friday morning, but there was just one win over another Division I team for the rest of the weekend.
That said, it was a pretty nice win, as Portland State went on the road and beat Pac-12 USC on Saturday night.
The Vikings led by seven at the half and never looked back, winning 76-68. In a turn from recent years, they won this game with defense. USC scored 0.96 PPP, and the Vikings forced 23 turnovers (while committing just four themselves), scoring 31 points off those turnovers. The Trojans shot the ball well (53% for the day), but were undone by the turnovers.
Forward Tiegbe Bamba was even better than advertised for the Vikings, and showed he will be one of the best newcomers in the conference. He scored 19 points - including shooting 3/3 from downtown - while also grabbing six rebounds and getting four steals. Combined with nice days from Braxton Tucker (16 points) and Bryce White (14), the Vikings have the newcomers up front to shore up what was a big weakness last season.
USC isn't going to be competing for a Pac-12 title, but anytime you go on the road and beat a team like that to open the year, it's encouraging. It's too early to make any definitive statements, but the Vikings appear to be real players in the Big Sky race.
The favorite in the conference, Weber State, did not have such a great opening act.
The Wildcats led by 18 points at halftime, but remarkably turned that into a 72-61 loss, as they simply couldn't stop the bleeding in the seonc half against Utah State. After outscoring the Aggies 47-29 in the first half, the score was 43-14 in the second half.
Utah State played a 1-3-1 zone, and the Wildcats struggled to solve it. They were just 4/23 from the floor during the second half. Jeremy Senglin led the team with 14 points, but he also had eight turnovers compared to one assist. He is going to be their lead ball handler and needs to be able to make plays for others, but this game showed that is still a work in progress.
After the losses the last couple of years, we knew there would be some growing pains for the Wildcats. One of the potential weaknesses I talked about before the year was when Weber State needed a basket, who would be the guy to step up and get it? In the opener, that answer was: nobody.
It's a young season, but it's a rough way to start for Weber State.
One other game that caught my eye was Northern Colorado going on the road to take on Wyoming. The Bears lost 78-70, but they were within four at the 3:55 mark, and generally played well on the road. Wyoming has been a solid team the past couple of years, but UNC was right there with them.
Offensively, they had no issues, scoring 1.19 PPP, shooting the ball well, and grabbing offensive rebounds. Newcomer Cam Michael scored 21 points to pace them (hitting five threes), while Cody McDavis scored an efficient 17. Offense was not a problem.
The defense, however, did struggle, as the Cowboys scored 1.32 PPP. They somehow shot 18/24 on two-pointers, and 8/18 from beyond the arc.
The Bears overall had a nice showing, one of the better ones of the weekend in the conference. However, they have to learn to be able to get a stop when they need it, and they still aren't there yet.
Anything else stick out over the weekend?
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