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Team Profile: Portland St – Boise St Recap

by David Mihm | February 21st, 2009

Portland State 93, Boise State 81

Though this game had little impact on the NCAA Tournament, in terms of either potential at-large selections or seeding, it was huge for Portland State’s confidence. 

Losers of four of their last seven in Big Sky Conference play, the Vikings sorely needed a W against a quality opponent. They got it, making Boise State their third-best victim this season after Gonzaga and fellow Rose City dwellers Portland.

The literal “overflow” crowd (approximately 30 people watched the first half from the lobby of the Stott Center), which included Trail Blazer Center Greg Oden, was treated to one of the best halves in Portland State history to start the game.  PSU stars Jeremiah Dominguez, Phil Nelson, and Dominic Waters put on a three-point shooting display that nearly ignited the West basket.  Its impressiveness cannot be overstated.

PSU shot nearly 60% from beyond the arc as a team, and 65% overall, over the first 20 minutes.

Boise State tried valiantly to get into a half-court rhythm, continuing to pound the ball inside to big men Mark Sanchez and Ike Okoye, but Nelson’s lightning-quick hands on defense deflected half a dozen entry attempts prior to intermission.

Portland State led 58-35 at halftime thanks to its blistering offensive performance.  In a classy move by the Athletic Department, the entire “standing room crowd” was let into the second half free of charge, encouraged to scavenge for seats left empty by no-shows. 

Though “The Horde,” PSU’s student section was in loud voice for the entire game, the visitors from six hours down I-84 staged a furious rally, creating a palpable air of nervousness in the tiny gym.  Anthony Thomas and La’Shard Anderson probed the Viking defense repeatedly, and PSU’s big men were unable to collapse quickly enough. Reserve G Paul Noonan and starter Jamar Greene nailed a couple of three-point shots to bring the Broncos as close as eight.

But on the key play of the game, with approximately 3:30 left and momentum fully on the side of the visiting squad, Jeremiah Dominguez corraled a loose ball which he himself had lost and drilled a 30-footer from the top of the key as time wound down on the shot clock. 

Despite a swarm of protests from the Boise State bench, Dominguez was not called for double-dribble and BSU’s rally was over.  The Vikings made their free throws down the stretch and emerged victorious.

Tournament Implications

Boise State is one large team.  Starters Okoye and Moritz are 6’9 and 6’10, and Mark Sanchez, Boise’s most polished post player, plays much larger than his 6’7 frame.  Noonan, Boise’s key reserve, is 6’7 and even at 6’0, Greene is a ripped 205.  Nine nights out of ten, they would have been the better team in this matchup, but Portland State just couldn’t be stopped in the first 20:00.  Some of that had to do with Boise’s poor rotation on its perimeter defense, but the Broncos cleaned that up nicely in the second half and hawked the ball incessantly.  Boise could easily present matchup problems for smaller teams in the NCAA Tournament, but must win the WAC Tournament in Reno in order to get that chance.

Portland State would be the best team in Oregon were it not for the OSU Beavers’ recent surge to the middle of the Pac-10 standings.  The diminutive PG Jeremiah Dominguez gets all the headlines, and rightfully so, but equally important to PSU’s success is Phil Nelson, a transfer from the University of Washington who played significant minutes for the Huskies in the 2006 season.  Nelson is athletic and has a set of offensive moves which were clearly honed at a high-major level.  If Portland State can repeat its first-half shooting performance in the NCAA Tournament (not likely, but you never know), even a 2 seed would be vulnerable. This team is largely intact from last year’s run to the NCAA’s (which ended early with a relative trouncing by #1 seed Kansas), and seems to relish the big stage, as evidenced by their victory in this game as well as in their only other televised game of the year at Gonzaga.

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