The Vikings reached their first-ever 20-win season at the NCAA Division I level. They set a school record with 23 wins and 14 victories in the Big Sky Conference. Their star player, 5-6 point guard Jeremiah Dominguez, set a Vikings’ single-season record with 82 three-pointers. He was also the first player in Big Sky history to win both Conference Player of the Year and Newcomer of the Year.
This little-known school and largest university (nearly 26,000
students) in the state of Oregon is now hoping to make history again
by beating No. 1 seed Kansas on Thursday at 11:25 a.m. at the Qwest
A No. 16 seed has never beaten a No. 1 seed. But Portland State, a
rising program which has had three of its top four winning seasons at
the Division I level over the last four years, believes it can do the
impossible. After all, the Vikings enter the game as one of the hottest
teams in the country, winning 14 of their last 15 games.
“Personally, I think we have a pretty good chance,”
Dominguez said. “We’ve been practicing hard all
week. We’ve been working hard all year. And we put ourselves
in this position. So we’re not coming here just to lose.
We’re pretty confident going into the game.
“Kansas is a great team. But I feel like we’re a a
great team also. I feel like if we play a great game and give it all we
got, we should be in good position.”
It certainly won’t be easy for the Vikings, who have played
two nationally-ranked teams this season — UCLA and Washington State. Portland State lost at No. 2 UCLA in the season-opener on Nov.
9, and then fell to No. 8 Washington State, 72-60, on Dec. 9. Portland
State’s RPI is 90, while the Jayhawks have a No. 5 RPI.
And the ‘Hawks boast some of the best guards and big men in
the land. Portland State senior center Scott Morrison is impressed with
“(They) like to bang,” Morrison said.
“They can rotate any four of them at the four or five
position, and that’s going to be difficult, just with their
strength and athleticism.”
Third-year Vikings’ head coach Ken Bone knows his team is
facing a giant in Kansas.
“They’re a great team,” Bone said.
“I had an opportunity to coach at University of Washington a
few years ago before coming to Portland State, and after watching four
or five videos, they remind me a lot of the team we had at Washington.
(Portland Trail Blazers standout guard Brandon Roy and New York Knicks
guard Nate Robinson were juniors on that team.) We were very quick,
explosive, strong, athletic, we just got after it.
“(KU is) very, very similar to what we had at the University
of Washington. And that was a scary team. ... So we have our hands
full. They can hurt you in a lot of ways. We know what a great
offensive team they are. They can score in the half court. But
maybe more impressive is how they push the ball in
transition. They’re an outstanding transition club.”
Bone also raved about KU’s strong defense and board play.
“They (have) great quickness, aggressiveness, especially on
the perimeter,” Bone said. “And then, boy, the
rebounding is nothing like we see in the Big Sky.”
KU averages 39.4 rebounds per game, compared to 34.3 for the Vikings.
Bone said Dominguez’ play will be critical against
KU’s taller guards.
“Jeremiah is our best player, and he has the ball in his
hands a lot,” Bone said. “So what he does is kind
of what we do as an offensive unit. Knowing that Mario Chalmers is 6-1
and (Russell) Robinson is 6-1, that’s like a 6-6 kid playing
against a 7-1 kid. It makes it difficult. He has had some success
playing against taller kids. But those kids were not in the Big 12. And
Kansas’ guards are not only taller, longer, athletic,
they’re polished. They know how to play.
“Jeremiah will have his hands full, but one thing he will do
is he will leave it on the court. He’s a tough kid. He will
come out and battle as hard as he can for as long as he’s on
Bone hopes his entire team leaves it all “on the
court” against Kansas. He knows, quite simply, this is their
only chance to beat the mighty Jayhawks and make history.
“We tried to build them up as much as possible,”
Bone said. “They’ve played with a lot of confidence
the last couple of months. But this is a whole different deal. They
understand that. So it’s kind of difficult to trick them into
believing that, ‘Look guys, you really are better than
Kansas.’ Fortunately, it’s not a seven-game series
or a five-game series; it's 40 minutes of basketball. And anything can
happen in 40 minutes. ... We are trying to instill as much confidence
as we can in the kids, hoping they’ll come out and play
“If we can get to 30 minutes, then I think
we’re in good shape,” he added. “I think
if we can be within four, five, six points with 10 minutes to go on the
clock, then I think we would finish well in that situation. ... We just
need to be able to capitalize on any mistakes they possibly may
And Portland State must make as few of mistakes as possible to beat
“We have to play a phenomenal game just to be with
them,” Bone said.
Know the Enemy: Portland State
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