I believe this was the most popular name suggestion for the game.
What can we expect from a team that is 2-4 and lost to Western Oregon in a home game? I would be very surprised if this wasn’t a fairly close game. Last year’s game between the two saw a very good game from Jamie Jones, who is now at PSU, and from Ben Sullivan, now graduated. The best game, however, came from Walter Thompson. He was a starter who saw big minutes last year, but has slipped this year to 20 minutes per game and 6.4 points. Who does that leave the Pilots? Surprisingly, they have still seen some production, led by sophomore Robin Smeulders from Germany/Netherlands. The 6’9″ forward has averaged 12.3 points per game and 6.5 rebounds. His versatility and ability to stretch the defense will force Tyrell Mara to again be the most important player defensively for the Vikings.
Portland: Luke Sikma PSU: Scott Morrison
Though Sikma isn’t technically a true center at 6’8″, the true freshman is the best rebounder at 10.2 a game and probably their best post player as well. He will be forced to go up against Morrison who probably rebounds just as well, but isn’t forced to with the abilities of Huff and Mara. Morrison may also match up against a couple of other freshman who are a little bit bigger, Kramer Knutson and Jasonn Hannibal. Neither has seen significant time in the first 6 games, but they may be used to try to keep Sikma fresh. Morrison’s size advantage should allow him to score and rebound in this match-up, but he will have to watch out for the versatile skill set that Sikma possesses and try not to get out of position. Morrison will also have to look out for backdoor cuts, as Sikma is a very accomplished passer.
Portland: Robin Smeulders PSU: Tyrell Mara
Smeulders is the better scorer and rebounder, and Mara is the better passer in this match-up of promising sophomores. Both is averaging in double-figures and each have been vital to their teams’ limited success up to this point. Mara will have to again play consistent defense inside and outside to limit Smeulders’ productivity. The hope for the Pilots is that Smeulders will outscore Mara by enough for them to win at home, because they don’t have any other advantages over the Vikings.
Portland: Sherrard Watson PSU: Deonte Huff
On Saturday, Watson exploded for 18 against an Idaho State team that hasn’t looked good so far. However, this showing against a mediocre team doesn’t mean it was a fluke. Watson’s production has increased every year for the Pilots, and this year he has been in double digits 4 times. He should provide a tough match-up for Huff at 6’6″. I think Huff has been waiting for a match-up like this though. The teams both play a fairly standard lineup, and this is the first opportunity for Huff to really play against another forward. He loves to get inside and rebound the ball, and his outside shooting is fairly questionable, so this match-up should play to his strengths.
Portland: Nik Raivio PSU: Dupree Lucas
This is a question mark for Lucas. He has had some great games, and some poor games the last couple of years. However, the times he has struggled have come against bigger guards like Raivio. (6’4″) Lucas will have to prove he can compete in a match-up like this, and it’s not clear that he can. Raivio is averaging 10 points per game, and he may be able to get more than that in this one, depending on how often he shoots. Lucas’ advantage is his speed, so he’ll have to try to get back to his mid-range game, because he might have difficulty getting off the three-balls he’s been resorting to recently.
Portland: Taishi Ito/Jared Stohl PSU: Jeremiah Dominguez
Ito was the starter, but missed this weekend’s games with an injury. If he can’t go in this one, the Pilots will turn to Jared Stohl, who has stepped in and done a nice job as a freshman, averaging 8.4 points per game. However, the Pilots are hoping Ito can play. He had a tough game against PSU last year, going 0-8, but he turned it around late in the season and was honored as a member of the WCC all-freshman
team. His passing opens up things for other players, and allows the offense to function more smoothly. No matter who starts for the Pilots, he will have a major height advantage over the 5’6″ Dominguez, who began his college career as a Pilot. However, so far this season, the size difference hasn’t really mattered.
After a great exhibition, Andre Murray has been ice cold for the Vikings. If they hope to have any shot at competing in the Big Sky, he will have to pick it up, and he and Kyle Coston will have to hit more shots. Last year’s star for the Pilots, Walter Thompson has been demoted to a bench role, but his size may warrant him some serious minutes in this contest, especially given his success last year. If Ito plays, Stohl is the other player to watch off the bench for the Pilots. These two could really have an impact on the game if they can be effective, because they will give the Pilots’ starters a rest against a physically superior team. PSU has been unable to give their starters enough rest due to the horrendous start to the year for their key reserves.
This game could go either way. Each team has had a tough start to their year, and will be looking for a signature win. This game may have been the turning point for the Vikings last year, propelling them to 19 wins. I think the Viks’ superior skill should allow them to win a close one, but their success at the free throw line may determine their fate. Both programs appear to have a lot of young talent coming along, and this one could be a fun rivalry in the coming years if there is enough interest.
Prediction: PSU 68-61
Note: Ito will not be playing. His father recently passed away, and he is in Japan with his family.