The rematch of the two teams at the top of the Big Sky Conference standings promises to be an interesting affair. In the first match-up this season, PSU completely dominated the Jacks in all facets of the game, especially rebounding, en route to the 80-66 final. Tomorrow night’s game looks to be different. First of all, the game is not being played at the Stott Center, where the Viks are 8-1. The first matchup was also a break-out game for Kyle Coston. Before and since that game he has done nothing to indicate he can reproduce that effort. Nobody will ever question his shooting touch, but his lack of tenacity and inability to create his own shot makes him an offensive clone of the two other options for the Vikings at the 4 spot. Tiefenthaler, Mara, and Coston all have the ability to shoot the ball well from the outside, but none have been able to produce when their shot hasn’t fallen. This, along with injuries, is one of the reasons that Ken Bone is forced to shuffle his lineup almost every game. Speaking of consistency, there are two names that come to mind for Viking fans: Deonte Huff and Jeremiah Dominguez. The two have carried the Vikings to almost all of their victories, one of the few exceptions being the first match-up with the Jacks. The pair only produced 19 points in the first game. They will need to be on their game if the Viks have any chance on the road. The last big factor for change is the rotation. Scott Morrison only played 20 minutes in the first contest, with Julius Thomas going 17. With Thomas out, Morrison will likely be depended on to go at least 30 minutes, and be given a few mintues rest by JR Moore.
On the other side, the first contest was an off night for Kyle Landry. He was able to manage 12 points, a good night for most, but not for Landry who is averaging 17.3. In his place, Zarko Comagic stepped up and had a really big game. The two of them will need to be consistent to keep pace with Huff and Dominguez. Coming off losses to Idaho State and Northern Colorado on the road, the Lumberjacks will look to get back on track, and back into first place.
NAU: Ryan McCurdy PSU: Scott Morrison
Though his play hasn’t been as consistent as many would like, Scott Morrison has started every game with the exception of the near disaster against Lewis & Clark. For the last 4 games Morrison has been very consistent. With increased opportunity (30+ minutes) he has delivered over 17 points per game. In the first game against NAU Morrison scored only 6 points, but was limited to just 5 shots. With renewed confidence Morrison should deliver at least 15 points against the rail-thin McCurdy. McCurdy’s advantage in this match-up is his speed. If the Jacks can create some fast-break opportunities, he should have no trouble beating Morrison down the floor and putting defenders in the position to foul.
NAU: Kyle Landry PSU: Kyle Coston
Landry is clearly the better player in this match-up, even though his production in their first contest wouldn’t indicate it. No matter who he goes up against for PSU, he should have the advantage. None are particularly good defenders, and only Mara brings the intensity necessary to be one. The challenge for the Vikings will be to get some offensive production here, because they are better at the other positions, but the outside shot here creates room for Morrison to work inside.
NAU: Zarko Comagic PSU: Deonte Huff
This match-up should be the exact opposite of the one at power forward. Here, Comagic had a great game offensively while the consistent Huff made a lackluster performance. If Comagic can produce more than 10 points against Huff this time around, it bodes well for a team that will need to shoot much better than 42% to win. I expect Huff to come through with another strong performance, which should be aided by his recent hot streak at the free throw line.
NAU: Nathan Geiser PSU: Andre Murray
Murray seems to be adjusting well to his role as the team’s unquestioned shooting guard. With his ability to rebound much larger than his stature, his play is somewhat reminiscent to that of Huff. He had a solid game against the Jacks the first time out, and should the Viks need his production, I expect him to be there again tomorrow. Geiser really struggled in the first contest, throwing a bagel up on the scoreboard. Since then, he has returned to form, and should fare better this time around. If not, Zach Filzen will be ready to pick up the slack.
NAU: Josh Wilson PSU: Jeremiah Dominguez
Wilson is definitely one of the top point guards in the Big Sky Conference. Averaging 12 points, 3 rebounds, and 6 assists, he would get the nod over just about anyone. The problem is that he is going up against the best point guard in the conference. Dominguez is a tenacious on-ball defender, with quickness that allows him to take the ball at any time. Add that to his recent offensive explosion, and he becomes one of the favorites for MVP. He outscored Wilson by 9 points in the first game, but the two combined for only 13. This time around, I expect them to go for 30+.
For the Vikings, the role of the bench has decreased substantially. However, they will need to get quality minutes from JR Moore in place of Morrison, and some scoring production from the 4 spot to have a good shot at winning. For NAU, Filzen, Johnson, and Jones will have to take advantage of the Vikings weaker defenders. If they can produce 10+ points, it will go a long way towards determining the outcome.
I see the Viks giving one back here. I hate picking against them, but they aren’t a particularly good team on the road. If they get a solid performance from all the role players and Dominguez has an amazing output that might change things.
Prediction: NAU 72-70