Wednesday night sees the Portland State Vikings traveling to San Luis Obispo to take on the Cal Poly Mustangs. The Vikings and Mustangs have met each of the past two years, winning one game apiece. The teams have gone in opposite directions since the beginning of this series, with the Vikings becoming a conference champion and the Mustangs struggling mightily. The toughest pill to swallow at Cal Poly may be the one that tells them that the current team is comprised primarily of upper classmen, yet canâ€™t manage a winning record. If not, then it has to be the caliber of the teams theyâ€™re losing to, who arenâ€™t perennial NCAA contenders. At least they have a good football program.
Rice— PSU 1-0, CP 0-1
Seattle— PSU 2-0, CP 0-1
CP: Titus Shelton PSU: Jamie Jones
Although Shelton struggled against Portland State last year, he was going up against Scott Morrison. The 6â€™7â€ 240 pound Shelton should have an easier time with Jamie Jones. He has the bulk to muscle Jamie out of the way, and has used it so far to become the leading scorer for the Mustangs at 12.3 points per contest. His numbers have dropped off significantly after scoring in double figures in the first four games. Aside from the game against Hampton, Jones has been fairly predictable. He has used his solid post moves to dominate against smaller defenders, and has struggled against true centers. Shelton should be a fairly even match-up for Jones because he has the added bulk of a center, but not the height. I suspect that weâ€™ll see Jones go for about 15 points and 8 rebounds. Shelton should be in the same neighborhood for the Mustangs if he can stay out of foul trouble.
CP: Wes Dipprey PSU: Kyle Coston
Although his size rivals that of Coston, Dipprey leads Cal Poly in rebounding at 6.3 per game. Although not much of a scoring threat, he tends to be an asset on the defensive end of the floor. Dipprey goes up against Kyle Coston, who will be anxious to prove that he can once again be an asset to the Vikings after a game in which he went just 2 of 6 from the charity stripe, and fouled out.
CP: Shawn Lewis PSU: Phil Nelson
The star in waiting for the Mustangs, Lewis is averaging 9.1 points per game as a sophomore, including a 15 point effort against BYU. In perhaps his second best game, he scored 14 points and had just one turnover in a Sunday loss to Seattle. After a tough first half against the Huskies, Phil Nelson was able to rebound for 13 points. Unfortunately, the first half deficit proved just enough to hold off the Vikings, who lost by one. Viking fans are hoping the half-time transformation is the sign of Nelson shaking off his flu-like symptoms, and that he can build on his second half effort. If he does, he becomes a dangerous match-up, especially for a much shorter defender like Lewis. Look for Nelson to try to work a little more inside the 3 point line this time, as he tries to take advantage of the mismatch.
CP: Lorenzo Keeler PSU: Andre Murray
Keeler was held to only 7 points against the Vikings in 2007, managing only four shots from the field. His numbers this season are almost identical to those of last season at this juncture. Given the great job that Murray and Lucas were able to do on Keeler last season, look for Ken Bone to apply a lot of pressure in the hopes that he can shut him down again. If he does, this game wonâ€™t be close. A mediocre team like the Mustangs canâ€™t afford to lose the production of a leading scorer, especially when his opponent is productive. That is exactly what â€œDraenoâ€ has been this year. He has been what many analysts call the â€œglue guy, or stat sheet stufferâ€ providing points, rebounds, or assists in any given game, dependent on what the team has needed. (For those of you who think you know how valuable he is, take a glance at his game-by-game numbers.) The one negative category in which he has high numbers is turnovers. If he can cut down there, as well as limit the number of fouls he gives, Murray should be on his way to a first- team All Big Sky nomination.
CP: Trae Clark PSU: Jeremiah Dominguez
The Mustangs havenâ€™t been good this year. However, that could change if Clark was more productive. Unlike the other veterans on this ball club, his numbers have gone way down, just like the team. If he canâ€™t find a way to rekindle his former success soon, he might lose his starting spot, and for good reason. Unfortunately for Poly, any transition wonâ€™t be easy. The next match-up for Clark is Jeremiah Dominguez. Although the Vikings werenâ€™t able to pull out the victory against the Huskies, Dominguez did all he could. He was as productive as his blue-chip counterpart, even after sitting out two games with bone chips in his finger. With a lesser opponent, Dominguez should dominate. If the Viks can secure a victory early, donâ€™t be surprised if Jeremiah sits early to continue the healing process.
One of the best players for Cal Poly is their sixth man, Chaz Thomas who provides 9 points, 2 rebounds and 2 assists per game. The one bright spot aside from Shawn Lewis may be freshman David Hanson, who is averaging 5 points and 4 rebounds per game. The Viking bench had a huge night against Washington, with Dominic Waters providing 19 points, and Tyrell Mara pulling down 7 rebounds. Although it wasnâ€™t enough, the bench was able to contribute to an effort that kept the game close enough, and should be applauded for their effort. When Dominic Waters starts on the bench, the Vikings have one of the best benches in the country, not just the Big Sky.
The Vikings need a win in this game to get the sour taste of the Washington loss out of their mouths. They also need it to build confidence going into a tough conference home opener against the Grizzlies on Saturday. If the team plays up to its potential, they should win big. However, it is very important that they donâ€™t overlook a team with four talented guards going into the Montana and Gonzaga games. Look for Dominguez and Jones to set the tone early with Waters, Murray, and Nelson finishing off the job.
Prediction: PSU 76 CP 63