The Idaho State Bengals will enter the Peter W. Stott Center on Saturday night with a tough assignment: Trying to beat a team that has won 17 Big Sky games in a row and 15 in a row at home. They will also be only one rest day removed from a tough conference road game at Eastern Washington. The good news for the Bengals is that their tough non-conference schedule is finally over. After being picked to finish near the top of the Big Sky by almost everybody, the Bengals had 3 straight overtime losses to begin the season to go along with the bagel in the win column for road games. One bright spot is the continued development of junior small forward Amorrow Morgan, who has stepped up his production to become the teamâ€™s star.
For the Vikings, the story is quite different. Saturday night should be another chance to extend their great conference and home streaks while continuing a dream season. The Viks won all 3 match-ups between the two teams last season, including a 72-61 result that propelled PSU to the Big Sky Championship game. Stucki was the main point of damage, scoring 20 or more points in two of the three contests, so look for the Viks to really focus their defensive attention around him.
ISU: Demetrius Monroe/Deividas Busma PSU: Jamie Jones
Demetrius Monroe has had an up and down season for the Bengals, going for a double-double in his first four games and then seeing a vast drop-off in production since mid-December (averaging under 3 points per game in his last 6). Given his lack of success, 7â€™0â€ center Deividas Busma has seen more time as of late. His size could give Jamie Jones a lot of problems on the inside, but his inability to keep up with Jones may force Joe Oâ€™Brien to leave Monroe on the floor. Itâ€™s hard to envision a situation in which Jones would have any sort of advantage here unless Busma is on the court and it becomes a track meet. Look for the Bengals to exploit this mismatch and see where it takes them.
ISU: Chron Tatum PSU: Kyle Coston
After not seeing much time at the beginning of the season, Chron Tatum has recently worked his way into the rotation as an important body in the front line. His preference for inside play will likely make Kyle Coston uncomfortable, as he prefers to hover around the three point line. The winner of this match-up will depend on who gets the ball more often in places where he can be successful, as neither is much of a creator on his own. Given that Tatumâ€™s preference is for easier shots, look for him to produce more than Coston.
ISU: Amorrow Morgan PSU: Phil Nelson
The junior from Memphis has become the go-to guy for the Bengals this season, at one point scoring 31 points (versus Boise State). Fortunately for the Bengals, he has the opportunity to be guarded by a player who could be called a project defensively. Nelson is making strides and can make amazing plays on either end, but is also one to take plays off and let his marks score easily. Nelson will get a chance to prove all of the doubters wrong here, and perhaps put the Big Sky on notice. One game after the exciting show down between two of the premier point guards in the Big Sky, Viking fans will get to see the first iteration of a dandy of a small forward match-up in person. Iâ€™m hesitant to pick either one, as they are two of the conferenceâ€™s brightest stars, and should be exciting for the rest of this season and next at least.
ISU: Kal Bay PSU: Andre Murray
Kal Bay is a bit of an unknown to the Viks, but he will definitely be one to keep an eye on. After playing his freshman season at the University of Colorado, Bay transferred to the College of Eastern Utah where he had a solid year. He is the least of the Vikings worries from an offensive standpoint, but they will make sure to get a hand in his face when he is shooting the 3 ball because he can fill it up if given the chance. Andre Murray will get a chance to prove his mettle in this match-up. This is one of the games when the Vikings will need a big scoring night from both Murray and Dominic Waters if they are going to have any chance at winning. They both have the potential to score 20 or more points and I have no doubt that they will both do that in this game.
ISU: Matt Stucki PSU: Jeremiah Dominguez
This should be another of the intriguing point guard match-ups to watch this season. It is also unique because Stucki stands a full foot taller than Dominguez. While one player has the size and power advantage, the other has the quickness and hand speed advantage. No matter who is more productive, these two all-conference performers should put on a show. Stucki and Dominguez matched up 3 times last season, with Stucki getting the better of Dominguez in two of the three. The good thing for Viking fans is that Dominguez outperformed Stucki at the Stott Center. The Vikings will need him to do that again if they are going to win this one.
Depending on who starts for the Bengals, they could have two seven-footers available to come off the bench. Although neither is a huge scoring threat, they should be able to affect the way PSU chooses to defend the rest of the team. The Bengals also have Donnie Carson and Austin Kilpatrick on the bench, two players who have the potential to make a difference if they get enough shots. The Viking bench will again include Dominic Waters, Tyrell Mara, and Wendell Wright, with the potential for Mickey Polis to make an appearance. Ken Bone and Viking fans will have to hope that Waters can continue to impact games as he has so far this season. Mara may also have an important role in this game if Coston has trouble being physical with Tatum down low.
Iâ€™m not sure why, but I think the Bengals match up really well with the Vikings this season. If any team has the athletes at the right positions to knock off the Vikings at home, itâ€™s either the Weber State Wildcats or these Bengals. On this night I think the Vikings will prevail. Perhaps a game later in the season would allow a different outcome, but given the current records and production Iâ€™m going with the Vikings at home.
Prediction: PSU 76 ISU 71