Wednesday , March 09, 2016 - 8:39 PM
RENO, Nev. – Weber State may have handily swept the season series against Portland State, but head coach Randy Rahe is not taking the matchup in the Big Sky Tournament quarterfinals lightly.
“They’re playing their best basketball,” he said. “They’re playing loose and they’re playing really well right now. The game that I watched yesterday on film was probably the best performance I’ve seen them have all year. We’ve got a big challenge there.”
What makes Thursday night’s game even more dangerous for the Wildcats is the level of comfort that the Vikings will have given they already have a tournament game under their belt. Playing the first game of a tournament can give players a “nervous energy,” and success comes depending on how quickly a team can settle into their rhythm of play.
Looking back at 2014, Weber State played their first game of the conference tournament against Northern Colorado, who played the night before. The Wildcats came out on top and went on to win the championship, but only after defeating the Bears in overtime.
The disadvantage of playing in the opening round comes later in the week. Should a lower-seeded team like Portland State advance, a championship only comes after the daunting task of winning four games in five days.
“When you’ve already played a game, you’ve got the jitters out,” Rahe said after a Wednesday practice. “Our kids are going to come out ready to play and hopefully we get in the flow of the game quickly. I thought before the season that (Portland State) was one of the top three teams in our league, talent wise. They’re now starting to put it all together.”
PSU big man and Georgia transfer Cameron Forte will be a force to be reckoned with down low, as he comes off a 26-point, 12-rebound performance against Northern Colorado in the first round. Forte, combined with the athleticism of the Viking guards, gives the team a balanced attack against the Wildcats.
After playing without senior forward Joel Bolomboy for three games, the Wildcats went 1-1 in the last weekend of play with a loss to Idaho and a win over Eastern Washington.
When the team knew that Bolomboy would be returning to the lineup before their game against Idaho, they were too much at ease and didn’t play with the same intensity as they did when he was sidelined, according to Rahe.
The Wildcats regrouped, and put together a solid game against Eastern Washington on the road.
“We had a little ’come to Jesus’ meeting in the hotel after that game and got the kids back to where they needed to be mentally,” Rahe said. “I thought Saturday they came out and played with great edge, great urgency and we fought like crazy. It felt like we got it back.”
Speaking of getting back, freshman guard Cody John is still experiencing soreness in his thigh after taking a knee to it during WSU’s game against Idaho. He did not practice at full speed on Wednesday and his status will be determined before the game against PSU.
Thursday afternoon’s game will tipoff at 1:05 p.m. MST and will be streamed live on WatchBigSky.com and broadcast on 1430 KLO Radio.
Contact sports reporter Brandon Garside at email@example.com, on Twitter @BrandonGarside and on Facebook.com/BrandonGarsideSE.
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