Last season, Portland State men’s basketball got all the attention for its non-conference exploits — going 10-3 with wins over Cal and Stanford — before turning in an uninspiring 9-9 campaign in Big Sky play.
Still, its 20-14 overall mark was a program best in 10 years and, this season, the Vikings have flipped the script. An uninspiring 5-6 non-conference mark led to an 0-2 start in Big Sky play before PSU won at top-dog Montana in overtime Jan. 5.
Suddenly, the Vikings (6-8, 1-2 Big Sky) have confidence and look much more of a threat than a team on a five-game losing streak as they prepare to host Weber State (9-6, 3-1) on Saturday, Jan. 12, in WSU’s lone game this week.
While coach Barret Peery returns with his up-tempo, pressure-defense style, some things have changed since Weber State eked out a pair of close wins over Portland State last season.
On the court, sophomore point guard Holland Woods is back with a handful of returners, but PSU lost five seniors and continues to hit the transfer market to fill its roster, meaning lineups will look and feel much different.
One of those transfers is Juwan Williams, a 6-foot-5 wing player who appeared in 20 games for Weber State as a freshman in the 2015-16 season. He redshirted the next year before leaving the team midway through the season, played one year at Panola Community College (Texas) and transferred to Portland State. He averages 3.9 points and 1.8 rebounds per game as a junior.
Transfers Michael Nuga (13.2 points per game) and Sal Nuhu (10.0 points, 1.8 blocks) help Woods (15.2 points, 5.0 assists) lead the Vikings.
Around the court is different, too. Portland State overhauled its constricting Stott Center and completed what is now called Viking Pavilion, meaning Weber State will play for the first time in PSU’s brand-new basketball arena that seats just more than 3,000 fans.
What hasn’t changed under Peery is his team’s commitment to crashing the offensive boards, which brings a compelling matchup.
Brekkott Chapman leads the Big Sky at 8.7 rebounds per game and Zach Braxton is third at 7.7. As a team, Weber State is 42nd nationally in defensive rebounding percentage.
Portland State is second nationally in offensive rebounding percentage, which is key for a poor-shooting Vikings squad that shoots 24.1 percent from deep against Division-I opponents (third-worst in the country) and 44.3 percent on two-point shots (bottom 30 nationally).
Additionally, PSU is prone to having shots blocked while Weber is the best shot-blocking team in the Big Sky.
Saturday’s contest is set to tip off at 8 p.m. and will stream live on WatchBigSky.com and the Pluto TV app channel 232. A radio call will air on 1430 AM KLO.