With a minute to play it appeared that the Thunderbirds were about to break into the winning column. SUU had the ball and a 64-63 lead but with 46 seconds to go A.J. Hess was called for an offensive foul, handing the ball over to the Vikings. After a PSU time out Hall, who was playing with four fouls, hit a long 3-pointer to give PSU a 66-64 advantage.
“We had a 64-63 lead with the ball but we weren’t able to execute, we just need to learn from that,” SUU Coach Nick Robinson noted.
Southern Utah got the ball back and had a chance to tie or take the lead but Trey Kennedy slipped down in the lane, giving the ball back to the Vikings. The game wasn’t decided yet, however, as after Kennedy then fouled Andre Winston with 12 seconds to play Winston was able to convert just one of the two free throws, leaving the door open.
The SUU hopes were dashed, however, when a Kennedy 3-pointer was on line but came up just short and PSU was able to corral the rebound and run out the clock.
“It’s unfortunate,” Robinson noted. “We were playing so well but I didn’t make the right calls coming down the stretch, that’s on me. I need to put our guys in a better position to win the game and I didn’t do that tonight.”
The Thunderbirds got a big spark from true freshman McKay Anderson, who came off the bench to knock down 4-of-4 3-point attempts, including back-to-back threes in the first half that spurred a 10-0 SUU run. The run lifted them T-Birds out of a 3-point hole and sent them to a 23-26 lead, but SUU missed the front end of one-and-one situations in the final minutes of the period (and was just 8-15 from the line in the half), helping to allow PSU to climb back and take a 30-29 lead at halftime.
On the other hand the Vikings converted 12-of-13 free throws in the opening stanza.
“They shot free throws extremely well but we couldn’t make them in the first half,” Robinson pointed out. “We shot the ball very well in the second half (13-of-24, .542), giving us another outstanding night. But in the first half, while we were playing very well on the defensive end we just weren’t able to make layups and free throws in order to capitalize.”
The second half was back-and-forth throughout. Portland State took a 42-34 lead on a Hall 3-pointer with 12:33 to play but the Thunderbirds responded with a 14-4 run that gave them a 48-46 lead after Juwan Major converted a 3-point play with 8:57 to go in the half. After that point neither team led by more than four points the rest of the way.
Anderson finished the game with a career-high 12 points. Jeffery, who also finished with 12 points, pulled down seven rebounds (three on the offensive end) and blocked a shot, while Hess finished with 11 points. Casey Oliverson led SUU with a game-high eight rebounds. Kennedy had a game-high five assists.
DaShaun Wiggins led Portland State with 15 points while Gary Winston added 13, Andre Winston chipped in 11 and Tim Douglas finished with 10.
SUU dipped to 0-8 in the Big Sky and 1-16 overall while Portland State improved to 3-4 in the Sky and 8-8 overall.