Underdog PSU has its day

On College Hoops
by: Courtesy of Portland State University, PSU men's basketball coach Ken Bone: "Never go in doubting a team."

Reality was setting in as coach Ken Bone addressed his Portland State team in the locker room Wednesday night. Headed to the NCAA Tournament, he told his players to be wise about what they say to the media, among other things.

'It's fun to celebrate, but be smart,' he said. 'Be humble, not arrogant.'

They have a saying at Portland State - 'Do the right thing.' Bone told his team to be good citizens.

Earlier, he told the gathered media in his best deadpan voice that PSU players were really looking forward to their time between the Big Sky Conference tournament and the Big Dance.

'It's finals week,' he said, 'and the kids have been bugging me about more time in the classroom and library.'

• The Vikings probably will be a No. 13 or 14 seed and could travel anywhere - western U.S. locations for regionals are Anaheim, Calif.; Denver; and Omaha, Neb. Deonte Huff, Big Sky Tournament MVP after his games against Idaho State and Northern Arizona, says bring on Duke.

'We're a midmajor, and we're not going to get a high bid, of course,' he says. 'I feel confident with our team going into March Madness. I think it'll be fun.'

Brackets will be released Sunday afternoon, starting at 3 p.m., live on ESPN.

Not thinking of themselves as the favorites in the Big Sky certainly helped, guard Andre Murray says.

'We kind of felt we were the underdogs,' he says. 'Coach tells us, 'Never go in doubting a team,' so we played as if we were the underdogs. It got us the victory.'

Maybe it'll work against a Duke type.

• Portland State trailed only once in the 72-61 win over Idaho State and not at all in the 67-51 win over Northern Arizona at the Rose Garden. Bone pointed to defense as the key, especially the work on NAU's wings and help defense on big man Kyle Landry.

Other factors: good 3-point shooting, making the little plays like diving for balls, the point guard leadership and offensive explosiveness of Jeremiah Dominguez, the slashing and zone-busting of Huff, and just the contributions from everybody on the team (save for Justynn Hammond, who still deals with personal issues and didn't sit on the bench with the team).

• Huff hit 14 of 19 shots (only 7 of 15 free throws) for 37 points and 12 rebounds in the two games. Dominguez had 25 points, 10 assists and seven steals. The 6-2 Murray had 24 points and Kyle Coston 22, including hitting 6 of 11 3-pointers.

The Vikings won both games without great play from 6-11 senior Scott Morrison, the holdover from the 2005 Big Sky regular-season title team. In 34 combined minutes, he went 0 for 4 from the floor and 1 for 2 from the free-throw line for one point, grabbed five rebounds and blocked four shots - numbers not befitting one of the greatest players in PSU history. But in each game he had a block that started a rally, including stuffing his Canadian nemesis, Landry.

• With 11 transfers, assistant coach Tyler Geving says the team has not necessarily been high maintenance, 'but we're blending a lot of different personalities. That's our job as coaches, bring them together, and I think we did that starting at the end of December.'

The Vikings are 16-2 since then.

• Geving says that Huff, a 6-4 guard from Antelope Valley College in Lancaster, Calif., was not the coaches' first choice on the recruiting trail in 2006.

They wanted Riley Luettgerodt from Putnam High and Chemeketa CC, but Luettgerodt chose Hawaii. 'We recruited him very hard and had a good relationship with him,' Geving says.

'He text-messaged me the other day,' Geving says, 'and I told him, 'Wish you were at Portland State now?' '

• How does PSU get into the NCAA tourney?

'Coach Bone,' Morrison says. 'He brought the right guys in for his system. And he's the most offensive-minded, Xs and Os coach I've played for.'

Geving says the assistants sell both the city of Portland and Bone to prospects on the recruiting trail. Bone is 54-38 in three seasons on the Park Blocks, after successful stints as an assistant at Washington and head coach at Division II Seattle Pacific.

'He's easy to play for. He's a players' coach,' Geving says.

• Bone's first commitment in 2005 came from then-Lynden Christian (Wash.) senior Coston. He had recruited the 6-8 Coston as an assistant at Washington, and Washington State also wanted him. But Coston chose PSU because of Bone.

Coston, the son of golf pro Jeff Coston, says he and fellow prep recruit Julius Thomas 'wanted to put Portland State on the map. We've done a little bit so far. My plans are not done yet.'

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