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Forte big weapon in PSU arsenal

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COURTESY: LARRY LAWSON - Cameron Forte's offense off the bench has lifted Portland State in the Big Sky.Cameron Forte, a 6-7, 220-pound graduate student who played at Howard and Georgia, has become a force in his first season for Portland State.

He leads the team in scoring (16.8) and rebounding (8.2).

The Tempe, Ariz., native had a monster game in a win Saturday at Sacramento State with 26 points and 12 rebounds, hitting 12 of 15 shots from the field. In his previous road game, he had 26 points and 11 rebounds at Montana State.

The Viks are 7-10 overall and 3-3 in Big Sky play, tied for seventh. They play at Eastern Washington (3-4) on Thursday, before playing at Idaho (4-3).

All 12 teams will make the conference tournament, March 7-12 at Reno, Nev., with the top four teams receiving first-round byes.

• Among local small colleges, the Warner Pacific men and women have the best opportunities to make postseason national tournaments. The women are 12-5 overall and 7-4 in NAIA Cascade Collegiate Conference play, behind Southern Oregon, Oregon Tech, Eastern Oregon and Northwest Christian.

The Knights men are playing even better at 13-7, 8-3, third behind Northwest Christian (coached by former Oregon Ducks star Luke Jackson) and Southern Oregon. The Knights lead the CCC in scoring (87.7 points per game) and rank third in scoring defense (72.6). They also lead the league in scoring margin (plus-15.1) and field-goal percentage (.513) and rank second in field-goal defense (.411).

• The top scoring local small college player is Multnomah’s Blake Updike, a 6-2 junior guard from Scappoose. He’s averaging 22.9 points for the Lions, who are 4-15 overall and 1-10 in CCC play. His shooting percentages: .443 from the field, .380 on 3-pointers, .822 at the free-throw line. Updike averaged 20.5 points last season.

• With Sydney Wiese back in the lineup, the OSU women appear poised to challenge for the Pac-12 title. Arizona State, UCLA, Washington and even perennial power Stanford are going to be tough to beat, though.

The Beavers (16-3, 7-1 Pac-12) recently defeated Stanford, ending a 29-game losing streak to the Cardinal. OSU has another huge game at Gill Coliseum coming up: Arizona State (17-3, 8-0), 8 p.m. Monday, Feb. 1 (ESPN2).

Other key remaining games: at Washington, Feb. 5 (the Huskies feature prolific scorer Kelsey Plum); vs. UCLA, Feb. 21 (the Bruins beat the Beavs in L.A.); and at Stanford, Feb. 26.

• The Sunday win by the OSU men against USC, 85-70, sure came at the right time. The Beavers had lost four out of their previous five games, and also had the suspension of Jarmal Reid for his nationally infamous trip of an official. The epitome of clutch, Gary Payton II, had 22 points, 15 rebounds, eight assists and four steals to lead the Beavers past the Trojans.

“It was a big response by our guys, I couldn’t be more proud,” OSU coach Wayne Tinkle said. “Total team win. Gary set the tone from the start with his energy and aggressiveness. That’s what we’ve been asking for, for our leaders to lead.”

• Oregon’s men have surged to the top of the Pac-12, led by Dillon Brooks and Chris Boucher and others and after a home sweep of USC and UCLA last weekend.

Then again, the Ducks have little security in the Pac-12, especially with a game at Arizona next (6 p.m. Thursday, ESPN2). Only Arizona State and Washington State, both 1-6 in league play, appear out of the race and out of the NCAA Tournament picture (for now).