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Big Sky Notebook

February 25, 2003 Conference Notes No Comments

Big Sky Notebook

by Nicholas Lozito

February wars bring March Madness

It’s a war out there in the Big Sky, and one casualty has already been reported. At 4-20, the Portland State Vikings will now begin picking up the pieces of a season shattered by injuries. Head coach Heath Schroyer’s expressions said it all on Saturday as his Vikings’ ship received a fatal blow in Sacramento. The first-year coach’s desperation screams, stomps and lip-quivering, devilish glares went seemingly unnoticed, as his men fell to the Sacramento State Hornets, 72-48.

Schroyer’s on-the-floor general, senior point guard Jeb Ivey, limped off the court midway through the second half, only to return minutes later for one last push. But with every long-range missile Ivey hoisted up came the sound of the rim’s rejection. Ivey went 3-of-17 from the field, 0-of-6 from 3-point range in 36 minutes.

For the Hornets, Saturday’s win, coupled with Thursday’s 77-71 upset victory over Eastern Washington, marks the presence of a new force in the Big Sky. In what was supposed to be a rebuilding year, Sac State eclipsed the program’s Div. I record for single season wins with ten, and Big Sky wins with four. The Hornets have also moved into a three-way tie for fifth place in the conference with Northern Arizona and Idaho State. Due to tie-breakers, Idaho State and Sac State would qualify for the six-team Big Sky Tournament with the No. 5 and 6 seeds, respectively. But two more weeks of Big Sky warfare still loom ahead.

Little big man

Judging by his stats, you wouldn’t expect Eastern Washington’s Chris Hester to be 6-foot-3. Judging by the movement of the rim after he throws down an alley-oop dunk, you wouldn’t expect him to be 180 pounds. But I guess when you can jump out of the gym, figures such as height and weight seem to lose their significance. Hester has led the Eagles in scoring this season with 14.0 points, while placing second on the team with 5.0 rebounds.

But Hester’s most amazing state is that, at 6-foot-3, he has yet to hoist a 3-point shot all season. His game strictly consists of slashing through the paint and bashing through the rim. He calls out a screen from the 3-point line, takes one dribble, two long strides and stuffs it. That’s why his field goal percentage is over 56 percent and the Eagles have all but locked up the No. 2 seed in the Big Sky Tournament.

Lambeth’s last stand

After losing 5-of-6 Big Sky games coming into last week, Sac State looked like a team that simply didn’t care. I questioned senior forward Derek Lambeth after a critical loss to Northern Arizona last week, asking him if he would let himself graduate without a tournament appearance. “Can’t do it,” he said. “Can’t do it. Can’t do it. I got to get into the playoffs. We got to be able to see the goal, and it’s right there in front of us.”

The Hornets upset Eastern Washington in their next game, and two days later Lambeth scored seventeen in a win over Portland State.

All bunched up

After Weber State (20-5 overall, 10-0 in Big Sky) and Eastern Washington (16-9, 8-3), five teams – Montana State (11-13, 5-6), Montana (11-15, 5-6), Idaho State (11-12, 4-6), Sac State (10-13, 4-6) and Northern Arizona (13-10, 4-6) – are separated by only half a game in the Big Sky standings. One of these five teams won’t make the tourney, so it should be a fun final two weeks of basketball.

Game of the Week

Sacramento State will seek revenge against the Idaho State Bengals in Pocatello, Idaho on Saturday. As the final seconds ticked off the clock in the Bengals’ victory in Sacramento earlier this season, Hornet coach Jerome Jenkins told Bengal point guard Marquis Poole that the Hornets would be an improved team when they came to Pocatello. After the game, Poole had this to say: “We saw them warming up. They were looking at us, laughing, as if we couldn’t play. So that kind of got us upset. We wanted to come out, smash them in their own house and take the crowd out of it early, and once we did that, we were just off and running.”

To say the least, these teams aren’t too fond of each other. Prediction: Idaho State 76, Sac State 70.

Player of the Week

Weber State forward Slobodan Ocokoljic averaged 20.5 points and 8.5 rebounds as the Wildcats beat Montana and Montana State last week.


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