Game Preview: UW vs. Portland State (Game #3)

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The Huskies will play the Portland State Vikings on Sunday night at Bank of America Arena at 7:00 PM, in the final game of the Athletes in Action Basketball Classic. /

The game will be broadcast on Fox Sports Northwest and KJR-950 in Seattle, or your local Husky radio affiliate elsewhere (click here to find yours). Tickets are still available through and start at $20 each.

What you need to know about the Huskies:

The Huskies come into the game at 2-0, having defeated Wright State and Belmont over the past two nights.

UW comes in with very good momentum off of last night’s win against Belmont. They played very well, winning 96-78 behind strong games from Isaiah Thomas, Quincy Pondexter and Matthew Bryan-Amaning.

Last December, the Huskies narrowly defeated Portland State, 84-83, at Bank of America Arena. The Dawgs led by 16 with six minutes left, but with much of the Sunday crowd heading for the exits, the Vikings hit a flurry of shots to narrow the gap.

Since 1980, the Huskies have won all six games of their games against the Vikings.

Projected lineup: G – Venoy Overton, G – Isaiah Thomas, F – Quincy Pondexter, F – Darnell Gant, F – Matthew Bryan-Amaning

Husky to watch:

Sophomore guard, Elston Turner: Turner played slightly better against Belmont (three points, two assists) than he did against Wright State. But, for Turner to earn more than the 10 minutes he’s received in each of the first two games, he’s going to need to be much better. If Portland State’s shooters get hot, it’s going to be imperative that the Huskies have a deep threat to counter with. Will Turner get up to answer the bell?

What you need to know about Portland State:

Portland State comes into the game at 0-2, having lost to Belmont (by seven) and Wright State (by five) in their first two games.

Portland State went 23-10 last season overall, and 11-5 in conference play, finishing in a second-place tie in the Big Sky conference. The team has made the NCAA Tournament the past two seasons, losing to eventual champion Kansas in 2008, and Xavier in 2009, both in the first round. Portland State has been picked to finish second in the Big Sky media poll and fourth in the coaches’ poll.

New head coach Tyler Geving replaces Ken Bone, now coaching Washington State. His biggest loss is guard Jeremiah Dominguez, who averaged nearly 13 points per game last season. Key returnees this season are point guard Dominic Waters (11.4 ppg, 45% 3-pt. FG), forward Jamie Jones (9.1 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 30 blocks), and forward Phil Nelson (10.8 ppg, 3.6 rpg), who played his freshman season for UW.

Incoming guard Melvin Jones, a 5’10” junior transfer, was expected to contribute right away, and has. Jones has hit on 10 of 19 three-pointers and is averaging 16 points over the season’s first two games.

Projected lineup: G – Dominic Waters, G – Melvin Jones, F – Julius Thomas, F – Phil Nelson, F – Jamie Jones

Viking to watch:

Junior forward, Phil Nelson: After playing his freshman season at UW, Nelson transferred to Portland State where he’s developed into a double-digit scorer and solid all-around player. He keyed Portland State’s late, nearly heart-breaking run during the final minutes of the game at UW last season by knocking down three three-pointers and blocking two shots in a very brief span. This season, he’s averaging 11 points and 6.5 rebounds per game.

The path to victory:

Getting out on the three: Of the 115 shots the Vikings took in their first two games, 50 of them were three pointers. The Huskies will have to rotate on defense better in order to prevent Portland State from launching threes all game in hopes of riding a good shooting night all the way to an upset.

Three-balls and and-ones on the other side: This is going to be a high-volume possession game, and as we saw last year against this team, when the pace is that fast, no lead is safe. It’s important that the Huskies take some opportunities to pick up three points at a time when they’re on offense.

A quick word from the opposition:

If you missed it early, check out the rest entire interview with Portland State head coach, Tyler Geving. Here’s some of what we discussed:

"Montlake Madness: Please give me the capsule scouting report on Portland as you see it at this point — style of play, strengths, weaknesses, etc.Coach Geving: We are an up-tempo team on offense. We are looking to run and score in transition. We are trying to play pressure defense. Strengths would be we have a core of 5 returning players from last year that have a lot of experience. Weakness would be how deep we can go on our bench.MM: Last year, Portland State dropped 10 three-pointers on the Huskies and missed out on the big upset by one point. What’s your strategy for beating Washington this year?CG: You have to control their transition. You can’t allow them to get out and run and score early points in transition. They are one of the best rebounding teams in the nation so you have to battle on the glass and not allow second-chance points. Offensively you have to take care of the ball and handle their pressure! They are extremely good on both ends of the court."

What I expect:

Despite Portland State’s 0-2 start, I expect that this will be the biggest test so far for the heralded Husky backcourt. Portland State will be just as thrilled to run as the Dawgs will, and are adept at playing this pace.

I expect Coach Romar may go small for long stretches tonight, potentially using Abdul Gaddy, Isaiah Thomas and Venoy Overton on the floor together for a significant stretch.

From the start, this has been the one of these three opening games that’s scared me the most. As long as the Huskies don’t make too many mistakes, though, I expect that they’ll prevail. I’m picking the Huskies by 9, 94-85.