Portland (6-6) vs. Colorado State (8-2)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, December 22, 10:30 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Orleans Arena (9,500) -- Las Vegas, Nevada. Television: None. Home Record: Portland 6-1, CSU 6-0. Away Record: Portland 0-5, CSU 2-2. Neutral Record: Portland 0-0, CSU 0-0. Conference Record: Portland 0-0, CSU 0-0. Series Record: Series is tied, 1-1.
GAME NOTES: The Portland Pilots and the Colorado State Rams meet at Orleans Arena on Saturday night, as part of the third round of the 2012 Las Vegas Classic.
The winner will advance to play either Virginia Tech or Bradley in the final round on Sunday, while the losers will face off as well.
Portland opened the season on a down note, with losses in six of its first nine games, but since then things have been looking up. The Pilots recently wrapped up a 3-0 homestand, which culminated with a 74-64 win over North Florida in the preliminary round of this event.
While Portland's first six weeks of the season has been solid, Colorado State's has been outstanding, as it has won eight of 10 contests. The Rams opened things up on a six-game win streak before dropping back-to-back decisions at Colorado (70-61) and Illinois-Chicago (64-55), only to bounce back with wins over North Florida (83-55) and CS-Bakersfield (78-58).
These two programs have split a pair of meetings in the past, but they haven't met since the 1950s.
The Pilots were far from outstanding from the field in their game against UNF earlier this week, making 21-of-51 attempts (.412), but was able to propel themselves to a 10-point victory by converting 27-of-37 from the foul line. Pacing Portland was Kevin Bailey with a career-night, as he shot 9-of-13 from the field, including 3-of-4 from beyond the arc, for 27 points, while adding seven rebounds, a block and a steal to his stat line. Riley Barker was effective coming off the bench with 16 points and seven boards, and Ryan Nicholas pitched in with nine points, eight rebounds and four assists. Portland has had difficulty putting up big point totals this season, as it hits less than 43 percent of its field goal attempts for 65.3 ppg. Nicholas not only averages a team-high 13.6 ppg, but he is the West Coast Conference's second-leading rebounder with 9.7 per outing. Bailey is right on Nicholas' heels for the scoring lead with 13.2 ppg.
Colorado State actually found itself down by one to Bakersfield at the half, only to shoot 51.6 percent from the field after intermission to pull away for the 20-point victory. All five starters tallied double figures in scoring for the Rams, led by Wes Eikmeier with 17 points on 6-of-12 shooting. Greg Smith netted 14 points, Colton Iverson had 12 points, Dorian Green logged 11 points and six assists, and Pierce Hornung finished with 10 points, eight rebounds and three assists. The balanced effort was no accident for the CSU, as all five of those players average at least 7.9 ppg on their way to 73.9 ppg. Iverson has been the catalyst with 14.8 ppg and 9.7 ppg while shooting a lofty 58.3 percent from the floor. Green (12.8 ppg) and Smith (12.6 ppg) have also been strong performers, while Hornung (7.9 ppg) rips down 10 boards per contest. In fact, Colorado State's biggest advantage this year has been its dominance on the glass, as its plus-15.6 rebounding margin is tops in the nation.
This is an intriguing matchup, as each side boasts plenty of talent in the frontcourt, but CSU has been much more consistent. The Rams will lean on solid efforts from Iverson and Hornung in the low post to help push them to victory.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Colorado State 74, Portland 67
12/22 10:32:49 ET