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STORY BY STEVE SCHAACK-ISU SPORTS INFORMATION
POCATELLO, Idaho- Chris Hansen, Tomas Sanchez and Andre Hatchett combined for 71 points to lead the Idaho State men's basketball team to an 87-76 victory over Portland State in the Big Sky Conference opener on Thursday night at ICCU Court in Holt Arena. The Bengals are 4-6 and 1-0 in league while Portland State dropped to 5-5 and 0-1.
"It feels good," Sanchez said. "We are 1-0. We have had a lot of close games that we have lost but to be on the other side feels good."
The Bengals were led by 27 points from Hansen, a career-high 24 from Hatchett and Sanchez had 20 points. Idaho State shot 56.5 percent from the field for the game and 66.7 percent in the second half. Idaho State was 9-14 from the 3-point line.
The Bengals out rebounded the Vikings 37-29, led by eight from Evann Hall and seven from Hatchett and Jeffrey Solarin.
Portland State shot 40.6 percent for the game and was forced into 11 turnovers. Idaho State had nine blocks but had 21 turnovers.
The Bengals got off to slow starts in the first four minutes of each half before going on runs to take the lead. ISU fell behind 11-5 four minutes into the game before going on a 16-2 run to lead 21-13 with 11:17 to play until halftime after a layup by Hatchett. ISU led by as many as 13 in the first half at 32-19 with 6:54 to play in the half.
"We got on a streak, started making our shots and played good defense," Sanchez said on the team's runs in the first and second half.
The Vikings cut the Bengal lead to 39-36 at halftime and then took a 44-39 lead two minutes into the second half. ISU countered with a 13-3 run to take a 52-47 lead with 13:18 left in the game on a layup by Ayibakuro Preh.
"We have been stressing the importance of making plays," Hansen said. "In practice we have been working on playing at a higher level. We didn't do that the first couple of minutes but then we picked it up."
Portland State got within two points at 60-58 with eight minutes left in the game but ISU extended its lead to as many as 11 points four different times in the final minutes.
"Last year it took us a while to get our first win but we are a different team this year," Hansen said. "It was nice to see the hard work pay off tonight."
Thursday night's game had a season high crowd of 1,809.
"We have the best fans," Hansen said. "We thank them for their support and hope we continue to get it."
The Bengals host Eastern Washington on Saturday, January 4 at 7 p.m. at ICCU Court in Holt Arena.