Big Sky Conference Basketball Wrap, Saturday 3/8 - KFBB.com News, Sports and Weather

Big Sky Conference Basketball Wrap, Saturday 3/8

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Montana Men Drop Season Finale

The University of Montana Grizzlies struggled on both ends of the floor Saturday afternoon, losing 67-47 to the host Northern Arizona Lumberjacks in the final regular-season Big Sky Conference game for the teams.

The Grizzlies finished league play with a 12-8 record and in a three-way tie for second place, and will be the fourth seed in next week's league tournament. Montana tied with NAU (12-8), which will be a third-seed, and North Dakota (12-8), which earned the second seed.

Weber State (14-6), which won 82-78 at Eastern Washington this afternoon, is the Big Sky's regular-season champion.

The loss snapped a five-game winning streak by the Grizzlies, while NAU won its fourth game in a row.

The Griz, who trailed 26-21 at intermission, kept the game close in the first five minutes of the second half, tying the contest at 30-30 on a lay-up by junior guard Keron DeShields with 15:50 remaining to play. That was the fifth tie of the contest. Montana never led in the game.

After DeShield's had knotted the game at 30-all, the Lumberjacks out-scored the Grizzlies 14-3, and when senior forward Max Jacobsen made a lay-up, NAU took a 44-43 lead with 10:31 left to play, and the Jacks maintained a double-digit advantage the rest of the way.

"When we started the game we just did not play with a lot of toughness," said Wayne Tinkle on the post-game radio show on KGVO Radio. "We could not throw it in the ocean in the first half. We did a better job in the second half, especially on defense, but they got offensive rebound after offensive rebound, and we panicked a little. We just had a lack of mental focus and physical toughness. NAU was focused and just took it to us. It's a very disappointing way to finish the regular season."

Senior guard/forward Kareem Jamar was UM's only player in double figures with 15 points, and he continues to move up on the Big Sky's all-time scoring list. Jamar now has 1,653 career points, which moves him up to 14th in league history, as he passes NAU's Cameron Jones (now 15th with 1,646 points, 2007-11) and Brian Heinle of Cal Northridge (now 16th with 1,641 points). .

NAU was led junior guard Quinton Upshur with 14 points, while freshman forward/center Ako Kaluna added 12, and junior guard Aaseem Dixon scored 11.

The Lumberjacks dominated the scoring inside, tallying 34 points in the paint, compared to the Grizzlies' 14. NAU also had a commanding 40-21 bulge on the boards, and the Jacks' bench out-scored UM's 32-9.

Montana had season lows of 47 points and 28.9% (11-of-38) shooting from the floor, and the Griz made just 4-of-17 (23.5%) 3-pointers. NAU was 27-of-54 (50%) from the field.

The Grizzlies (17-12 overall) will be play the No. 5 seed, a team that will be determined by conference games played later this evening. Montana's first-round tourney game will be at 7:00 p.m. next Thursday, March 13 in WSU's Dee Events Center. The Big Sky's seven-team, three-day tourney will be hosted by the Wildcats, who received a first-round bye in lieu of their winning the league's regular-season title.

 

Sacramento stomps Montana State 84-59

Mikh McKinney scored 19 points and grabbed six rebounds as Sacramento State stomped Montana State 84-59 on Saturday night in the regular season finale for both teams.

Cody Demps had 17 points and four rebounds for the Hornets (14-15, 10-10 Big Sky). Dylan Garrity and Eric Stuteville had 12 points apiece and Nick Hornsby added 10.

Terrell Brown led the Bobcats (14-17, 9-11) with 15 points and five rebounds.

Sacramento State went 18-8 to start the first half and led 38-21 at the break. The Hornets continued to dominate in the second half and McKinney hit a pair of 3-pointers and two layups in the stretch to seal the win.

The win qualifies Sacramento State for the Big Sky tournament for the first time since 2006. The Hornets will get the No. 7 seed and play No. 2 seed North Dakota in the quarterfinals on Thursday in Ogden, Utah.

 

Lady Griz pick up steam for Big Sky tournament

After two weeks of up-and-down performances that cost it a shot at a Big Sky Conference regular-season championship, Montana appears to have things squared away at just the right time.

The Lady Griz got another double-double from Jordan Sullivan, Torry Hill reached 1,000 career points, and Montana will take a three-game winning streak into next week's Big Sky tournament after posting an 83-66 victory over Northern Arizona Saturday afternoon at Dahlberg Arena in Missoula.

Montana (20-9, 14-6 BSC) shot 57.1 percent in the first half to build a lead, then steadily pulled away in the second half to finish the season 10-0 at home in league games. Montana was the only team in the league to pull that off, and it was a first for the Lady Griz since going unbeaten in 2008-09.

The Lady Griz went up by 11, 60-49, on a pair of free throws by Maggie Rickman with 11:49 to play and held a double-digit lead the rest of the way despite a pair of 25-point scoring games from the Lumberjacks' Amanda Frost and Brittani Lusain.

"We had a pretty nice lead, but we were never able to be super comfortable, because Frost can go off and they can score points in a hurry. They are not an easy team to defend," said UM coach Robin Selvig.

"We just kind of kept our noses to the grindstone and wore them down. I don't have any complaints."

Montana reaches 20 wins for the 29th time in 36 seasons under Selvig and finishes a game out of first place in the final Big Sky Conference standings.

The Lady Griz will take either the No. 2 or No. 3 seed into next week's tournament at Grand Forks, N.D. If Southern Utah wins Saturday night at home over Northern Colorado, No. 3 Montana will face No. 6 Montana State on Thursday. If SUU loses, No. 2 Montana will face No. 7 Sacramento State.

But that's next week. In the here and now, Montana is rolling, and a big reason for that is the resurgence of Sullivan, who was playing like a Big Sky MVP candidate in January, fell off in February and is now back to looking like a player who could carry a team in the postseason.

She had 21 points on 8-of-12 shooting and 15 rebounds in Thursday's 87-76 win over Sacramento State, then added 22 points on 7-of-11 shooting and 11 boards Saturday for her fifth double-double of the season and sixth of her career.

"It's nice to see her come back to life for us," Selvig said. "That's the Jordan we had early in the conference season.

"She's always going to board it for us, but she just couldn't make a basket for a while there. Now she's back to shooting it with confidence."

McCalle Feller's 11 first-half points, on 3-of-5 shooting from 3-point range, helped Montana build a 43-37 halftime lead, an advantage that could have been nine had the Lady Griz not allowed Lusain to dribble up the court in the final seconds and get off an uncontested 3-pointer, which she knocked down.

But Sullivan scored 14 of her team-high 22 points in the second half and the Lady Griz turned it over just twice in the second frame while outscoring NAU 40-29.

The only real drama, and all 3,614 fans seemed to be tracking it, was whether Hill would reach 1,000 career points in her final home game.

She needed 17 and had six at the break on 3-of-4 shooting. It took 17 second-half shots to get there, but a runner in the lane with 2:10 left made her the 30th player in Lady Griz history to reach 1,000. She finished with 17 points.

"That's a nice deal for her," Selvig said. "We had a nice crowd today. I think people wanted to come out and recognize both Jordan and Torry."

Though it wasn't all rosy for Montana. Northern Arizona out-rebounded the Lady Griz 46-33, 17 of which came on the offensive end. That came two days after Sac State grabbed 19 offensive boards.

Montana had out-rebounded nine of 10 opponents entering this week's games, but Montana State was +6 on Monday, Sac State grabbed more offensive rebounds than any opponent this season outside of Temple, and Northern Arizona was +13 on Saturday.

Raven Anderson grabbed 18 of those rebounds, Lusain added 11.

"We've been a pretty good rebounding team, but the last few games have not been our best in that area," Selvig said. "I think we're going to have a little rebounding practice the next couple of days."

Frost, who will finish as the Big Sky's leading scorer this season, and Lusain combined for 50 points. Their teammates could only generate 16 more.

Lusain, an impressive freshman who was relentless in attacking the basket in the second half, got to the line 11 times. Frost's points were so quiet that they caught Selvig off guard when he scanned the final statistics after the game.

"Here I thought we did such a good job on her, but that's why I'm so impressed by her," he said. "She didn't go wild and do stuff out of offense, but she still got 25 points.

"That's the mark of a pretty good scorer when you're surprised to see how many they scored."

Feller totaled a career-high 14 points for Montana and helped the Lady Griz bench outscore NAU's reserves 25-5. She finished 4 of 6 from 3-point range as Montana went 9 for 22 (.409) from the arc, the team's second straight game with nine triples, a number that hadn't been reached since Feb. 1.

Carly Selvig had 5 points, 6 rebounds and 5 blocked shots, and Montana defended NAU into 21 turnovers, the second-highest total by an opponent this season.

Northern Arizona finishes its season with a 9-20 record. The Lumberjacks tied for ninth in the Big Sky with Portland State. Both had 6-14 league marks.

In other Big Sky games Saturday afternoon, Montana State won 81-63 at home over Sacramento State, Idaho State won 79-64 at home over Portland State, and Eastern Washington won 68-60 at Weber State.

That sets up a tournament matchup on Thursday between No. 4 Eastern Washington and No. 5 Idaho State. The other quarterfinal games on Thursday won't be determined until Southern Utah hosts Northern Colorado at 7:30 p.m. Saturday in Cedar City, Utah.

Bobcats Withstand Three-Point Barrage to Top Sac State Women

Montana State attempted 40 fewer three-pointers than Sacramento State, but shot 52.5% from the floor to cruise past the Hornets 81-63 in Big Sky Conference women's basketball on Saturday.

The win sealed the sixth seed for MSU in next week's league tournament in Grand Forks. The Bobcats play either Montana or Southern Utah in the first round.

Montana State got off to a flying start Saturday afternoon, leading 21-6 after eight-and-a-half minutes and 40-19 40 seconds before halftime. But back-to-back triples by Sac State and the Hornets were within 15 at the break.

MSU built its lead, and eventually held off the Hornets, by virtue of disciplined shot selection in the face of Sac State's torrent of triples, Bobcat coach Tricia Binford said. "It was a hard thing to do with the style they play, but we stuck to the plan and got good shots," she said.

Sacramento State whittled the lead to nine with 9:33 to play, but a jumper by Alexa Dawkins and two by Kayla DeWitt pushed the lead comfortably back into double-digits and it would never be threatened again.

MSU's defense was at least as crisp as its shooting on Saturday, as the Bobcats held Sac State to 25.6% from the floor and 22.4% (11-for-49) from three-point range. MSU also forced 21 turnovers, turning those possessions into 20 points.

Jasmine Hommes led MSU with 21 points, while Jackie Elliott added 15. The team's only senior, Ashley Brumwell, scored eight points with six assists.

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