Big Sky Conference Basketball, Saturday 2/7 - News, Sports and Weather

Big Sky Conference Basketball, Saturday 2/7

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MISSOULA, MONTANA – The University of Montana Grizzlies had four starters score in double figures and senior guard Jordan Gregory had a game-high 17 points, as host UM defeated the visiting Idaho Vandals 70-56 in a Big Sky Conference game in Dahlberg Arena.

The victory boosted Montana's league record to 8-3 (12-10 overall), as the Griz remain in third place in the Big Sky race. The Grizzlies have won nine of their last 12 games.

The Grizzlies got off to a slow start, and trailed the Vandals 18-11 with 10:26 to go in the opening half, when sophomore guard Perrion Callandret nailed a jump shot.

The Griz whittled down the Vandals (4-6/9-12) lead over the next few minutes, and when sophomore guard Brandon Gfeller nailed a 3-pointer the Grizzlies took their first lead at 23-21 with 6:16 left until intermission and led the rest of the way. UM then out-scored Idaho 9-3 in the final two minutes of the first half, and led 32-24 at the break.

“I think we were a little tight,” said head coach Travis DeCuire about the first half. “We got the shots we wanted -- Martin around the basket, Jordan on a tight curl from mid-range, Brandon two open threes from the corner – they're the typical shots we're going to get, I just think we were a little tight.”

The Vandals never took the lead in the second half, but they reduced the Grizzlies' advantage to four points at 55-51 on a pair of free throws by senior guard Connor Hill with 4:37 left to play.

Montana went on a 15 to 5 scoring run after Hill's charity shots though, and took a 14-point (70-56) lead for the final points of the contest, thanks to Gregory going 4-of-4 from the line and freshman forward Fabijan Krslovic who made both of his free throws in the final minute-and-a-half, and Montana maintained a double-digit lead.

Gregory was 4-of-8 from the floor, made 2-of-3 treys, and was a perfect 7-of-7 from the line, and he also dished out a career-high 7 assists.

Also in double figures for the Griz were starters Martin Breunig (12 points), Gfeller (11 points), and Mario Dunn (10 points). Krslovic finished with 6 points and grabbed a team-high 7 rebounds. The Griz had a 27-26 edge in rebounds.

Gregory now has 1,025 career points, which ties him for 26th on UM's career list with guard Dan Balko, who scored 1,025 points from 1958-60.

Hill led Idaho with 15 points, while senior guard Mike Scott and freshman forward Arkadiy Mkrtchyan scored 11 points each.

“We weren't necessarily looking at that as two losses (70-69 at Sacramento State and 75-69 to Eastern Washington),” DeCuire said. “Those were two big games, two good teams, top of the standings. We let one slip away and another one we probably got outplayed a little bit. It was important for us to keep our confidence and I think our guys did that.

“We're probably going to have to be more patient and grind out possessions instead of just going to someone, unless maybe it's Jordan,” DeCuire said. “I thought our motion was good for us tonight. It didn't change as much for us tonight as it would in most games, but it hurt us defensively. I thought they got some interior stuff that they might not have if we had been bigger.”

UM helped its cause by shooting well in the second half, making 14-of-22 shots (63.6%) from the floor and 8-of-10 free throws. UI was 10-of-21 (47.5%) from the floor and 11-of-17 (60.9%) from the stripe in the second stanza. The Griz scored 14 points on 17 Vandal turnovers.

The Grizzlies begin the second half of league play on the road next week, playing at North Dakota on Thursday, Feb. 12, and at Northern Colorado on Saturday, Feb. 14. Both games begin at 7:05 p.m. (Mtn.). Idaho hosts Portland State and Sacramento State next week.


BOZEMAN, Mont. – The storyline was familiar.

Montana State hung tough for 39 minutes before a lack of offensive firepower undermined an upset bid, as the Cats fell to Big Sky co-leader Eastern Washington in Bozeman on Saturday. The Bobcats trailed by one possession in the game's final 150 seconds and by six with under a minute left in the game, but good EWU free throw shooting and an un-defended, salt-in-the-wound dunk as the clock was about to expire pushed the margin of victory to double-digits.

“Our guys played hard,” Bobcat coach Brian Fish said after his squad suffocated Eastern's offensive attack, which was without its leading scorer. MSU held the Eagles to 35% shooting and just 61 points, 22 below its season average and their lowest output in a Big Sky game this season. “I love our guys to death. But it's a struggle to score.”

MSU held to much the same script as Thursday, when the Cats held a double-digit lead over Idaho early in the second half. In fact, Montana State has led after halftime in seven of the team's 10 league losses.

That offensive struggle always seems punctuated stretches of effective offense. The most pronounced such period Saturday came at the start of the second half Saturday, when MSU scored eight straight points to jump to a 42-35 lead. From that point on, however, the offense ground to a halt. In the next 31 possessions, Montana State scored just three baskets and turned the ball over 11 times. Eastern closed the game with a 26-9 run over the game's final 18 minutes.

Montana State's ability to stay in the game was a marvel in itself. Eastern's 35.1% shooting marked its worst game of the season. The Cats out-rebounded EWU 44-40, but aided the Eagles' cause greatly by turning the ball over 20 times, MSU's most since the Kentucky game in November, and hitting just 3-of-9 from the free throw line.

Marcus Colbert led the Cats with 15 points and Danny Robison added 14, both off the bench. Eric Norman's career-high 15 rebounds was the most by a Bobcat since Marvin Moss grabbed that many against Idaho State in 2006, and he dished out seven assists. Drew Brandon scored 15 points and grabbed a dozen boards.

The Bobcats fall to 4-19 overall, 1-10 in Big Sky play, while Eastern is now 18-5, 9-1. MSU visits Northern Colorado on Thursday at 7 pm.


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