Big Sky Basketball, Saturday 2/21 - KFBB.com News, Sports and Weather

Big Sky Basketball, Saturday 2/21

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GRIZ DEFEAT WILDCATS 74-63 FOR FIFTH BIG SKY WIN IN A ROW

MISSSOULA, MONTANA — Forward Martin Breunig registered a double-double and guard Jordan Gregory scored 15 points, as the host University of Montana Grizzlies defeated the Weber State Wildcats in a Big Sky Conference game Saturday evening.

It was “Senior Night” in UM's Dahlberg Arena, as Gregory, forward Mike Weisner, and center Chris Kemp were recognized before the game.

It was also the fifth straight victory for Montana, which boosts its league record to 12-3 and is 16-10 overall. The Griz have now won 11 of their last 13 games. The Wildcats are now 6-9 in the league and 11-15 overall.

Montana is now tied with Sacramento State (12-3) for first place in the Big Sky. The host Hornets defeated North Dakota 77-66 this evening. Eastern Washington is a half–game back at 11-3 in league, as the Eagles lost 73-69 at Northern Arizona on Saturday afternoon.

“Sounds great, sounds great for a team that didn't have a whole lot of expectations,” said head coach Travis DeCuire about his team's share of first place and 12-3 league record. “These guys have worked hard to get better to put themselves in the position to fight.”

The Wildcats took a pair of eight-point leads in the opening half, the first at 22-14 lead on a 3-pointer by junior forward Joel Bolomboy at second came at the 7:10 mark, at 24-16 on a pair of free throws by junior forward Jaelyn Johnson-Coston with 6:21 left until intermission.

But the Grizzlies out-scored the Wildcats 10-0 after WSU had taken its second eight-point lead, and UM went ahead 26-24 on a 3-pointer by Weisner with 4:35 left until the break. WSU then tied the game up for the fourth and final time at 26-all on two free throws by freshman guard Hayden Hunter with 4:18 left until the half.

Montana then went on another run, out-scoring WSU 10-0, and when freshman forward Fabijan Krslovic made a jumper he gave the Griz a 36-26 advantage with 1:02 left until intermission. UM went in the locker-room with leading 36-29 at halftime, and were led by Weisner, who scored 9 of his 13 points in the first 20 minutes of action.

The Griz led the entire second half, and took permanent double-digit lead at 44-32 on a 3-pointer by Gregory with 16:45 left to play.

Breunig, who made 8-of-12 shots from the floor, had an outstanding second half, when he scored 17 of his game-high 19 points and grabbed 8 of his 10 rebounds, seven of those boards were on the offensive end of the court. It was Breunig's fifth double-double this season.

Gregory had 5 rebounds and 4 assists to go along with those 15 points. Mario Dunn and Riley Bradshaw scored 9 points each for UM, while fellow sophomore guard Brandon Gfeller chipped in 6 points. Kemp scored one point in his final regular-season home game.

Gregory now has 1,106 career points to move up to 19th on the career list, passing forward Ed Argenbright (1,100 points, 1954-56). Gregory trails forward Chris Spoja (1,111 points, 1994-97) by just five points for the 18th spot.

WSU was led by sophomore guard Chris Golden with 18 points, while freshman guard Ryan Richardson added 15 points off the bench. Bolomboy grabbed 10 rebounds, but was limited to 5 points, and made just one field goal.

“They didn't like the pressure the first time we played them and I kind of felt like we waited too long to do it,” said DeCuire, whose team forced 18 WSU turnovers. “And our team is better when we're aggressive when we're not second-guessing our movements on both sides of the ball. When we get after it we're a lot better team.

“We couldn't let him (Bolomboy) beat us and they found some things underneath, a couple of lay-ups,” said DeCuire. “Once we finally got to the right spots we turned him over. He tried to force the issue because he's been scoring for them lately. It's hard for a big guy who's always on the receptive end when they double you to be patient.

“We forced a couple of turnovers and got some buckets in transition,” DeCuire said. “We executed better out of the trap. Early when they were trapping Martin we turned it over and took a couple of tough shots. Once we settled down and executed the pass out we got the shot that we've been working on for months – Gfeller with his feet flat, Weisner with his feet flat, Jordan and even Mario, and Riley was huge off the bench for us.”

The Grizzlies play their final three league games on the road, beginning with Idaho on Thursday, Feb. 26, with tip-off at 8:05 p.m. (Mtn.), and then at EWU on Saturday, Feb. 28, in a contest that starts at 3:05 p.m. (Mtn.). The Wildcats host Idaho State next Saturday.

BOZEMAN, Mont. – What exactly was said in Montana State's locker room at halftime of the team's 67-53 win over Idaho State in Worthington Arena Saturday will likely be lost to history.

“We had a little come-to-Jesus meeting at halftime,” Bobcat coach Brian Fish said in the aftermath of the victory, and there can be no doubt the discussion had its desired effect. Montana State outscored the Bengals 43-22 after the intermission, held the Bengals to 37.5% shooting after the break, and nearly erased a 22-to-13 halftime rebound deficit. MSU turned a 31-24 halftime deficit into largest margin of victory in a month, and the motivation, Fish said, was simple.

“We know that if we lose, we're done,” Fish said of his point-of-emphasis between halves, a reference to the team's post-season chances. “We (knew) we've got to get a win. We stepped on the gas a little bit in the second half.”

The man driving much of that acceleration, as he has throughout the conference season, was the shortest player on the court. Michael Dison, MSU's 5-9 senior guard, led all players with 29 points, and as usual they came from an array of or angles and depths. He rained four dome-scraping three-pointers, five shots off of penetration, and drained all seven of his free throws. When not scoring he dished out three assists, and also came up with three pilfers.

Dison's dynamic offense drove the Cats through a strange shooting game. Montana State hit five of its first six shots, jumping out to an 18-6 lead eight-and-a-half minutes in, but the Bengals scratched back. While MSU finished the half shooting 4-for-22, the Bengals closed with a 25-6 run and captured a 31-24 advantage at the intermission.

“At halftime, we got challenged,” said senior center Blake Brumwell.

With the challenge accepted, MSU's offensive efficiency ratcheted up in the second half. Trailing by six with 12:55 to play, Dison's three-pointer cut the lead in half, Marcus Colbert answered an ISU basket to draw MSU within two, and two minutes later he tied the score with a tear-drop in the lane. After the teams see-sawed momentarily, Dison gave MSU the lead with a three-pointer, and Colbert added another.

“The thing about Mike Dison,” Fish says, “is that he just keeps fighting.”

The Bobcats' roll continued. Another Colbert layup pushed MSU in front 52-46 with 7:08 to play, then a Zach Green layup off of a beautiful dish from Eric Norman gave the Bobcats and eight point lead.

The Bobcats sealed the win not by pulling away offensively, but by shutting down the Bengals. From the eight-minute mark until the clock ticked below one minute, the Bobcats held ISU to just a single Chris Hanson layup. That 12-2 run proved too much for the Bengals.

Ironically, Idaho State's first-half run covered nearly the same terrain. From just north of the eight-minute mark to just outside of one minute, ISU scored 14 straight points.

“Maybe after 27 games we're used to going through that,” Fish quipped. “You have to credit (ISU) Coach (Bill) Evans' team. At some point, their zone is going to get you.”

The win kept alive Montana State's possibility of qualifying for the Big Sky Conference Championship Tournament, as MSU raised its league record to 4-11, 7-20 overall. Idaho State is now 3-12 in the conference, 6-21 in all games. Montana State heads west next week, playing at Eastern Washington on Thursday at 8 pm MT.

#GoCatsGo

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