Montana Hoops Sweep Northern Arizona - News, Sports and Weather

Montana Hoops Sweep Northern Arizona

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Men's Recap:

Martin Breunig became the 30th Grizzly in school history to surpass 1,000-career points, as the Montana Grizzlies (16-8, 11-2 BSC) powered their way past the visiting Northern Arizona Lumberjacks 85-67 in Missoula on Saturday.

The win is Montana’s third straight, and twelfth this season when the Griz have scored 75 points or more. The victory also keeps the Grizzlies posted at the top of the Big Sky standings with five games to play.

With the business end of the conference season close at hand, the Grizzly offense has been clicking along at a dangerous pace. Exhibit A:  Heading in to league play, the Griz were averaging 65.7 points per game. Since the start of the Big Sky season, UM has been on a tear, averaging 77.8 points to bring their season average up to just over 72 points per contest, including the 85 posted against NAU.

“Our offense is starting to pick up right now, and we’re finding more ways to score the ball,” said second year head coach Travis DeCuire.

“We’re picking up momentum, and we can’t take a step back. We need to stay fresh, and we need to stay on point, but right now we feel good about where we’re headed.”

Martin Breunig has been one of the biggest reasons the Grizzlies have kept the scoreboard rolling over late this season, leading all scorers against Northern Arizona with 29 points and 12 rebounds to post his tenth double-double of the season: the second-best mark in the Big Sky.

Breunig was virtually unstoppable against the Jacks, going 7-7 from the field for 15 points in the opening 12 minutes, and finishing the game having only missed two field goals all night at 12-14 to post a whopping 85.7 shooting percentage.

It was also the third game in a row he’s shot better than 70 percent from the floor, and the thirteenth time he’s done so this season.

“He’s doing a good job. He makes everybody else better,” said Coach DeCuire of Breunig after hitting his 1,000-point tally.

“We talked about him being physical. There are a lot of teams that are doing that. They’re coming in and beating him up, fighting for position, and pushing him around so he can’t get the ball in tight, and they’re not letting us play in that regard.

“So I think tonight he did a good job of just fighting back, and they let him play. And if you’re going to let him play he’ll win that battle more often than not.”

The Grizzlies had two other players score in double figures against the Jacks, with Michael Oguine putting down 16 points, capped off by a highlight reel-worthy dunk to finish the game. Brandon Gfeller totaled 13 points, going 3-5 from behind the arc.

And while only scoring six points, Walter Wright was making magic happen with assists, dishing out a game-high 10 dimes, one more than the entire Northern Arizona team put together.

The first of Wright’s assists came about 15 seconds in, when he found Breunig streaking down low from the top of the key for a huge ally-oop slam on the first play of the game, getting the over 4,000 strong at Dahlberg on their feet to start the contest.

Wright handed out four assists in the first five minutes, leading Montana on an 8-3 run and helping build the Griz lead to 17-12 after 15 minutes.

Wright dished out another key assist later in the half, finding Gfeller in the corner for his second triple of the night and Wright’s sixth assist of the first half.

NAU drained a three pointer with only seconds left in the first half, but a quick in bounds and pass down the court from Mario Dunn found Bobby Moorehead open in the corner, and the true freshman replied back with a three of his own to give UM the 37-28 lead, and all the momentum heading into the locker room.

Breunig scored his 1,000th career point in just two seasons as a Grizzly with 9:24 left to play in the second half, hitting a jump hook from 10 feet out to make his mark on the Grizzly record books. At the next timeout, the crowd at Dahlberg Arena erupted in applause as Breunig’s achievement was announced over the PA system.

“It was amazing,” said the ever-humble senior from Germany. “But I have to give credit to my teammates too. They’ve been supporting me through tough times and through good times, and I really appreciate having a team like that. They’re looking for me as a first option, and I can’t take any credit without those guys.”

The Grizzly lead expanded as time wound down, and would reach its highest point at 18 with just over two minutes to play as NAU didn’t have an answer Montana, who shot over 70 percent from the floor as a team in the second half.

With the final whistle against Northern Arizona, it now officially becomes Griz/Cat week in Missoula, with the cross-state rivals driving over the divide to face UM on Saturday, 2/20 at 7:00 p.m.

The Grizzlies will be looking for their twelfth-straight win over the Cats, who set a new Big Sky record, and were just three away from breaking a NCAA record on Thursday, hitting 25 three-pointers against NAU.

Montana Sports Information

Women's Recap:

It was an all-hands-on-deck victory for the Montana women’s basketball team Saturday evening as the Lady Griz won 61-57 at Northern Arizona to complete a two-game road sweep and up their winning streak to four games.

With only eight players in uniform and two of them saddled with four fouls before the end of the third quarter, Montana (15-9, 8-5 BSC) still managed to lead from start to finish to close to within half a game of a top-four spot in the Big Sky Conference standings.

Kayleigh Valley, who scored 30 in Montana’s 81-50 win at Southern Utah Thursday night, led the Lady Griz with 26 points. Her two free throws with three seconds left were the game-winning points after the Lumberjacks (6-18, 2-11 BSC) had cut a 15-point deficit to just two in the closing moments.

“This was a real battle. I had tired kids, but we did enough to get it done. It was a great win for us,” said coach Robin Selvig. “To sweep this road trip shorthanded was great.”

Montana shot 50 percent in the first half to take a 33-27 lead to the locker room. The margin grew to 15 points late in the third quarter, and the Lady Griz still led 58-44 early in the fourth after Alycia Sims scored on a nice post move with 8:49 left.

But that’s when foul trouble and fatigue started catching up with Montana. Valley left the game with four fouls with 2:04 remaining in the third quarter. She wouldn’t return until the 6:14 mark of the fourth. By that time momentum had starting shifting toward Northern Arizona.

“It started to get a little tense,” said Selvig. “We’ve got Kayleigh with four fouls, so she sits down for half a quarter. Rachel (Staudacher) has four fouls. It was starting to get a little thinned out.”

Montana, running on fumes by that point, was just 2 for 13 in the fourth quarter, but the Lady Griz did enough defensively to maintain their lead, despite missing their final 10 shots of the game and going scoreless for more than eight minutes.

Northern Arizona pulled within 58-53 on a 3-pointer by Taylor Leyva with 2:04 to play and within four, 58-54, when Alyssa Rader, who finished with 13 points, 11 rebounds and five blocks, hit one of two free throws with 50 seconds left.

A Montana turnover gave the ball back to NAU, but Catelyn Preston’s 3-pointer with 28 seconds left was off the mark. A Valley free throw with 16 seconds remaining made it 59-54, and her two free throws with three seconds left after Preston had connected on a 3-pointer were the game’s final points.

Montana got outscored 14-7 in the final period. The latter turned out to be just enough because of the effort put in to hold the Lumberjacks to the former.

“We didn’t score in the fourth quarter, but our defense was solid the whole time,” said Selvig. “They really couldn’t score, and that was our savior.

“Kayleigh was out of the game some, and that takes a lot of things away. Not just because she’s not there but because of the way teams guard her. It opens things up for everybody else. When she’s not on the floor, they can play everybody honest.”

With McCalle Feller sidelined for the third straight game, and with Valley in foul trouble, Hannah Doran was a 40-minute bellwether. She scored 14 points on 6-of-13 shooting and added a team-high eight rebounds, four steals and three assists. Sims finished with eight points.

Sierra Anderson, who joined fellow point guard Haley Vining on the court for chunks of the second half as Selvig mixed and matched his lineup to cover the team’s foul trouble, scored five points off the bench.

Kaleigh Paplow matched Rader’s double-double with 13 points and 10 rebounds for Northern Arizona, which held a 40-31 rebounding advantage. Both players are true freshmen.

Montana State week now arrives for Montana, and it couldn’t come at a better time. The Lady Griz won’t play until next Saturday, a break that should allow Feller, the team’s second-leading scorer, to get back to full health.

The Bobcats (19-5, 12-1 BSC), who won 87-66 at Southern Utah Saturday night, will arrive in Missoula atop the Big Sky Conference. And with four straight wins and its next three at home, Montana has rejoined the hunt for a top-four finish.

Eastern Washington (17-8, 11-2 BSC) and Idaho (18-7, 10-3 BSC) held on to their second- and third-place positions with road wins Saturday. The Eagles won 66-57 at Northern Colorado, the Vandals won 65-59 at North Dakota, a result that snapped the Fighting Hawks’ seven-game winning streak.

Montana and North Dakota (12-12, 8-5 BSC), who play in Grand Forks the final week of the regular season, are tied for fifth place, half a game behind Weber State (16-7, 8-4 BSC). The Wildcats, who trailed 40-29 at the half, won 75-58 at Portland State Saturday.

In other league action, Sacramento State picked up an 83-62 home win over Idaho State.

Montana Sports Information

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