Montana Grizzlies 81, EWU Eagles 66

By AUSTIN SMITH

Three Grizzlies scored in double digits Thursday evening as Montana swept past the Eastern Washington Eagles with an 81-66 Big Sky Conference victory.

The two squads came out swinging, trading buckets and staying neck and neck until two of senior Montana guard Will Cherry’s nine total assists shifted momentum around the 11 minute mark.  The back-to-back strikes put the Eagles on the run and gave Montana a two possession buffer they were able to maintain through halftime.

The Griz were saddled with foul trouble fairly early in the matchup, but maintained defensive pressure and matched Eastern Washington in both physicality and attitude.  The Eagles were elevated by the scrappy offensive work of Venky Jois, a freshman forward whose persistence and fearlessness in the lane was rewarded with a team-high 16 points.

Coupled with a slow second-half start by the Grizzlies, Jois’ efforts threatened to turn Tinkle’s tables but were ultimately undermined by senior Eagle forward Collin Chiverton’s technical foul with ten minutes left in regulation.  The Eagles had made a promising run after halftime, but the double technical situation and borderline brawl took the wind out from under their wings once and for all.

Sophomore Montana guard Jordan Gregory led the Griz with 17 points and was 4-5 from the arc.  Spencer Coleman was close behind, tallying 15 points and five rebounds.  Standout point guard Cherry struggled from the field throughout the contest, missing 11 total shots from both mid- and long-range, but was still able to combine two rebounds and two steals with his impressive assist count.

The Griz will host Portland State Saturday, January 5th, after which they’ll take to the road for visits to North Dakota on January 10th and Northern Colorado on January 12th.

(CLICK ON PHOTOS TO ENLARGE AND SCROLL THROUGH ALL IMAGES)

Monte does a bear-stand on the South baseline.  Dahlberg Arena in Missoula, Mont., January 3rd, 2013.
Monte does a bear-st...
Freshman center Andy Martin blocks Eastern Washington's Thomas Reuter in the first half of Thursday's matchup.  Dahlberg Arena in Missoula, Mont., January 3rd, 2013.
Freshman center Andy...
Mathias Ward is fouled on his way to the rim Thursday evening by Eagles Daniel Hill (#2) and Venky Jois.  Dahlberg Arena in Missoula, Mont., January 3rd, 2013.
Mathias Ward is foul...
Mathias Ward and Kevin Winford (#23) fight for possession early in Thursday's contest.  Dahlberg Arena in Missoula, Mont., January 3rd, 2013.
Mathias Ward and Kev...
Kevin Henderson (#2) passes over the hands of Easter Washington defenders Thomas Reuter (#13), Parker Kelly (#10), and Venky Jois.  Dahlberg Arena in Missoula, Mont., January 3rd, 2013.
Kevin Henderson (#2)...
Keron DeShields pushes past Thomas Reuter (#13) after a missed Montana free throw late in Thursday's game.  Dahlberg Arena in Missoula, Mont., January 3rd, 2013.
Keron DeShields push...
Montana Grizzly Kareem Jamar gets his head into the game.  Dahlberg Arena in Missoula, Mont., January 3rd, 2013.
Montana Grizzly Kare...
Keron DeShields (#20) is fouled by Eastern Washington's standout freshman Venky Jois late in Thursday's 81-66 victory.  Dahlberg Arena in Missoula, Mont., January 3rd, 2013.
Keron DeShields (#20...
Kareem Jamar is fouled by EWU's Venky Jois during the second half of Thursday's contest.  Dahlberg Arena in Missoula, Mont., January 3rd, 2013.
Kareem Jamar is foul...