By ERIC TABER
The Grizzlies head back to the Evergreen State of Washington, this time crossing the Cascades into Seattle where Montana (3-4) is set to face the Washington Huskies (6-2) at Alaska Airlines Arena on Saturday, Dec. 12.
Fans can watch the Griz take on the Huskies on the Pac-12 Networks, and online at Pac-12.com/live with Guy Haberman and Eldridge Recasner bringing you the call. Fans can also tune into the Montana Grizzlies Radio Network statewide, or listen online at gogriz.com. Tipoff from the Emerald City is set for 4 p.m. MT.
THE GAME: The young Grizzly squad looks to further develop against yet another powerful opponent in this nonconference season, building momentum off a narrow loss at No.17/20 Gonzaga on Tuesday.
The Griz played some of its best defense of the year against the Zags, holding the preseason national Player of the Year Kyle Wiltjer, and sophomore forward Domantas Sabonis to 16 points each in front of the GU faithful in Spokane, giving cause for the Grizzlies to keep their chins up heading to Seattle.
“It’s good to go in with confidence. It’s good to go in feeling like we’re starting to play well,” said Montana head coach Travis DeCuire.
“They (UW) bring a different style of basketball, a little different approach in terms of how we run offense, what we do defensively.
“So we’re excited about going into Seattle and having an opportunity to compete.”
DeCuire’s Grizzlies head to UW searching for its first road win of the season, trying to replicate strong performances at home against Boise State and San Francisco in hostile territory.
Martin Breunig heads back to his former school playing some of the best basketball in the Big Sky, averaging a league second-best 20.6 points per game and shooting a league best .693 field goal percentage.
Breunig has scored 20 points or more in his last four outings, and in five of his seven games this year. He’s nearing double-double figures as well, averaging 8.9 rebounds per contest.
Junior transfer Walter Wright has settled into his role at guard for the Grizzlies, averaging 11 points a game following a 14-point outing against the Zags.
The Griz will look to control the tempo against the Huskies, who are currently the second highest scoring offense in the Pac-12.
“This will be the most athletic team that we’ve ever seen. They’re gifted in ways that Gonzaga’s not event close to in terms of speed and the ability to play above the rim. This is going to be an above the rim game,” said Coach DeCuire.
“If we don’t block off, and if we don’t sprint down the floor, this could be a TCU game all over again” (UW beat TCU 92-67 on Tues.).
“But if we take care of the ball, we play at our pace, and we attack when we want to attack in the ways that we want to make happen, then it could be our game.”
SERIES HISTORY: The Grizzlies are 5-5 against the Huskies, dating back to the 1982-83 season. 1982 was also the last year that UM played both Gonzaga and Washington in the same season, both of which games were played consecutively, as in the 2015 season.
Back in ’82, the Griz lost to Gonzaga by three points (57-54), just like the 2015 Griz (58-61). In its next game out, the ’82 Griz defeated Washington 72-65. A good omen? Time will tell.
Washington leads the all-time series between the two former Pacific Coast Conference members 9-44. The last time the two faced each other was in 2013, when the Griz came up four points shy (79-83) in Seattle.
SCOUTING THE HUSKIES: The Huskies are picked to finish 11th in the Pac-12 this season, based largely on the fact that is the same position they finished the ’14-’15 season.
The high-flying ’15-’16 Huskies are currently the second highest scoring outfit in the Pac-12 behind Colorado, averaging 83.1 points per game. However, UW also has the worst field goal percentage in the league at .419, on 226-539 shooting.
Senior guard Andrew Andrews (6-2, 200) leads the Pac-12 is scoring, averaging 22.1 points so far this year.
Freshman guard Dejounte Murray is the second most prolific scorer for the Huskies, averaging just over 13.5 points per outing in his first season.
NEXT UP: Montana returns home on December 15 to face Great Falls in Dahlberg Arena.