By CHRIS WALTERSKIRCHEN
Thursday night the Idaho Vandals are at Dahlberg Arena to face the league-leading Griz. The Vandals will be looking for their first win in Missoula since December of 1999 when Idaho won the Griz Holiday Classic.
Walter Wright continues his emergence as a major factor in Montana’s success currently second in assists in league play. Wright is also among the league leaders in assist to turnover ratio.
Idaho and Montana are among the rebounding leaders.
The Vandals have 3 of the top 6 free throw shooters in the Big Sky led by San Diego transfer Chris Sarbaugh who has not missed in league play.
Saturday it will be a rematch of last March’s Big Sky title played in Missoula when the Eagles of Eastern Washington defeated Montana for a ticket to the NCAA tournament. The Eagles and Grizzly match-up will pit two of the top contenders for league MVP. Montana’s Martin Breunig and Eastern Washington’s Venky Jois are among the leaders in rebounding, blocks shots, and Field goal percentage.
A win Thursday night will give coach Travis Decuire his 32nd win at UM which exceeds Wayne Tinkle’s total after two seasons.
The Lady Griz face their Idaho counterparts in Moscow. It was 30 years ago this week that the Lady Griz upset the 17th ranked Vandals for Montana’s first win over a top-25 ranked team. The Vandals of 1986 went on to win the Women’s NIT.
Montana’s Kayleigh Valley is leading the Big sky in scoring during the conference schedule.
One stat that could be a warning to UM is the fact that Idaho is ahead of Montana in both scoring defense and Field goal defense.
With MSU’s win Saturdays in Bozeman and the Lady Griz loss at home for the first time in 18 years, the Bobcats have a full two-game lead on the Lady Griz. Eighteen years ago was the season Montana basketball spent in exile at the sentinel Gym.
Sunday’s NFC title game will be a rare post-season battle between former Heisman Trophy winning quarterbacks. Arizona’s Carson Palmer who won the award while at USC in 2002 and Cam Newton who led Auburn to a national title in 2010 when he won the Heisman.
The New England and Denver match-up features two teams who have combined to win 10 of the last 18 AFC title games.
Chris Walterskirchen has been an observer of Montana sports for nearly half a century. A Kalispell native, Chris has worked in various capacities for professional and college sports organization of at various times: ranging from announcing and statistical work to the concessions and even a stint as a costumed mascot.
Chris has academic degrees in communications and elementary education. His style of sports trivia involves more than just who won and who lost, but also focuses on the obscure or human side of sports. In this blog you will learn things like the Grizzly football team has won 210 games over the 19 seasons since they have had Monte as their mascot or that UNLV is the only school that both the Griz and Lady Griz have both faced in the NCAA basketball tournament
When not following sports Chris enjoys taking care of animals of all kinds (a peacock rescue?) and reading to pre-schoolers.