By ERIC TABER
The Montana Grizzlies wrap up the regular season at home this week, returning to Dahlberg Arena to host North Dakota (15-12, 10-6 BSC) and Northern Colorado (9-19, 6-10 BSC) before hitting the road to Reno for the Big Sky Conference tournament next week.
The Griz (18-9, 13-3 BSC) return home after splitting one of the toughest road trips of the season last week, beating Idaho State in Pocatello, then falling to Weber State on Saturday to drop into second place in the league standings.
TIPOFF TIME ALERT: This weekend’s slate of home games will tip off at different times than the usual 7 p.m. start. Thursday’s game against North Dakota will tip at 8 p.m., and Saturday’s game against Northern Colorado will be an afternoon matinee, tipping at 2 p.m.
Griz starting times have been moved due to the Montana State Class A high school basketball tournament happening at the Adams Center Thursday through Saturday. Fans will get a belly full of basketball with 12 high school games being played on top of the two Griz games.
COVERAGE: Griz fans can watch the UND and UNC games live and for free via web stream at watchbigsky.com. Mick Holien’s last broadcasts from Dahlberg Arena will be aired statewide on the Grizzly Radio Network, and can be heard live via web stream on gogriz.com.
SERIES HISTORIES: Montana leads the all-time series over both North Dakota and Northern Colorado. Against North Dakota (now officially the Fighting Hawks), UM leads 10-8. Montana picked up its twentieth win over the UNC Bears earlier this season, to take a 20-7 lead in the all-time series.
LAST TIME THEY MET: The Grizzlies picked up their second road sweep of the season in mid-January, defeating UNC 73-66 in Greeley, then traveling to Grand Forks to beat North Dakota 65-61.
True freshman Michael Oguine sealed the win for the Griz against Northern Colorado by hitting a three from the corner, and squashing a late run from UNC to win the game. Martin Breunig led all scorers with 22 points.
At North Dakota, Montana went on a 10-0 run in the final three minutes of the game, five of which were provided by Martin Breunig, as the Griz defeated the Fighting Hawks 65-61 to pick up their sixth-straight conference win.
Breunig once again led all scorers in that game with 27 points, earning him Big Sky Player of the Week honors for a total of 49 points in two games.
WHERE THEY STAND: Montana’s loss to Weber State on Saturday knocks it down to second place on the Big Sky table, but the chance to win the Big Sky regular season title is still alive.
The Grizzlies will need to pick up two wins this weekend, and will require two losses from Weber State to take the league championship. The good news: Montana has defeated both UND and UNC once this year. The other good news: Weber faces a tough road trip this week, traveling to face the Big Sky’s current third-and-fourth-place teams, Idaho and Eastern Washington.
Griz fans will want to root for the Vandals and Eagles to win this weekend, giving UM the regular season championship (just don’t get used to it).
North Dakota is knocking on the door to an all-important top-four finish in conference play, locked in a four-way tie for third and fourth place at 10-6 with Idaho, Eastern Washington, and Idaho State.
While the Griz are guaranteed a No. 1 or No. 2 seed at the Big Sky tourney and will receive a bye in the first round, the rest of the seeding is a jumbled pile of spaghetti.
GRIZ TRACKS: Senior forward Martin Breunig continues his march into the Montana history books with a current total of 1,042 points in his two seasons as a Grizzly, good enough to put him at No. 27 on the all-time leading scorers list, just six points from passing Mike Warhank (1,046), Brain Qvale (1,046) and Roger Fasting (1,047) to move into No. 24 on the all-time list.
Breunig’s current points per game average of 17.7 in his two years as a Griz is good enough for the second best career scoring average in Montana history behind Anthony Johnson, who averaged 18.43 in his two years as a Griz.
FRESHMAN IMPACT: In the last two weeks, Mike Oguine and Bobby Moorehead, both true freshmen at UM, have had two of the best scoring nights of any Grizzly this season, with Oguine setting a new career high of 27 versus MSU, and Moorehead nearly doubling his previous career high by dropping 24 points at Idaho State.
Moorehead was 8-11 from behind the three-point arc that night, just one shy of tying the school record of nine triples in a game.
Of all the former Grizzlies in the 1,000-point club who played their freshman years, Oguine is having the second-best frosh year in school history, averaging 11.4 PPG, and Moorehead’s contributions (5.6 PPG) rank him among the top 12 freshmen of all-time as well.