By ERIC TABER
THE GAME: The No. 2 seed Montana Grizzlies (19-10, 14-4 BSC) will get a shot at redemption in the Big Sky Conference quarterfinal, as UM faces No. 10 seed Sacramento State for the third time this season after splitting the regular season series with the Hornets. Tipoff from the Reno Events Center in Reno, Nev., is set for 5:35 p.m. PT (6:35 MT) on Thursday, March 10.
COVERAGE: The Griz/Hornets quarterfinal can be seen for free worldwide on watchbigsky.com. Fans can also tune in to the statewide radio broadcast on the Montana Grizzlies Radio Network, or hear the audio stream at GoGriz.com.
HOW THEY GOT HERE: The Grizzlies fell to Northern Colorado 72-78 in the final regular season game of the year, missing a chance at a share of the league’s regular season title, but earning a No. 2 seed and a first round by at the Big Sky Tourney.
Sacramento State defeated Montana back on Feb. 4 in Sacramento (one of only four league losses for the Griz this year), but had to face Montana State in the first round of the league tournament, defeating the Bobcats 79-75 to move on to face UM.
UP NEXT? The winner of the Griz/Hornets game will move on to face the winner of the No. 6 Eastern Washington/No 3 Idaho Vandals matchup in the Big Sky tournament semifinal on Friday, March 11 at 8:05 p.m. PT.
TOURNEY TIME: This is Montana’s 37th (out of 41) league tournament appearance, and its fifteenth-straight, the longest streak of any team in the league.
SERIES HISTORY: After splitting the two-game regular season series, the Grizzlies lead the all-time series 37-7.
The Griz have only played the Hornets once previously in the Big Sky tournament, falling to the Hornets 88-75 in the 2002-03 conference postseason.
EARLIER THIS YEAR: Montana moved to 7-0 at home with a 77-58 dismantling of the Hornets on Jan. 9 in the two team’s first meeting of the season. Jack Lopez posted a career high of 21 points, five rebounds and three assists, while Walter Wright added 16 points and a career high 12 assists.
Nearly a month later, the Grizzlies fell to the Hornets 79-83 on the return trip to Sacramento. Sac State erased a 20-point halftime lead by the Grizzlies.
BREUNIG UPDATE: For the second time in two years, senior forward Martin Breunig was named to the first team all-Big Sky list this week, but due to a clerical error by the Big Sky Conference, was not named a unanimous first team selection. The league has since updated the all-Big Sky first team to reflect that Breunig was, in fact, a unanimous first team selection.
UPDATED 2015-16 Big Sky Conference Men’s Basketball All-Conference Team
*Joel Bolomboy (MVP) – Sr. – F – Weber State, (Fort Worth, Texas)
*Ethan Telfair – Jr. – G – Idaho State (Coney Island, N.Y.)
#Venky Jois – Sr. – F – Eastern Washington (Boronia, Australia)
*#Martin Breunig – Sr. – F – Montana, (Leverkusen, Germany)
Quinton Hooker – Jr. – G – North Dakota (Brooklyn Park, Minn.)
Jeremy Senglin – Jr. – G – Weber State (Arlington, Texas)
#Two-time First Team Selection
POST SEASON ACCOLADES: In addition to Breunig’s unanimous first-team all conference selection, junior guard Walter Wright was given an all-conference honorable mention nod in his first year in the Big Sky.
Breunig and former Montana player and coach Larry Krystkowiak were also named to the prestigious U.S. Basketball Writers Association (USBWA) 2015-16 men’s All-District VIII team. Breunig was one of ten players from the mountain region to earn a place on the team. Krystkowiak was named Coach of the Year for his work leading the Utah Utes to a No. 12 national ranking.
Breunig is currently No. 22 on Montana’s top all-time scorers list with 1,072 points in two years at UM.