Griz 2-0 in Gut-Check Basketball Games

By BILL SCHWANKE

Oregon State at Montana

One of the best basketball games I’ve ever seen in Dahlberg Arena . . . period!

The Montana-Oregon State game Wednesday night had it all: intensity . . . atmosphere . . . outstanding athletes . . . great individual and team performances, really from both sides.

Credit Oregon State. The way the game started it would have been easy for the Beavers to just take their lumps and go home losing to the team that had already won at UCLA. But helped by their bench in particular, the Beavers made it exciting for everyone in the building.

There are not enough superlatives for the performance of Brian Qvale. His teammates got him the ball where he needed to get it – behind the OSU zone – and like we’ve all been waiting to see, when the opportunity was there, he went up and stuffed it home.

And it wasn’t just his scoring. Wayne Tinkle said on the pre-game radio show they needed to get 18 to 20 points from the big guy, the usual overall performance from Will Cherry, and intensity and smart play from the rest of the Griz, and they could get a win.

I don’t think Tinks – or anyone else for that matter – was expecting Qvale to have 21 points by halftime. And 18 rebounds for the night? My goodness! That was great individual effort on BQs part. The Griz managed to outrebound a very long and athletic OSU team and did especially well at the offensive end.

Cherry was cherry, going to the hole, creating turnovers and converting them into baskets, not turning it over too much on offense, and getting his teammates involved. One heckuva sophomore he is!

Seeing how confident the Griz were from the start Wednesday night made it even more of a puzzle – and a shame – that UM dropped the game at USF last weekend. But they certainly didn’t show signs of a hangover.

And hats off to Tinkle for taking that quick timeout at the start of the second half when the Griz seemed to be a little flat footed. It seemed to do the trick.

The crowd, over 4,000 strong, was outstanding, not only because of its size, but also because of the way it responded to how the Griz were playing and because of the way it spurred the team on when the guys needed it.

Just a wonderful experience. The Griz had the crowd buzzing all the way to the exits and beyond.

Someone said a few weeks ago that they thought Tinkle and his staff had elevated the recruiting level with the last two classes. I agree, and it’s starting to show.

One more thing: Jordan Wood, just keep playing like you’re playing. We know you can shoot it. It’ll come. I love the rest of your game. Keep your chin up!

Montana at Idaho

There’s nothing worse than playing someone you’ve already beaten by 42 points, but that’s what the Montana Grizzlies faced Saturday night in Moscow, Idaho. As Wayne Tinkle predicted it was a different Idaho Vandals team, one that had won three of four since its Missoula drubbing.

Derek Selvig’s runner with 5.5 seconds on the clock gave the Griz a hard-fought 64-63 win over the Vandals.

The game was as even as a game could be, dead even on the boards (27-27), both teams shooting a bit under 50 percent from the floor. lead changes and ties almost too numerous to count, with neither team ever holding more than a five-point lead, which Idaho did twice in the second half and UM did 62-57 with 1:14 to go.

The Vandals scored the next six points and had a 63-62 lead with 14.7 seconds to go. The Grizzlies did what they should do in that situation. They got the ball in the hands of their playmaker, sophomore point guard Will Cherry, who penetrated the key after dribbling full court and dropped the ball behind him to Selvig, who converted.

Although free throw shooting almost killed Montana again down the stretch when still-struggling Jordan Wood missed a pair in the late going, the team hit 18 of 23 on the night, with Cherry a solid 7 of 8.

Montana had a few too many turnovers, but just a couple more than the Vandals, who drew a whopping crowd of 922. But when things got tight at the end, the Grizzlies never buckled and finally got the buzzer-beating win they needed for another confidence boost.

Let’s not forget Montana’s bench. Outscored 45-3 by Oregon State in the win over the Beavers, Montana got 14 from its bench against Idaho, 12 from Mathias Ward, who notched a key 8 of those in the first half.

And how about true freshman Kareem Jamar, who tallied 12 of his career-high 17 in the first half, hit all four of his free throws, and was 5 of 6 from the floor including 3 of 3 from beyond the arc.

He’s got the tools and potential to be a great one. Shoot, he’s not bad now, right?

Next up for the Griz, another team they’ve already beaten in Missoula this year, Cal State-Fullerton. That’ll be another challenge Wednesday night.

The Lady Griz, after a few days off for finals, tee it up Tuesday night in Missoula, this time in another toughie with Wyoming.  Back to UM Hoops home page

Merry Grizmas everybody!

***********

“Grizzly Bill” Schwanke is a UM journalism grad and Missoula native.  He spent 21 years doing play-by-play for Griz football and men’s basketball winning sportscaster of the year six times and working in Grizzly athletics for 15 years total. He’s enjoying retirement, especially the chance to spend time with his three grandsons. His wife Lynn and he have been married for 42years.