Griz, Lady Griz Handle Sac State

By BILL SCHWANKE

GRIZ 64, SAC STATE 44

You’ve gotta love how the Montana Grizzlies continue to play defense right to the end, no matter who’s in the game and no matter how big the lead.

The Griz struggled mightily on offense in the first half when center Brian Qvale checked out early with two quick fouls. Already playing without injured point guard Will Cherry Montana had to rely on its defense to fend off the aggressive Hornets (can you say mugging?) and take a 33-23 lead into the locker room at halftime.

Qvale sat down with 16:31 to go in the half, and when he reappeared to start the second half he came out with a vengeance.

He wound up sharing game scoring honors with freshman guard Kareem Jamar, who is back in stride after working his way back in from an injury. Both had 14, followed by Derek Selvig with 12 and Art Steward with 10.

Qvale also had six blocked shots in just 20 minutes of action Thursday night, moving into second in Big Sky Conference history for single-season blocks.

Jamar is so impressive in every aspect of the game, his demeanor on the court belying his age. What sometimes gets lost is the job he does on the boards.

Despite nearly game-long, physical pressure (can you still say mugging?) the Griz had just nine turnovers while forcing 19 by the Hornets, who were held to 31 percent shooting from the floor. Montana shot just 41 percent from the field but boosted its numbers with a 7-for-15 night from beyond the arc and hit 52 percent in the big second half.

One of the most impressive efforts for Montana came from little-used 6-9 redshirt freshman post Eric Hutchison. “Impressive?” you might ask noting Hutchison’s two points. “Yes, impressive,” I would answer, noting his game-leading and career high seven rebounds in just 11 minutes of action.

Even more impressive was Hutchison’s toughness. He not only battled on the boards, he went to the floor for loose balls, stood in there to take charges, and battled Sac State’s big men toe to toe.

The Griz quickly built their lead to 21 barely six minutes into the second half and stifled the Hornets with an aggressive zone defense.

So will Will play Saturday night when the Griz host league-leading Northern Colorado? It’s a tough call. Obviously you want all of your horses when you play a team as solid as Northern Colorado. But you also want all of your horses down the stretch and come tournament time.

Murph, that’s why you make the big bucks.

And you’ve gotta feel for Jordan Wood. His prolonged shooting slump from beyond the arc has got to be frustrating. As my Babe Ruth League baseball coach used to tell me when I was having trouble finding the plate, “Don’t aim it. Throw it.”

In Jordan’s case it looks like he’s aiming the basketball instead of just shooting it. Don’t give up, Jordan. You’re doing a lot of other things well. The shooting will come around.

Montana State gave Northern Colorado a bit of a tussle in Bozeman Thursday night before falling by nine points. Are the Cats in the tank, or what?

And how about Weber State? The Wildcats simply throttled Northern Arizona, 82-55, Thursday night in Ogden, Utah, keeping Weber State right behind the Griz in the league standings.

As always it’s going to be interesting.

LADY GRIZ 73, SAC STATE 64

The Lady Griz picked up their fourth straight win Thursday night in Sacramento, appearing to have the game well in hand from early in the first half on before the high-speed Hornets made it interesting down the stretch.

The Lady Griz led 63-49 with 3:31 to go and were cruising. Almost exactly two minutes later it was 64-60, but Montana got key baskets from Torrey Hill, Katie Baker and Stephanie Stender to stretch it back to an 11-point lead with 31 seconds left and it was over.

It was unfortunate that the Lady Griz couldn’t go to the bench more late in the game because up next is Northern Colorado Saturday afternoon seemingly halfway across the country in Greeley. And the Bears will be coming off an impressive 64-46 drubbing of Montana State Thursday night.

Notwithstanding the late run Montana’s defense at Sac State was impressive. The Lady Griz gave up 40 percent shooting to the Hornets but had 17 steals, an incredible number, on the way to forcing 24 turnovers by the home team.

Montana shot nearly 43 percent despite a paltry 2 of 15 from three-point range, and the Griz owned a two-point edge on the boards.

Once again Montana’s bench was key, outscoring Sac State’s reserves 28-8.

While game scoring and rebounding honors went to Sac State’s Kylie Kuhns with 22 points and 11 rebounds Montana had better balance than the Hornets.

Katie Baker led the Lady Griz with 19 points, hitting 8 of 13 from the floor. Steady Sara Ena had 14 points and seven boards while Kenzie DeBoer and Stender chipped in 10 points apiece. Baker and Stender had eight rebounds apiece to pace Montana in that category.

Torrey Hill had an uncharacteristic off shooting night, hitting just 2 of 12 shots from the field including 1 of 6 from beyond the arc. But she did other things to help with five rebounds and four assists.

The ladies will have to get whatever rest they can before going up against Northern Colorado Saturday afternoon at 2. They’ll need to keep playing the same hard-nosed defense they’ve been playing over the last few games to have any shot at winning in Greeley.  Back to UM Hoops home page.

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“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.