Home Teams Prevail Thursday Night

By BILL SCHWANKE

Home teams held serve Thursday night as the Montana men took on Weber State in Ogden, Utah and the Montana women took on the Wildcats in Missoula.

WILDCATS 68, GRIZ 52

Coming off a huge win at Bozeman the Grizzlies apparently forgot to show up in Ogden, and the Wildcats were quick to take advantage of Montana’s seeming unwillingness to do battle.

The Griz got off to a decent start and led 9-4 a few minutes in, then went more than six minutes without a field goal and the game was pretty much over.

If someone could come up with the answer to why teams that have everything going for them basically want to give a game away without a fight, and write a book about it, that person would be rich and a lot more coaches would be without gray hair.

Griz coach Wayne Tinkle voiced double frustration after the game, first with how his team played (or rather didn’t play) and second – singing a tune I’ve sung on this blog earlier this year – why Griz opponents are allowed to play a certain way while Montana isn’t allowed to play the same way when it comes to physical action.

Toss in what appears to be a serious ankle injury to starting point guard Will Cherry, who saw limited action in the first half due to a pair of quick fouls, and the Griz could be set up for another tough go Saturday night at Flagstaff against Northern Arizona.

It wasn’t until late in Thursday night’s game that Montana finally had a player in double figures. Brian Qvale – who needn’t worry about being Big Sky player of the week for a fourth week in a row – wound up with 10. The other was freshman guard Vaughn Autry, who had three treys in relief of Will Cherry.

The Griz had more turnovers in the first half than they usually have in a full game and Weber State took full advantage, turning almost half of them into points on the way to a 33-19 halftime edge.

After falling behind by 16 in the second half Montana cut the lead to seven at 36-29, then basically disappeared again.

It’s hard to figure, but like I said, if someone from the high school through the professional level could figure out why these kinds of games happen, they’d be rich.

Keep your fingers crossed that Cherry is able to play Saturday night or it could be another long one for the Griz. On the other hand Montana has battled through injuries before, and bounced back well from subpar performances, this season. Maybe they can do it again Saturday at Flagstaff, where they’ve had pretty good success in recent years.

Tip-off will be at 6:35 p.m.

LADY GRIZ 67, WEBER 59

The Lady Griz again showed the ability to weather an early onslaught by an opponent as Weber State came out on fire Thursday night at Dahlberg Arena.

And then when Montana seemed to have things well in hand toward the end a couple of turnovers followed by a pair of long bombs by the visitors put Weber State back within six points with more than 20 left.

Kenzie DeBoer, whose appearance belies her toughness, sank a couple of foul shots down the stretch to keep the Wildcats at bay for a Lady Griz sweep of Weber State this season.

One of the most stunning moments of the game came early in the first half when Katie Baker, allegedly out for up to three weeks following an appendectomy late last week, came in to play. Baker wound up playing 19 minutes, enough to garner 11 points and a Lady Griz-high seven rebounds.

Jessa Loman Linford continued her inspired play in Baker’s place, notching 15 points, five rebounds and three nice assists.

Also in double figures for Montana were freshman guard Torrey Hill with 14 and DeBoer with 11.

The Lady Griz had stretches when they couldn’t buy a basket, but those stretches seem to get shorter as the games go by, and they still have an uncanny knack for missing shots close to the basket. But the one constant has been their defense.

For one of the few times this season the Lady Griz actually outshot someone from the field, even tough 41 to 40.7 percent isn’t exactly a statistical blowout. Rebounding was dead even at 36 apiece, but what was interesting there was the number of offensive rebounds to be had, 20 by Montana and 17 by the Wildcats.

The Lady Griz had the best in the paint scoring-wise, however, with 36 points to Weber’s 22. Montana’s bench outscored WSU’s 31-15, another telling stat.

It’s always a joy to watch a Robin Selvig team battle a Carla Taylor squad. These two veteran coaches, who obviously have a great deal of respect for each other, have had some amazing face-offs over the years.

Don’t be surprised if they run into each other again once playoff time rolls around.

Meanwhile the Lady Griz have a short turnaround with Saturday’s home rematch against Northern Arizona tipping off at 2 p.m. Montana had a chance at Flagstaff a few weeks back but dropped a tough 64-60 decision to the Lumberjacks.

Should be a beauty on Saturday afternoon. 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.