Too Many Odds Against Griz



There was just too much for the Montana Grizzlies to overcome Wednesday night in Greeley, Colo.

Down starting guard Shawn Stockton from the start after last night’s hamstring injury against Weber State Montana had to juggle its bench and its line-up partly because of that and partly because of foul trouble.

The Bears got 27 points from Big Sky MVP Devon Beitzel, who shot two fewer free throws on the night than the whole Montana team. There were 29 fouls whistled against Montana and 16 against the league champs, who shot 35 times from the line. Fortunately for Montana the Bears hit just 60 percent of them, otherwise the game wouldn’t have been as close.

Things got so crazy for Montana at times that they had Jordan Wood playing the point for part of the game. But even when Will Cherry fouled out with two minutes left the Griz kept battling. That was after Derek Selvig, who didn’t contribute much to the cause tonight, picked up his fourth with eight minutes to go and Brian Qvale, who was pretty well bottled up much of the night, got his fourth with 6:24 left.

Montana’s defense generally was superb, although as ESPN commentator Miles Simon pointed out they were charging at shooters with their hands down rather than up and got caught reaching too many times.

There were a couple of unlikely heroes for UM Wednesday night. Art Steward led the Griz in scoring with 16 points after hitting nary a point Tuesday night. Freshman Kareem Jamar hit some clutch shots down the stretch to offset some defensive errors and shared back-up scoring honors with Cherry with 13. Qvale, who hit six in the early going of the first half, wound up with 11 points and topped Montana rebounding with 6 while adding three more blocks to his career total in his final outing as a Grizzly.

Montana simply had trouble getting the ball into the big man in places where he could operate.

I guess if I would like to see anyone win the title other than Montana Northern Colorado might be my choice. The Bears have made solid progress as a basketball program over the past five years.

The Grizzlies finished the season at 21-10, really a pretty amazing accomplishment given having only one senior and seven players totally new to the program. While they disappeared at times during the season, they showed real heart in many of their wins. Replacing Qvale will be a tough chore next season, but there are some promising players returning, a great one in Cherry, and more tradition to build on.

Jordan Wood, I hope you find your shot again before next season. I feel for you, man, but somehow you’ve got to get back to what you were doing when the Grizzlies recruited you to replace Ryan Staudacher. You do a lot of things well, but your shooting touch would be a real help next year. Take a deep breath, forget your shooting woes this season, and do what you can do.

Thanks, BQ, for some wonderful memories, and best of luck to you down the road, wherever it takes you.

And Northern Colorado, do the Big Sky proud, no matter who you draw in the Big Dance.

ON THE SIDE: Miles Simon is hands down one of the best color commentators ESPN has. I’ve seen him several times. Even though he came from a Pac-10 program (Arizona) and has a national championship ring to his credit he doesn’t try to be high and mighty. He tells it like it is and has a great appreciation for outstanding players no matter what level their program might be.

And finally, with all due respect to Devon Beitzel, who has worked hard to be the great player he is, I’ll make two observations: one, besides becoming an accomplished player he’s become an accomplished flopper, and two, he gets way too much help that he doesn’t need from the officials. Enough said.


I’d love to hear your comments on what I’m talking about or answer any questions you might have. So have at it. I’m way beyond having my feelings hurt. And thanks for reading me. Back to Griz and Lady Griz Hoops blog 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 42 years.