Griz put 15-game winning streak on the line Saturday against SDSU


The University of Montana will put its 15-game Division 1 home winning streak on the line this Saturday, Dec. 15, when the Grizzlies host the 14th-ranked (collegeinsider’s Dec. 10, 2012 Mid-Major poll) South Dakota State Jackrabbits in their final preseason non-league game of the year.  Tip-off is at 7:00 p.m. (Mtn.) in UM’s Dahlberg Arena.

“It really should be a great game,” said seventh-year Griz mentor Wayne Tinkle, whose 120 career wins are the fourth most in school history.  “We weren’t excited about getting them on our schedule, to be honest.  But we are both in the same situation.  They couldn’t get anybody to play them (at home), and we couldn’t get anybody to play us, and we had to say ‘what the heck’ we have to fill our schedule out.”

The Grizzlies’ (who are currently 4-3) 15 straight wins in Dahlberg Arena gives them the eighth longest winning skein in the nation.  Montana’s last home loss (70-64) was Dec. 10, 2011 to Nevada.  The Jackrabbits (8-3) also have a home winning streak of their own going, and have won 23 consecutive games in Frost Arena, which is the third longest streak in the nation.  The Grizzly-Jackrabbit game is the start of a rigorous schedule for SDSU, as it is the first of six straight road contests and the Jackrabbits’ next home game is not until Jan. 10, 2013.

Kareem Jamar steals the ball against San Diego. Dahlberg Arena in Missoula, Mont., November 24th, 2012. Photo by Austin Smith.

Fellow Big Sky Conference member Weber State has won 20 in a row in Dee Events Center, which is the fourth longest streak in the country.  The Wildcats will be tested this Saturday when they host intra-state rival BYU.  Syracuse owns the longest winning streak in D-1 at 28 games, while Kansas is second with 26 in a row.

The Grizzlies and Jackrabbits are both coming off very successful seasons.  Montana went 25-7 overall last year — and 15-1 in league play en route to the Big Sky’s regular-season championship.   The Grizzlies’ 25 victories last season were the second most in school history, while their 15 wins in league were their most ever.The Griz hosted and won the Big Sky Tournament, and advanced to the NCAA tourney for the ninth time in school history, losing 73-49 to 14th-ranked Wisconsin in the first round.   Ironically, Montana was the 14th-ranked team last season in the collegeinsider’s final Mid-Major poll.Montana had an unprecedented four players named to the All-Big Sky team, as guard Will Cherry and guard-forward Kareem Jamar were first-team picks and forwards Derek Selvig and Art Steward were second team selections.  Cherry was named the league’s “Defensive Player of the Year.”

The Jackrabbits return four of five starters, including guard Nate Wolters, who like Cherry, was a Mid-Major All-American selection last season. Walter’s was voted the Summit League’s preseason player of the year in 2012-13, and is currently ranked 19th in the nation in scoring (20.4 ppg).

Last season SDSU tied its school record for wins with 27.   SDSU (27-8) won the Summit League Tournament to advance to the NCAAs. The Jackrabbits lost 68-60 to Baylor in an NCAA tourney first-round game played in “The Pit” in Albuquerque, N.M., the same site which the Griz played Wisconsin last year in the Big Dance.

Keron DeShields defends a Minot State player. Dahlberg Arena in Missoula, Mont., November 14th, 2012. Photo by Austin Smith.

“I really respect coach (Scott) Nagy (who is 318-199 in his 18th season at SDSU) and the job he has done taking them through the transition to Division 1,” Tinkle said.  “He’s just done an outstanding job.  They’ve got everyone back from a really good team, and it’s going to be a tough game.

“For us it’s going to be a challenge,” Tinkle continued.  “We are not at 100 percent by any means, but I like the progress that we’ve made.  It’s going to be a really neat challenge to see how far we’ve come from our first game on the road at Colorado State (a 72-65 loss) to playing South Dakota State at home in the middle of December.”

“They’re going to be at the top of their league, and I get they’re a team that in March, if everything stays according to plan for them as far as health and all that, they can win a game or two in the NCAA tournament,” Tinkle said.  “We’re a team that’s still evolving.  We’re just getting Will back.  He’ll play limited minutes Saturday (against SDSU), but he will play.  We are excited to have him back on the floor.

“I know this — both teams are not going to be the teams that you see in March,” Tinkle said.  “We’re going to be a lot better in March and they’re going to be a lot better in March.  I know their stud Wolters was hurt for a little while, but he’s back now.  It’s early in the season, but it’s a good test for both of us before we head into our respective conference play.”


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