Griz Basketball: At Montana 70, Idaho State 51

By DAVE GUFFEY, for University of Montana Sports Information

Forwards Mathias Ward and Spencer Coleman combined for 41 points, as The University of Montana Grizzlies remained unbeaten in Big Sky Conference play with a 70-51 victory over the Idaho State Bengals Thursday night in UM’s Dahlberg Arena.

The Grizzlies won their ninth game in a row to improve to 9-0 in the Big Sky and 13-4 overall.  It was Montana’s 20th straight Big Sky victory.

The win sets up a showdown between the top two teams in the league, as the Griz host the Weber State Wildcats (8-1/13-4) on Saturday, Jan. 26, in a 7:05 p.m. tip-off in Dahlberg Arena.  The Wildcats suffered their first conference loss of the season, losing 79-74 at Montana State this evening.

The Bengals’ zone defense slowed the Griz offense down through the first 30 minutes, but when Coleman canned a jumper on a nice feed from Ward, UM took a 53-42 lead with 10:57 left to play and maintained a double-digit lead the rest of the way.

Senior Mathias Ward scored a game-high 21 points Thursday night at Dahlberg Arena. File Photo by Austin Smith.

Ward, a senior from Gig Harbor, Wash., scored a game-high 21 points – his fifth game of the season with 20 or more points, and he made 7-of-14 shots and was a perfect 7-of-7 from the line.

Coleman, a junior from Eugene, Ore., scored 18 of his career-high 20 points in the second half.  For the game he was 8-of-9 from the field, 2-of-3 three-pointers and a pair of free throws.  Coleman, who did not start, had a previous career-high of 15 points against Eastern Washington at home earlier this month.The Bengals (3-6/4-14) had a torrid shooting first half, making 12-of-21 (57.1%) field goal tries, 4-of-7 (57.1%) treys, and were 3-of-4 from the line, and led 31-29 at halftime.

There were eight lead changes and six ties, but after the sixth deadlock of 31-all, Ward scored on a conventional three-point play with 19:10 left to play, giving Montana a three-point, 34-31 lead, and the Grizzlies led the rest of the way.

UM junior guard-forward Kareem Jamar had his usual solid all-around game, scoring 11 points, grabbing a game-high 7 rebounds, and dishing out a game-best 7 assists.  Senior point guard Will Cherry was poked in the eye with 9:25 to go in the first half, and he stayed out of the game the rest of the first stanza, and finished with 6 points.

Montana had a hot shooting streak in the second half, and finished the game 24-of-46 (52.2%) from the field 6-of-20 (30.0%) from three-point range, and was 16-of-19 (84.2%) from the line.  ISU was 17-of-44 (38.6%) from the floor, 5-of-13 (38.5%) from behind the arc, and converted 12-of-16 (75.0%) charity shots.

Montana made 14-of-24 (58.3%) shots from the floor in the second half, and the Griz defense held ISU to 5-of-23 (21.7%) shooting in the final 20 minutes.

The 41 points given up by the Griz were a season-low by an opponent, and the Bengals’ 20 rebounds (UM had 31) were the fewest by a foe this year as well.  ISU’s field goals made (17) and attempts (44) were also season lows by a Griz opponent this season.

Senior F/C Neveij Walters led ISU with 12 points, while senior guard Melvin Morgan added 10.

The Griz-Wildcat game this Saturday will be a “Coaches Versus Cancer Game,” and will also feature a “Team Up Montana” event, which is sponsored by St. Patrick’s Hospital.

See the UM VS ISU Box Score.