Griz Clinch Tournament-Hosting Rights, Share of Big Sky Crown

By JACKSON WAGNER

The Montana Grizzlies dispatched the rival Montana State Bobcats 70-54 in Bozeman Saturday night and earned the right to host the Big Sky Conference tournament next weekend in Missoula.

The win was the 10th consecutive in the series for Montana (18-11/14-4 BSC), who finished the Big Sky regular season with a 14-4 record. This is the third time in the past four seasons that Montana has claimed the regular season championship and hosted the tournament.

The Grizzlies defeated the Bobcats (7-23/4-14 BSC) in Missoula earlier this season 63-48. Montana’s defense, which is tops in the Big Sky, allowing just 67.2 ppg, showed up again in Bozeman as the Grizzlies coasted to victory in the second half.

Chris Kemp had the game of his life, scoring a game and career-high 17 points for Montana. The senior came into the game averaging just six minutes in conference games.

The Bobcats started the game strong, however, playing with a lot of emotion in their last game of the season, having already been eliminated from the Big Sky tournament.

They jumped on the Grizzlies early, not allowing a field goal for over six minutes. Mario Dunn finally ended the drought for Montana with a three pointer at the 13:50 mark, cutting the Bobcat lead to 10-4.

But the hosts continued their strong play and were the much more assertive team early on. Marcus Colbert, who started the game on the bench, caught fire early, draining three triples. Colbert finished the first half with 15 of Montana State’s 27 points.

Then, an and-one finish by Riley Bradshaw with 6:04 remaining made the score 21-18 and sparked the Grizzlies. A minute later, Kemp drove to the hole and finished with an emphatic slam to give Montana their first lead of the game at 22-21.

A basket by Dunn with 4:19 left in the half capped off an 11-0 run for Montana, who wouldn’t relinquish the lead for the rest of the game. Dunn sent the Griz into the locker room on a high note, as he grabbed an offensive rebound and scored with one second left on the clock to put Montana up 31-27 at the intermission.

BBQKemp dominated in the second half for Montana, securing the victory for the visitors. He scored 10 consecutive points for Montana, including three and-one finishes and a 2-of-3 mark from the free throwline.

The Kemp run put the Griz ahead 57-40 with 9:31 remaining in the game. They coasted down the stretch on their way to the 70-54 victory.

Senior Chris Kemp, who averages just two points in six minutes a game during the conference season, exploded for a game-high 17, including making 5-of-7 attempts from the free throw line after coming into the game shooting just 42 percent from the line.

Sophomore Mario Dunn, who scored a career-high 17 in the first match-up with Montana State, once again rose to the occasion, finishing with 15 points, six rebounds and four assists.

Brandon Gfeller and Martin Breunig also reached double-digits for Montana, scoring 10 points apiece. Breunig also grabbed a game-high seven rebounds.

Marcus Colbert, who scored 15 points in the first half, managed to make just one basket in the second to finish tied with Kemp at 17 points. Stephan Holm and Michael Dison also reached double-figures for the Bobcats, finishing with 13 and 10, respectively. Dison matched Breunig with a game-high seven boards.

The Grizzly defense was the highlight of the game, limiting Montana State to just 33 percent shooting from the floor. The Bobcats scored 10 fewer points than their season average.

Montana also dominated down low, outscoring Montana State 34-14 in the paint. Montana State, led by Colbert’s 17, scored 35 off the bench compared to Montana’s 24.

Montana clinched a share of the Big Sky Conference regular season championship with Eastern Washington, who defeated Weber State 79-71 in overtime Saturday night.

They will host the tournament after winning a tiebreak. Games begin Thursday, March 12 at 11 a.m. MT. The top-seeded Grizzlies will take on preseason favorite Weber State at 8 p.m. in Dahlberg Arena.

Montana Sports Information