Griz Host Wildcats in Big Sky Conference Quarterfinal, March 12

By DAVE GUFFEY

THE GAME: The No. 1 seed University of Montana Grizzlies (18-11/14-4 BSC) host the No. 8-seed Weber State Wildcats  (13-16/8-10) in a quarterfinal game in the Big Sky Conference’s men’s Basketball Championship, Thursday, March 12.  The regular-season league co-champion Griz are hosting the tourney in UM’s Dahlberg Arena.  The tip-off between the Grizzlies and Wildcats is at 8:05 p.m.

BIG SKY CO-CHAMPIONS: The Griz tied for the league’s regular-season championship with No. 2-seed Eastern Washington (23-8/14-4).

Martin Breunig (Photo ny Todd Goodrich, UM)TOURNEY VETS: This is Montana’s 36th (out of 40) league tournament appearance, and its 14th straight, which is the longest streak by any team in the league.  The Grizzlies have hosted the event three times in the past four years, and seven times overall in Dahlberg Arena.  The Griz are 7-5 overall versus the Wildcats in the tourney and have won the last six in arow.

UP NEXT?: The winner of the Griz-Wildcats game will play the winner of No. 4-seed Northern Arizona (18-13/13-5) versus No.5-seed Northern Colorado (15-14/10-8) contest in a semifinal match-up on Friday, March 13 at 8:00 p.m.

RADIO/TV: Veteran Mick Holien calls the play-by-play and Greg Sundberg is the color analyst on UM’s flagship stations KGVO 1290 AM/ & 101.5 FM and the Grizzly Radio Network from Learfield Sports.  There is no television coverage.

EARLIER THIS SEASON: At Weber State 68, Montana 60: Jeremy Senglin and Joel Bolomboy scored 16 points each to lead the Wildcats, while Griz junior forward Martin Breunig scored a career-high 31.  At Montana 74, Weber State 63: Breunig led UM with 19 points and 10 rebounds, while sophomore guard Jordan Gregory added 15 points.  Chris Golden had a team-high 18 points for WSU, and Bolomboy had 10 boards.  (Senglin, a sophomore guard, has missed WSU’s last six games due to an injury, and leads the team averaging 16.0 ppg).

BREUNIG, GREGORY & DUNN NAMED ALL-LEAGUE/BREUNIG ALSO TABBED TOP NEWCOMER: Breunig and Gregory were both named first team All-Big Sky, while sophomore forward Mario Dunn was an honorable mention pick.  Bruenig was also tabbed the league’s “Newcomer of the Year.”  (See page 9).

DECUIRE IN ELITE GROUP: Head coach Travis DeCuire’s 18-11 record this season ties him for second with Stew Morrill and Larry Krystkowiak for the most wins by a first-year coach at UM.  The top four: Blaine Taylor (27-4, 1991-92), DeCuire, Morrill (18-11, 1986-87), and Krystkowiak (18-13, 2004-05).

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GRIZ-WILDCAT SERIES:  The Wildcats lead 67-54.   The Griz lead 35-22 at UM.

Travis DeCuireQUOTING HEAD COACH TRAVISDECUIRE:

MONTANA WAS PICKED TO FINISH 8TH IN THE PRESEASON POLL BY THE COACHES.  IT MUST FEEL GOOD FOR YOU TO BE THE REGULAR-SEASON LEAGUE CHAMPION: “It’s been motivation for us all year.  It’s a fact that they didn’t know much about us or me as a coach coming in.  None of us had proved anything. So there was no reason to think differently.  I would have thought that tradition would count for something.  But we’ve used it for motivation all year.”

WHAT DOES IT MEAN FOR MONTANA TO HAVE THE OPPORTUNITY TO HOST THE POSTSEASON TOURNAMENT? “It’s huge.  For this group – we weren’t that good in November and December.  I wasn’t good – we weren’t good.  We got better.  We came together.  This group fought to have this opportunity, and I think that is was very well earned through hard work, and  I am happy for these guys to be able to have a chance to experience this.

“Personally for me, I am happy to be in this position for the opportunity to coach.  Anything other than that, I’m a game-by-game, season overall kind of guy.  I enjoy the moment.  I get caught up in the moment.  The accolades aren’t as much for me, it’s more about these guys.”

WHAT DO YOU THINK THE KEY OR KEYS TO THE GRIZ-WILDCAT GAME WILL BE?: “Defensive pressure.  We can let them run their offense and flow.  They are a rhythm team – a lot like us, and if you let them stay in their rhythm they’ll exploit you.  So we have to keep them on their heels and we have to be the aggressor.  We’ve got to do a better job in transition on defense, because they do run.  We also need to minimize their three-point shooting.”