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Montana’s Oguine named Big Sky Conference defensive MVP

Since the defensive MVP award was created in 2003, no team has more honorees than Montana. Michael Oguine joins Bryan Ellis (2007), Brian Qvale (2011) and Will Cherry (2012-13). (GoGriz.com)

For a team that prides itself on defense – and ranks atop the conference in nearly every defensive statistical category – it’s fitting that Montana’s Michael Oguine was named the 2018 Big Sky Conference Defensive Player of the Year.

The award, voted on by the league’s head coaches, was announced on Monday morning. Fellow Juniors Ahmaad Rorie and Jamar Akoh were also recognized. Rorie was one of five players named to the first team, while Akoh earned third-team recognition in his first season in the league. In addition to Oguine’s specialty award, the guard was also named to the all-conference second team.

Montana has relied on a three-headed scoring approach made up of Rorie, Oguine and Akoh all season, and despite none of them ranking in the top eight in the conference for scoring, all three rank in the top 15 – the only team to have a trio of top-15 point scorers.

Rorie is the constant of the Grizzlies and is the team leader for scoring, minutes played and assists. In fact, he ranks in the top 10 in the Big Sky Conference for all three of those categories, one of only three players to do so.

Rorie leads a balanced scoring attack with 16.2 points per game (ninth), but is also the offensive facilitator, dishing out a 110 assists, including 66 in league play (sixth). As the point guard, he owns a 2.1 assist-to-turnover ratio (sixth) and ranks second in the league for free-throw shooting (.943). Rorie has a dozen 20-point scoring performances on the season and has led Montana in scoring 15 times. He averages 34.4 minutes per game (ninth).

The scrappy Oguine ranks fourth in league play with 26 steals (1.4 per game), while also ranking in the top 20 for scoring (15.9 points per game, 12th) and rebounding (5.7, 18th). He is the only Big Sky player to rank in the top 20 for all three categories. On the season, Oguine leads the Grizzlies for steals, and ranks second for scoring, assists, blocked shots and rebounding – despite being a 6-2 guard. In 18 conference games, he scored in double figures 15 times, including 39 points in a win at Portland State that led to player-of-the-week honors.

Since the defensive MVP award was created in 2003, no team has more honorees than Montana. Oguine joins Bryan Ellis (2007), Brian Qvale (2011) and Will Cherry (2012-13).

Both Oguine and Rorie earned their way into the 1,000-point scoring club this season, becoming the 32nd and 33rd members to join the exclusive list. Oguine was a third-team All-Big Sky honoree as a sophomore in 2016-17 while Rorie was recognized on the second team; both moved up this season.

After redshirting a season ago following his transfer from Cal State Fullerton, Akoh has been a force down low for the Griz on both sides of the ball. He ranks 14th in Big Sky play for scoring (15.0) and eighth for rebounding (7.0). With his .578 field-goal percentage (seventh), he is one of two Big Sky players to rank in the top 15 for all three categories. Akoh has seven double-doubles on the season, including five during Big Sky action. In early January, Akoh was named the Big Sky player of the week.

By limiting opponents to under 70 points per game and winning by an average margin of 13.3 points, Montana won its 11th Big Sky regular-season title in 2017-18. The Grizzlies won their first 13 conference games en route to a 16-2 record. Montana earned a bye into the quarterfinals of the Big Sky Championship and will play either No. 8 North Dakota or No. 9 Montana State on Thursday at 1 p.m. MT.