Grizzlies host Montana Tech for Monday night hoops

From Nov. 19 through Dec. 16 – a 28 day period – Montana will play just three basketball games, but before the Grizzlies can get to that point, they will play five games over 10 days to open the season. That stretch includes Monday night’s game vs. NAIA school Montana Tech.

The Islands of the Bahamas Showcase, an eight-team, three-day tournament this coming weekend in Nassau, doesn’t officially begin until Friday, but because of the tournament, Montana was able to schedule Monday’s game vs. Montana Tech. By partaking in the tournament, the Grizzlies are able to add an extra competition date to its schedule against a non-Division I team, which is where the Orediggers fit in.

Unlike Montana, who opened its season on Friday with an 81-74 victory over fellow NCAA tournament participant Georgia State, Montana Tech opened its season nearly a month ago, already playing six official contests, in addition to an exhibition game against Oregon State. Monday’s contests will count toward Montana’s standings, but will be considered an exhibition for the Orediggers.

Through six contests, Montana Tech is 5-1, averaging 85.4 points per game and a +25.6 scoring margin. The Orediggers are making nearly half of their shots, while on defense they are averaging 13.8 steals per game. Sophomore Taylor England leads a trio of players averaging double figures for points, with 17.2. He also has a team-best 7.2 rebounds per game, plus 14 steals and 13 blocks.

“We’ve got to be the best team we can be, regardless of who our opponent is,” head coach Travis DeCuire said. “My assumption is that we’ll see some zone, we’ll see some changes on defense. We’ve got to get our pace up and the ball’s got to move better.”

Montana scored 81 points against Georgia State’s unique defense on Friday, but also was out-rebounded and struggled shooting from beyond the arc. The team took Saturday off to recover before practicing on Sunday. It will practice once more on Tuesday before the team departs for Nassau.

SCOUTING MONTANA TECH

  • Montana Tech (NAIA) enters Monday’s game with a 5-1 record, winning by an average of 25.6 points per game. The team’s only loss was a 10-point defeat to Warner Pacific University.
  • The Orediggers are potent on both sides of the ball, making nearly 50 percent of their shots and averaging 85.4 points per game, while also forcing more than 22 turnovers per game, including nearly 14 steals.
  • Sophomore Taylor England leads the Orediggers for scoring (17.2), rebounding (7.2) and blocked shots (13).
  • In addition to England, Dylan Pannabecker (12.6) and Troy Owens (10.3) are also in double figures for scoring.
  • The Orediggers have three players who are averaging at least 2.0 steals per game.
  • Griz fans will see a familiar face on the Montana Tech bench. One of the Orediggers’ assistant coaches is former Griz big man Derek Selvig. Selvig (2007-12) finished his career with 844 points and 560 rebounds while helping the Griz to a pair of NCAA tournament berths.
  • Montana Tech went 12-18 a year ago, finishing in seventh place in the seven-team Frontier Conference.

SERIES VS. THE OREDIGGERS
Montana is 46-11 all-time against Montana State, a series which dates back to 1907-08, when Tech was formerly known as Montana School of Mines. The Griz won 26-19 on the road that year. Montana hasn’t lost since the 1944-45 season, winning the most recent meeting 86-44 in 2014-15.

TALENT IN MISSOULA
Last Friday vs. Georgia State marked the first time in four years that an NCAA tournament team from the previous season played a non-conference game in Missoula. Overall, it was the 37th time it has ever happened, including the fourth time in the past decade.

Even rarer, it marked the ninth time in Dahlberg Arena history that two NCAA tournament teams played each other, and the first time since 2012-13.

STARTING THE YEAR WITH A WIN

  • Montana opened the 2018-19 season with a win over fellow NCAA tournament team Georgia State (Nov. 9):
  • Montana broke a 58-58 tie with just under 6 minutes to play, using a 9-2 run. The Grizzlies led by at least three points from that point forward.
  • The two teams were tied at 33-33 at halftime, despite Montana holding the lead for 18:51 of the first half.
  • Georgia State used a 22-7 run, extending across both halves, to lead by as many as seven points. Montana responded with 12 of the next 16 points to regain the lead 3:33 later.
  • The Grizzlies shot 63.3 percent from inside the arc.
  • Senior Jamar Akoh led all Grizzlies with 22 points on 7-of-8 shooting, in addition to eight free throws. The senior also had eight rebounds.
  • In addition to his 15 points, senior Michael Oguine had a team-high 10 rebounds and a team-high-tying four assists and two blocks.
  • Senior Ahmaad Rorie scored 14 points, dished out four assists and stole a pass, but the lasting images from the game were his two thunderous dunks.
  • Sophomore Timmy Falls tallied 10 points and a team-high-tying four assists.
  • Three players made their Griz debuts: Donaven Dorsey, Kelby Kramer and Kendal Manuel. For Kramer, it was his first collegiate contest.