GAME NOTES: The Montana Grizzlies try to avoid being the first Division I team to fall to Southern Utah this season, as the Big Sky Conference members get together in Cedar City tonight.
Southern Utah has been absolutely dreadful in 2013-14, to the point where they've dropped 16 consecutive decisions. The Thunderbirds have come up empty ever since opening the campaign with an 85-78 win over Arizona Christian, a squad that plays at the NAIA level. All alone at the bottom of the Big Sky standings with a mark of 0-8, SUU most recently fell to Portland State last Saturday, but at least made it interesting in a 67-64 setback.
As of Wednesday, the only other programs at the D-I level that have just a single win to their credit are Cornell and Grambling State, both of which were a miserable 1-15.
Meanwhile, Montana has been up and down over the last month, sporting three wins in the last eight contests. Last weekend, the squad was taken down in a close call versus Weber State, 68-63, which means the Grizzlies are now just 3-6 in true road games.
The Grizzlies lead the all-time series by a count of 7-5, but when it comes to games played in Cedar City the squads have split six decisions over the years. Montana is slated to host the Thunderbirds on March 1 to complete the season series.
Montana made good on an impressive 9-of-18 shots behind the 3-point line against Weber State last weekend, but the team made just 13 more field goals in the five-point loss. Kareem Jamar paced four players in double figures with his 20 points, although he shot just 7-of-21 from the floor. Mike Weisner added 17 points, Jordan Gregory 13, followed by Keron DeShields with 11 points in the setback.
Jamar, who has scored in double figures in all but one game this season, a seven-point showing versus Idaho State a week ago, is putting up 18.4 ppg in league play at the moment, thanks in part to 41-of-56 at the free-throw line. In addition, Jamar is also first in assists (38), making every effort to get his teammates involved in the action. Gregory is credited with 17.1 ppg, making good on 41.8 percent of his 3-point tries and lifting the squad to 38.8 percent in the process.
The Thunderbirds certainly made things interesting against Portland State at the Stott Center last time out, leading by a point in the final minute, but it just wasn't meant to be. The team was rather precise from the outside (7- of-13) and shot 46.8 percent from the floor overall, but SUU was outscored at the free-throw line (23-13) and lost the battle on the boards (35-25). McKay Anderson and Jaren Jeffery both tallied 12 points off the bench, while A.J. Hess dropped in 11 points.
One of the lowest-scoring teams in the country, SUU is producing only 56.5 ppg in conference play, but at the same time giving up 73.1 ppg to the rest of the Big Sky. Trey Kennedy is putting up 11.1 ppg in conference play, followed by Hess with his 10.0 ppg, the pair combining for 33 of the unit's 87 assists as well. However, the big problem continues to be a lack of appearances at the charity stripe for the T'birds, as they've made just 91 attempts in eight conference bouts, compared to 176 for the opposition.
The odds say that at some point the Thunderbirds will have to break through, but with Montana still trying to better its outlook with the final weeks of the regular season around the corner, this is not the time for the Grizzlies to be charitable.
Game Date and Time