GAME NOTES: Long-time rivals square off on Monday night, as the Montana Grizzlies visit the Montana State Bobcats for a Big Sky Conference bout at Worthington Arena.
Montana hasn't been able to do more than fight to a standstill this season, as the team enters the week with a 9-9 overall record after alternating wins and losses in its last six games. The Grizzlies are also a middling 4-5 in league action, which is a reversal of fortune for a team that is coming off back-to- back Big Sky Conference titles. They return home to host Portland State next.
Montana State is trying to build off of a 54-52 win over Southern Utah on Saturday. The victory ended a three-game losing streak for the Bobcats, who are now an even 10-10 on the campaign, including a 5-4 mark against the rest of the Big Sky. They will host Eastern Washington and Portland State in their next two games.
This is one of the longer standing rivalries in the country, with 287 previous run-ins between the two Big Sky State schools. Montana State may lead the all- time series (147-140), but Montana has won the last six meetings.
Led by Kareem Jamar's 25 points, the Grizzlies were able to take down Southern Utah in a 69-61 final on the road in their latest matchup. Montana hit 65 percent of its shots from the floor, including a 5-of-7 showing from beyond the arc, to rally for the win in the second half after trailing at the break.
Montana is near the middle of the Big Sky pack in terms of offensive production, ranking sixth in scoring (71.6 ppg), although the Grizzlies do shoot the second-best percentage from the field. Their real weak point, however, has been on the boards, as they are dead last in not only the league, but the country in rebounding (26.1 rpg). Jamar (19.4 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 4.8 apg) is a versatile guard who contributes much more than his team-high scoring average. Jordan Gregory (14.8 pg) and Keron DeShields (13 ppg) are nice supplementary scorers.
A basket from Flavien Davis with 31 seconds to play proved to be the difference for Montana State against Southern Utah. Davis finished with a game-high 16 points, while the Bobcats benefited from 20 forced turnovers.
Davis (11.7 ppg) was the only player to reach double figures for Montana State on Saturday. That is not unusual, as he is also the only layer averaging in double figures for the squad this season. Paul Egwuonwu (9.5 ppg, 7.2 rpg) and Marcus Colbert (9.3 ppg, 3.4 apg) are the next best scoring threats. However, Egwuonwu missed Saturday's contest and is out indefinitely. In his absence, Eric Norman (4.7 ppg, 4.6 rpg) took over under center, scoring nine points and collecting nine rebounds.
Without Egwuonwu the Bobcats are missing one of their more important players. However, Norman did well in Egwuonwu's absence on Saturday and should be able to produce going forward as his minutes increase. If he does, the Bobcats will be just fine.
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