GAME NOTES: Owners of the longest win streak in the history of Big Sky Conference play go up against the previous record holders, as the Montana Grizzlies clash with the Weber State Wildcats at the Dee Events Center on Thursday night.
Last weekend Montana beat down North Dakota at home, 78-58, in order to move to 11-1 in its own building on the season as well as register the 25th straight Big Sky win, now the all-time record. The previous mark of 24 in a row had been claimed by Weber State from 1967-68 to the 1969-70 campaign. At the same time, the Grizzlies also logged their 24th straight home conference win, taking over that record from Idaho which had put together a 23-game run three decades ago.
Needless to say Montana, which has won 14 straight games overall and now has the third-longest run currently in Division I behind Akron (16) and Memphis (15), is all alone atop the league standings, but refusing to give up that easily is WSU which is within striking distance at 12-2.
The Wildcats have won four straight contests now thanks to a 56-40 triumph over Idaho State on Monday night at home. Weber State, now 10-1 at home, is also an impressive 17-5 on the season overall.
Weber State leads the all-time series by a 64-50 margin, but the Grizzlies are the ones who have taken three straight meetings now, thanks to a narrow 76-74 victory in the first clash of the season last month at home.
Against North Dakota at home over the weekend, the Grizzlies had little trouble putting the visitors in their place as the forced UND into 22 turnovers and held the squad to just 2-of-11 shooting behind the 3-point line. Except for Mathias Ward who tallied nine points, every Montana State landed in double figures beginning with Will Cherry who tallied 16 points, followed by Kareem Jamar who filled up his stat line with 14 points, nine rebounds and six assists. Eric Hutchison and Spencer Coleman checked in with 12 and 11 points, respectively.
Ward currently leads the team in scoring against the rest of the Big Sky with his 14.8 ppg, but not that far off the pace is Cherry who checks in with 14.1 ppg while also handing out 68 assists and making 31 steals in 14 conference bouts. Jamar (13.2 ppg) has become the player who is willing to do whatever it takes to get this team into the win column, from handing out 56 assists to clearing 6.0 rpg and also posing a threat on the perimeter where he has made good on 40 percent of his 3-point attempts for a group that is outscoring the competition by more than 10 ppg.
Up against Idaho State after a quick turn-around, the Wildcats had no problem taking care of the Bengals at home on Monday night as the visitors shot only 38.6 percent from the floor and turned the ball over 16 times. Frank Otis had a very strong effort as he made all five of his field goal chances and finished with a double-double consisting of 10 points and a game-high 10 rebounds, helping to propel the hosts to a 35-20 advantage on the glass. Kyle Tresnak and Davion Berry contributed 15 and 14 points, respectively.
Although he didn't show up as a leading scorer earlier this week, Scott Bamforth (13.8 ppg) is still an integral part of the offense for the Wildcats with his 46.3 percent shooting behind the 3-point line in conference play. Berry (14.7 ppg) is just ahead of Bamforth in the scoring department as he too shoots the ball very well on the perimeter (.481) and has dished out 50 assists in order to keep his teammates involved in the action.
Shooting not only 51.0 percent from the floor but also 42.9 percent on the outside, the Wildcats have all the right moves to bring Montana's run to a screeching halt on Valentine's Day.
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