Montana (5-4) at Sacramento State (6-3)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Friday, December 21, 10:05 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: The Nest (1,200) -- Sacramento, California. Television: None. Home Record: Montana 3-1, Sacramento State 4-1. Away Record: Montana 2-3, Sacramento State 2-2. Neutral Record: Montana 0-0, Sacramento State 0-0. Conference Record: Montana 1-0, Sacramento State 1-0. Series Record: Montana leads, 32-5.
GAMES NOTES: After each earned a win in their first Big Sky Conference game, the Montana Grizzlies and Sacramento State Hornets will try to make it back- to-back league victories when the two meet up at the Nest on Friday night.
Montana topped Northern Arizona 62-56 in its Big Sky opener on Wednesday. The win for Montana against the Lumberjacks was the second in three games with the single loss in that stretch coming in a 68-67 double overtime thriller to South Dakota State. It was also the second in five road contests for the Grizzlies, who will be off until Jan. 3 when they face Eastern Washington following this contest.
The Hornets were also in action on Wednesday and began the league schedule on a positive note by taking down Montana State in the first of this two-game homestand. The triumph stopped a two-game slide for the Hornets and improved their overall record to 6-3. Sacramento State will also be off until Jan.3 when it gets back to action on the road against Northern Arizona.
There has been very little parity in this conference rivalry. Montana leads the all-time series 32-5 and has won 11 straight games against the Hornets.
It came down to which team played better in the final minutes in Montana's matchup with Northern Arizona. Fortunately for the Grizzlies they were able to make crucial plays using a 5-0 spurt to break a 53-53 tie with over five minutes remaining to separate themselves while the Lumberjacks missed their final 10 field goal attempts. Five different players scored in double figures for Montana in the win.
Making his first start for Montana against Northern Arizona was Will Cherry who missed the first seven games of the year with a broken foot. The senior guard was vital to the Grizzlies' success last season as he scored 15.8 points per game while dishing out 3.3 assists. Head coach Wayne Tinkle didn't wait long to get Cherry back to play major minutes as he scored 12 points over 35 minutes against Northern Arizona. With Cherry sidelined it was Mathias Ward (14.6 ppg) and Kareem Jamar (14.4 ppg, 6.7 rpg, 4.7 apg) who picked up the offensive slack. Led by Ward and Jamar, Montana is scoring 68.3 points per game while shooting at a solid 45.2 percent from the field. Montana is one of the worst rebounding teams (32.0 pg) in the league but has managed to limit teams on the defensive end. Opponents are scoring 66.6 points per game on 41.3 percent shooting against Montana.
Sacramento State opened the game on a 14-6 run against Montana State and went on to lead by as many as 14 points on Wednesday. The Hornets hit just 41.3 percent of their field goal attempts in the game but connected on an even 50.0 percent over the final 20 minutes. Sacramento State also had a 43-34 edge in rebounds while leading wire to wire. Mikh McKinney scored 21 points and Konner Veteto added 19 points and nine rebounds.
The Hornets' offensive showing against Montana State was rather out of character. On the year the Hornets have been the highest scoring team in the Big Sky (75.8 ppg) despite shooting at a relatively low percentage (.426) from the field. Four different players are scoring in double figures for the Hornets this season. John Dickson (16.5 ppg, 5.6 rpg) is the team leader. Dickson has scored in double figures in three straight games and has the ability to shoot from beyond the arc (35.5 percent) despite playing in the frontcourt. Dylan Garrity (14.2 ppg, 5.8 apg) leads the Big Sky in assists while finding plenty of shots for himself as well. McKinney (12.5 ppg) and Veteto (10.2 ppg, 5.8 rpg) are each putting in double digit points, while Joe Eberhard (7.9 ppg, 6.2 rpg) is the leader on the boards.
Getting Cherry back to form will be a huge boost for Montana going forward. Sacramento State has beat up on some lower level competition to account for its impressive scoring numbers and is likely to come back to Earth going forward.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Montana 68, Sacramento State 63
12/21 10:33:49 ET