Idaho State (8-14) at Montana (16-6)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Monday, February 6th, 9:00 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Dahlberg Arena (7,500) -- Missoula, Montana. Television: None. Home Record: Idaho State 5-5, Montana 9-2. Away Record: Idaho State 3-9, Montana 7-4. Neutral Record: Idaho State 0-0, Montana 0-0. Conference Record: Idaho State 6-4, Montana 9-1. Series Record: Montana leads, 93-44.
GAME NOTES: Two of the Big Sky Conference's hottest teams square off in Missoula tonight, as the Montana Grizzlies play host to the Idaho State Bengals.
After winning just three of its first 16 games, Idaho State has turned things around by winning five of its last six. The Bengals have won four straight after failing to record back-to-back wins all season, and they currently sit in third place in the Big Sky standings after taking down first-place Weber State and Montana State in consecutive outings.
While Idaho State has found some success recently, Montana has been solid all season long. The Grizzlies have won five consecutive games and 11 of their last 12 overall, and they are just a half game behind Weber State for first place in the conference standings. They also played Montana State in their most recent game, defeating their in-state rivals, 67-58, on Saturday.
Montana holds a commanding 93-44 advantage in the all-time series, and the Grizzlies have won five of the last six meetings with the Bengals.
Idaho State's offense has been mediocre at best this season, as the team ranks third from the bottom in the Big Sky in points per game (66.3). The Bengals' shooting has been impressive lately however, as they are netting 82 ppg on their current four-game winning streak. Idaho State shot 49.2 percent from the field in Thursday's overtime win and were led by Kenny McGowen with a career- high 30 points on 9-of-18 from the field and 7-of-14 from three-point range. McGowen's layup with 10 seconds left in the extra session proved to be the game-winner, and he now averages 13 ppg on the year. The Bengals' offense is led by Chase Grabau, who tallies 13.5 ppg, 3.5 apg, and ranks sixth in the conference in field goal percentage (.536). Melvin Morgan rounds out the unit's double-digit scorers by adding 11.4 ppg, and Abner Moreira is third in the conference in rebounding with 7.1 rpg. Overall however, ISU is not strong on the glass, ranking last in rebounding margin (-3.6).
While Montana is certainly capable of putting up solid offensive numbers (69 ppg, .455 field goal percentage), its strength is at the defensive end of the court where foes are scoring a league-low 62.6 ppg on 40.9 percent field goal efficiency. The defense continued to impress in Saturday's win, allowing Montana State to shoot just 37.7 percent from the floor and 2-of-16 from three-point range. Offensively, the Grizzlies were paced by Kareem Jamar and his 21 points on 8-of-15 shooting from the field and 4-of-5 from beyond the arc. Jamar has been a solid contributor across the board this season, averaging 13.5 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 3.6 apg and 1.1 spg, all while shooting 48.1 from the floor and 45.1 percent from downtown. Will Cherry is another one of Montana's offensive catalysts, as he ranks fifth in the Big Sky in scoring (14.9 ppg), eighth in free throw percentage (.787) and he also comes up with a league-best 2.3 spg. Mathias Ward pitches in 10.3 ppg behind his outstanding 56.7 percent shooting effort.
Though Idaho State has been playing its best basketball of the season recently, this bout in Missoula will be perhaps its toughest test yet. The Grizzlies are riding even more momentum than the Bengals and will come out on top in front of their home fans.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Montana 67, Idaho State 60
02/06 10:32:10 ET