Eastern Washington (3-9) at Montana (6-4)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Thursday, January 3, 9 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Dahlberg Arena (7,500) -- Missoula, Montana. Television: None. Home Record: EWU 2-3, Montana 3-1. Away Record: EWU 0-5, Montana 3-2. Neutral Record: EWU 1-1, Montana 0-1. Conference Record: EWU 1-1, Montana 2-0. Series Record: Montana leads, 44-17.
GAME NOTES: The Eastern Washington Eagles shoot for back-to-back wins for the first time this season, as they challenge the Montana Grizzlies in a Big Sky Conference showdown at Dahlberg Arena in Missoula on Thursday night.
Eastern Washington has won just three games in 12 chances thus far, the most recent of those coming on Dec. 22 when the squad slipped by Idaho State, 57-54, at home for the first league win of the campaign. The triumph also served to snap a four-game slide for the Eagles, but still the group is winless in five true road games this season.
As for the Grizzlies, they've opened conference play with consecutive wins over Northern Arizona and Sacramento State, on the road no less. With the narrow 61-60 triumph versus the Hornets on Dec. 21, Montana has now won three of its last four games overall.
The Grizzlies have developed a 44-17 advantage in the all-time series with EWU since the 1983-84 season. Last year, Montana made it a clean sweep in their two regular-season meetings and in the Big Sky Conference Tournament, which means the Grizzlies have now won 10 of the last 12 matchups.
Ahead by as many as 13 points late in the first half, the Eagles saw a scoring shift that allowed Idaho State to move out to a five-point edge at the 6:25 mark of the second half. EWU made a total of only seven field goals after the break, but four of those were from behind the 3-point line, compared to the Bengals who were just 1-of-9 on the outside in the period. Venky Jois focused his efforts close to the rim as he recorded a double-double with 13 points and 12 rebounds, adding three blocked shots as well, while Justin Crosgile tried to shake off a mere 2-of-12 shooting performance by posting eight points, seven rebounds, seven assists and four steals for the hosts. Crosgile is still the leading scorer for the group with his 14.7 ppg, but his accuracy has dropped to only 35.6 percent from the floor, which is what his three-point precision is currently as well. Jois (13.6 ppg) gives the team a push in the paint with 9.4 rpg.
Montana led by five points at the break and then shot 58.8 percent from the floor in the second half against Sacramento State, yet still managed to come away with just a one-point win on the road. Mathias Ward led the way for the visitors with a game-high 16 points, shooting 5-of-7 from the floor and a perfect 6-of-6 at the free-throw line, followed by Kareem Jamar and Will Cherry with 11 and 10 points, respectively, for a squad that came away with just three offensive rebounds in the meeting. On a team that is scoring 67.6 ppg through 10 games, Ward and Jamar are leading the offensive charge right now with 14.7 and 14.1 ppg, respectively, the latter also accounting for 6.3 rpg and a total of 43 assists, which pace the program in both categories.
Chances are Crosgile should bounce back from a rough shooting game the last time out, but that doesn't mean that the Eagles are prepared to handle Montana, especially on the road.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Montana 67, Eastern Washington 61
01/03 10:40:54 ET