Montana (19-6) at Montana State (11-15)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, March 2, 9:05 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Worthington Arena (7,250) -- Bozeman, Montana. Television: None. Home Record: Montana 11-1, Montana State 8-5. Away Record: Montana 8-5, Montana State 3-10. Neutral Record: Montana 0-0, Montana State 0-0. Conference Record: Montana 15-1, Montana State 8-9. Series Record: Montana State leads, 147-139.
GAMES NOTES: The depleted Montana Grizzlies will try to stay atop the Big Sky Conference standings when they battle their instate rival Montana State Bobcats in a league bout at Worthington Arena.
Two of the most vital pieces for the Grizzlies will be out in this contest with leading-scorer Mathias Ward (14.8 ppg) and Will Cherry (13.2 ppg, 4.4 apg) sidelined with injuries. The Grizzlies are a stellar 15-1 in league action but they have just a game lead over Weber State for the conference lead. Montana has lost two of its last three games and will play its final road contest of the season on Monday against Southern Utah.
Montana State had been stumbling down the stretch with losses in five straight games when it took the floor against Southern Utah on Thursday. The Bobcats escaped with a 62-61 victory in the contest to improve to 11-15 overall and 8-9 in league action. This game begins a three-game homestand to close out the season for the Bobcats, who face Northern Arizona next.
These intrastate rivals have a long history against one another with 286 previous meetings. The most recent ended in a 76-71 overtime victory for the Grizzlies earlier this season. Montana has now won the last five matchups, but still trails in the all-time series, 147-139.
In one of the more intriguing matchup on BracketBuster weekend, Montana collided with Davidson. The battle did not disappoint as the game needed overtime to come to a decision. Unfortunately, the Grizzlies hit just 5-of-12 from the field in the extra session to drop a 93-87 decision.
With Ward and Cherry sidelined there is a ton of pressure put on Kareem Jamar's shoulders. Jamar (13.9 ppg, 6.2 rpg, 4.2 apg) is more than capable of carrying the team with his versatility. He is among the top 10 in the league in points, rebounds and assists. Against Davidson, the 6-foot-5 swingman had his best game of the season as he poured in a season-high 28 points to go with 12 rebounds. Jordan Gregory (7.4 ppg) is the next best scorer for the Grizzlies, who rank second in the Big Sky in points scored (71.4 pg) and field-goal percentage (.473).
Antonio Biglow's layup with just over a minute remaining was the difference in Montana State's win over Southern Utah. Neither team scored in the final minute of the contest as the Bobcats survived. Montana State dominated inside with a 41-31 edge in rebounds, while outscoring the Thunderbirds, 36-22, in the paint.
For the season, Montana State is scoring a healthy 70.8 points per game despite lacking efficiency on the offensive end. The Bobcats rank second to last in the Big Sky in assists (11.3 pg), while shooting just 42.3 percent from the field. The Bobcats also don't make it easy on themselves by allowing opponents to put in 73.3 points per game on 48.4 percent shooting. Christian Moon (13.4 ppg) shoots at a nearly 50 percent clip as the leading scorer for the Bobcats. Xavier Blount (10.9 ppg), Biglow (10.4 ppg) and Flavien Davis (10.2 ppg) are all competent scorers as well.
With Cherry and Ward out, Montana will be hard-pressed to keep its lofty perch atop the Big Sky. Expect the more healthy Bobcats to use this rivalry game as motivation for a big win at home.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Montana State 72, Montana 70
03/02 10:34:32 ET