Around the Big Sky: Montana, Weber State Meet in Conference Showdown

By Beacon Staff

A recap of recent men’s basketball news in the Big Sky Conference from Assistant Commissioner Jon Kasper:

The conference season reaches the midway point this week and features a matchup between Montana and Weber State in Missoula.

Both Montana and Weber State are undefeated in league play. Montana has won 19 straight regular season conference games, 21 straight over Big Sky teams and 23 in a row at home over Big Sky teams.

Before the big matchup, Montana hosts Idaho State on Thursday while Weber State is at Montana State. The Bobcats take on Southern Utah in Bozeman on tonight and face Idaho State on Saturday at home. Northern Arizona returns home for games against Northern Colorado and North Dakota. North Dakota has moved into third place in the league standings. North Dakota is at Sacramento State on Thursday before heading to Flagstaff on Saturday. Northern Colorado won two at home last week. The Bears get NAU on Thursday and Sacramento State on Saturday. Portland State guns for its first road win of the season on Thursday at Southern Utah. Eastern Washington is at Southern Utah on Saturday.

Grizzlies Extend Streaks: Montana beat Southern Utah and Montana State at home last week, extending its impressive resume of streaks. Montana has won eight straight games, which is tied for the eighth longest active streak in the nation. The Grizzlies have won 19 straight regular-season conference games, and 21 straight over Big Sky teams. Montana has also won 23 straight at home over Big Sky teams dating back to the 2009-10 season. Montana needed overtime to beat Montana State on Saturday, 76-71. Michael Wisner hit a 3-pointer with three seconds left to force overtime. Montana head coach Wayne Tinkle also became the school’s all-time leader in conference victories. Tinkle has won 74 conference games in seven seasons. Tinkle ranks eighth all-time in conference history.

Weber Makes It Nine: Weber State won home games over Northern Arizona and Sacramento State to hike its winning streak to nine games. The winning streak is tied for the fifth-longest active streak in the NCAA. Kansas has won 15 straight, followed by Butler and VCU at 13. Stephen F. Austin is riding an 11-game winning streak. Akron and Southern have also won nine in a row. Weber State coach Randy Rahe has 82 conference wins in seven seasons. He ranks sixth all-time in league history. He needs four to tie former WSU coach Ron Abegglen and is 12 away from tying former WSU coach Neil McMcarthy. WSU has won 12 straight regular-season conference home games.

UM, WSU Round I: Montana and Weber State square off for the first time this season on Saturday night in Missoula. The two teams have dominated league play the last season and a half. Both teams enter the week 8-0 in conference play. UM is 23-1 in conference play since the start of last season, while Weber State 22-2. The teams split regular-season meetings last year, and Montana beat Weber State in the championship game. This will be the 16th matchup between UM’s Wayne Tinkle and WSU’s Randy Rahe. Both have won eight against each other. Weber State hasn’t won in Missoula since the 2008-09 season. Tinkle is 5-2 against Rahe in Dahlberg Arena. UM has beaten WSU each of the last three seasons in the Big Sky Tournament, twice in the championship and once in the semifinals. Weber State was the last Big Sky team to beat Montana, downing the Grizzlies 80-64 in Ogden on Jan. 14, 2012.

Back-To-Back: North Dakota and Northern Colorado both won back-to-back home games last weekend. Each program notched wins over Portland State and Eastern Washington. North Dakota moved into third place in the league standings at 4-4. Northern Colorado improved to 3-5 with the victories. The Bears now sit in a logjam in sixth place with NAU, SAC, ISU, and PSU. North Dakota’s Troy Huff (21.5 ppg) and Aaron Anderson (21.0 ppg) both had big weekends. North Dakota set a school record by making all 21 of its free throws against Portland State. Northern Colorado was hot from the outside, hitting 21-of-40 from 3-point range in the two hits. Tate Unruh was 10-of-15 from 3-point range. Junior Derrick Barden had another nice weekend for the Bears, averaging 11.5 points and 12 rebounds per game. He had 15 points and 15 rebounds against EWU. Northern Colorado did not win back-to-back conference games last season.

RPI Report: Weber State and Montana continue to lead the Big Sky in the RPI ratings. Despite two more wins, Weber State dropped 12 spots this week to 117. Montana won two games and fell seven spots to 144. Northern Arizona is third at 217, followed by Sacramento State at 272. The Big Sky continues to be ranked 29th among Division I Conferences. The Big Sky’s non-conference schedule of strength rank is third. Duke is first, followed by Arizona, Kansas, Miami, and Michigan. The Big Ten is the top league, followed by the Big East, Mountain West, ACC and Big 12.

Saldivar In Top 10: Northern Arizona senior Stallon Saldivar dished out nine assists in two games last week to hike his career total to 440. Saldivar now ranks ninth in Big Sky history in assists. Saldivar moved past Montana’s Travis DeCuire (435) and NAU’s Harry Payne (435). Nevada’s Billy Allen is eighth on the list with 468 career assists.

Eagles Injured In Accident: Two members of Eastern Washington’s basketball team suffered injuries when one of the team’s mini-vans was involved in an accident in Grand Forks, N.D., last Wednesday. Kevin Winford (concussion) and Jeffrey Forbes (knee) did not play Thursday against North Dakota. Forbes played Saturday against Northern Colorado but Winford did not.

Tip-Ins: Northern Arizona halted a 12-game conference road losing streak with a 60-55 win over Idaho State. The Lumberjacks have six wins this season, eclipsing their win total of five from 2011-12…EWU freshman Venky Jois tied a school single-game record with seven blocks in a loss to Northern Colorado…ISU’s Chris Hansen hit an 88-foot halfcourt shot at the end of the first half of the Bengals’ win over Sacramento State…UM’s Kareem Jamar fell three rebounds shy of his second career triple-double. Jamar had 23 points, 10 assists and seven rebounds in an OT win over Montana State…NAU sophomore Gaellan Bewernick pulled down a career-high 14 rebounds in the win over ISU…NAU’s Gabe Rogers and WSU’s Scott Bamforth both have 192 career 3-pointers. They are tied for 17th on the Big Sky’s all-time list…True freshman Joel Bolomboy had 13 points, 13 rebounds and five blocks in WSU’s win over NAU…ISU’s Tomas Sanchez had 22 points and six rebounds and hit the game-winning shot in a 60-59 win over Sac State… Weber State and Montana both jumped up two spots in this week’s College Insider.com Mid-Major Top 25. Weber State is 22nd, while Montana is 23rd. Gonzaga is first, followed by Wichita State, Bucknell and Creighton…WSU is second in the nation in 3-point field-goal percentage defense.

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