Southern Utah (1-25) at Montana (14-11)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, March 1, 9 p.m. (ET)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Dahlberg Arena (7,321) -- Missoula, Montana. Television: None. Home Record: SUU 1-10, Montana 9-3. Away Record: SUU 0-15, Montana 5-8. Neutral Record: SUU 0-0, Montana 0-0. Conference Record: SUU 0-17, Montana 9-7. Series Record: Montana leads, 8-5.
GAME NOTES: Southern Utah is running out of time to score that first Big Sky Conference win before the end of the regular season, as the Thunderbirds give it yet another try tonight versus the Montana Grizzlies at Dahlberg Arena.
The 2013-14 campaign for the Thunderbirds has been absolutely brutal, with the team slipping away on a massive 25-game losing streak since defeating Arizona Christian in the season opener, 85-78 at home in Cedar City. Two nights ago, the program had yet another shot to finally break through against not only a Big Sky foe but another program from Division I, but the team came up short in overtime versus Montana State, 77-72.
The last victory for SUU against another D-I foe came on Feb. 23, 2013 versus Cal State Northridge by a single point (73-72). In terms of the last conference win, SUU has gone without one since slipping by Idaho State in overtime, 81-79, back on Feb. 7, 2013. Needless to say, the Thunderbirds have last place in the conference standings all to themselves at the moment with a record of 0-17.
Meanwhile, Montana has the potential to finish as high as second in the standings with the conference tournament set to begin shortly. The team has fourth place in the Big Sky all to itself with a record of 9-7, thanks to a 62-61 win over Idaho State back on Feb. 22. The team has won back-to-back endeavors entering the weekend.
The Grizz won the first meeting of the season in late January by a score of 69-61, which means Montana's advantage in the all-time series now stands at 8-5.
Trailing by 11 in the second half, the Thunderbirds put together an impressive 12-1 run to balance the ledger against Montana State, eventually taking the meeting into overtime where the visitors came up short yet again. One of four to score in double figures, the Thunderbirds were led by A.J. Hess and his 15 points, not to mention eight rebounds, followed by Casey Oliverson with 13 points and both Trey Kennedy and Race Parsons with 12 points apiece off the bench,
Over the course of 26 games, SUU has been beaten up pretty good, with foes holding a scoring advantage of 16.0 ppg which is one of the largest in the country. Producing a mere 58.7 ppg, it should not be much of a surprise to find that the Thunderbirds don't have a single player scoring in double figures at the moment, with Kennedy coming the closest with his 9.5 ppg even as he shoots a dismal 22.6 percent behind the 3-point line.
Out of action since last Saturday, the Grizzlies are hoping to have an easier time of it this time around than they did in a one-point final versus Idaho State at home in Missoula. In that outing Montana survived mostly due to the fact that it turned the ball over just six times, and not so much the 15 points posted by Mario Dunn. Also scoring in double figures for the hosts were Kareem Jamar and Jordan Gregory with 12 points apiece.
In conference games, a huge portion of the 72.1 ppg produced by the Grizzlies has been coming from Jamar and his 19.4 ppg. Jamar, who also leads the program with 59 assists in those 16 league outings, has connected on 90-of-120 at the free-throw line, his conversions far exceeding any one of his teammates attempts to this point. Gregory and Keron DeShields check in with another 14.8 and 12.4 ppg, respectively.
The Thunderbirds have been making things interesting in recent weeks as they get closer and closer to that elusive first conference win. However, with so much riding on these final regular-season bouts and Montana being at home, the Grizzlies get the nod.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Montana 70, Southern Utah 64
03/01 11:54:48 ET