Eastern Washington (10-12) at Montana (11-9)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, February 8, 9 p.m. (ET)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Dahlberg Arena (7,500) -- Missoula, Montana. Television: None. Home Record: EWU 7-2, Montana 6-3. Away Record: EWU 1-10, Montana 5-6. Neutral Record: EWU 2-0, Montana 0-0. Conference Record: EWU 5-6, Montana 6-5. Series Record: Montana leads, 63-39.
GAME NOTES: Fresh of their first road win of the season, the Eastern Washington Eagles take aim at another when they visit the Montana Grizzlies for a Big Sky Conference bout on Saturday night.
After dropping their first 10 games away from home this season, the Eagles finally got a positive result on the road, topping Montana State in a 79-50 final on Thursday. The win improved Eastern Washington to 10-12 overall and pulled it closer to the .500 mark in league play (5-6). The Eagles play three of their next four games at home, beginning Thursday against Sacramento State.
Montana also grabbed a win two nights ago, outlasting Portland State in overtime, 82-76. The win was the third straight and fourth in the last three games for the Grizzlies, who are hitting their stride at the right time as there is just a month left in the regular season. The Grizzlies, who are 11-9 overall, visit Northern Colorado in their next matchup.
In the first meeting between these two teams this season, EWU edged Montana, 69-62. The win ended a five-game win streak for the Grizzlies in the series, which they lead, 63-39.
Tyler Harvey led four players in double figures with 19 points and Eastern Washington did not allow a double-figure scorer for Montana State on Thursday. The Eagles connected on an impressive 52.8 percent from the floor, including an 11-of-21 showing from 3-point range.
No team in the Big Sky is producing as well at the offensive end as Eastern Washington, which leads the conference in scoring (75.1 ppg). However, the Eagles' efficiency could use some work, as they are connecting on just 44.8 percent of their field goal attempts. Harvey (21 ppg) sparks the team with his shooting. He is the league's leading scorer, while Drew Brandon (10.5 ppg, 5.4 apg) tops the conference in assists. Venky Jois (13.2 ppg, 8.1 rpg) is the top rebounder for the unit, which heads the Big Sky on the glass (36.5 rpg).
Keron DeShileds got a shot to fall with 16 seconds remaining to force overtime, and the Grizzlies used an 11-4 run to claim a seven-point edge late in the extra session. It was an advantage they would not relinquish. DeShields and Kareem Jamar each scored 19 points to lead the way to victory.
Montana may not be scoring as many points per game as Eastern Washington (72.1), but the Grizzlies have been a more efficient offensive group, connecting on 47.7 percent of their shots from the field, which ranks them second in the Big Sky. However, the Grizzlies don't clean up well when they do miss, ranking last in the conference on the boards (26.5 rpg). Jamar (19.4 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 4.5 apg) does the bulk of the heavy lifting on offense, leading the team in both scoring and assists. Jordan Gregory (14.2 ppg) and DeShields (12.9 ppg) provide additional scoring depth, but the roster does not feature another player putting in more than eight ppg.
The Grizzlies seem to have figured things out after a rough start to conference play. Although they will be at a disadvantage on the glass, expect them to make up for it by being the more efficient squad.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Montana 74, Eastern Washington 71
02/08 10:34:56 ET