Montana (14-4) at Portland State (5-12)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Thursday, January 31, 10:35 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Stott Center (1,500) -- Portland, Oregon. Television: None. Home Record: Montana 9-1. Portland State 5-2. Away Record: Montana 5-3, Portland State 0-10. Neutral Record: Montana 0-0, Portland State 0-0. Conference Record: Montana 10-0, Portland State 3-7. Series Record: Montana leads, 30-20.
GAMES NOTES: The Montana Grizzlies will attempt to stay atop the Big Sky Conference when they head to the Stott Center to battle the Portland State Vikings on Thursday night.
Since Big Sky play began, Montana has been on an absolute tear. The Grizzlies have won all 10 of their battles with conference foes and currently sit two games ahead of second place Weber State, which the Grizzlies defeated 76-75 last Saturday. Montana is 14-4 overall, including 5-3 mark on the road.
A 76-65 loss to Eastern Washington on Monday has Portland State on a four-game losing streak entering this contest. The Vikings are now just 5-12 overall, including a mere 3-7 against Big Sky competition. Portland State has earned all five of its wins at the Stott Center this season.
When these teams met in Missoula earlier this season Montana escaped with a 62-55 victory. The win pushed the Grizzlies all-time series lead to 30-20 as they have now won eight straight against the Vikings.
Led by 28 points from Will Cherry the Grizzlies were able to overcome Weber State. The game featured 11 ties and 12 lead changes but Montana's 21-12 edge in points off turnovers helped separate Montana and earn the win.
It looks like its safe to say that Cherry is back. The 6-foot-1 guard (12.8 ppg) was the Grizzlies' leading scorer last season when he scored more than 15 points per game but he missed the first seven games of the season and then struggled to find a rhythm at first. In the last seven games though he has averaged 15.5 points per game, while scoring 20 or more points twice. Cherry's ascension provides even more offensive punch for a team that was already lucky enough to have the efforts of Mathias Ward (15.3 ppg) and Kareem Jamar (14.2 ppg, 6.0 rpg, 4.3 apg), who each rank in the top 10 in the conference in scoring. As a team Montana ranks third in the Big Sky in scoring (70.9 ppg) while ranking third in field-goal percentage (.466).
In its loss to Eastern Washington, Portland State shot less than 40 percent from the field and was outscored 27-9 from beyond the arc. The Vikings were also dominated up front with a 34-20 deficit on points in the paint. Aaron Moore did his best on the interior posting a 20-point, 10-rebound double- double.
The effort was the fourth double-double of the season for Moore (12.8 ppg, 6.9 rpg) who serves as the leading scorer on a squad with four players averaging in double figures. Moore has played well during the Vikings' losing streak, especially the last three games when he has averaged 19 points and 8.7 rebounds per contest. Also putting in double figure efforts on average are Michael Harthun (10.8 ppg), Renado Parker (10.7 ppg) and Lateef McMullan (10.3 ppg, 3.7 apg). There isn't much depth beyond the starting lineup though with only one reserve scoring more than 2.5 points per game.
With Cherry getting back in the mix the Grizzlies are an even more frightening team. Expect Montana to continue to assert its dominance in the Big Sky against the struggling Vikings.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Montana 74, Portland State 66
01/31 10:35:59 ET