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The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, January 5, 9 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Dahlberg Arena (7,321) -- Missoula, Montana. Television: None. Home Record: Portland State 3-2, Montana 4-1. Away Record: Portland State 0-5, Montana 3-3. Neutral Record: Portland State 0-0, Montana 0-0. Conference Record: Portland State 1-2, Montana 3-0. Series Record: Montana leads, 29-20.
GAMES NOTES: The Montana Grizzlies wrap up a short two-game homestand on Saturday when they host the Portland State Vikings in a Big Sky Conference bout at Dahlberg Arena.
The Vikings have lost back-to-back games after a 62-59 setback against Montana State on Thursday. With the loss the Vikings are now just 3-7 overall this season including a 1-2 mark in league play. Going on the road has been a recipe for failure for Portland State which is winless in five tries away from home where the Vikings will return to face Sacramento State next.
Montana won for the third straight game on Thursday with a convincing 81-66 victory over Eastern Washington. With the win the Grizzlies improved to 7-4 overall this season and remained perfect in league play (3-0). In home games this year the Grizzlies are 4-1. The Grizzlies will hit the road for two games next beginning against North Dakota on Thursday.
Last season Montana swept the season series en route to the Big Sky Conference title. The Grizzlies have won each of the last seven meetings and lead the all-time series 29-20.
Portland State rallied back from a 14-point deficit in the second half against Montana State with a 15-1 run that tied the game at 53-53 with 3:05 remaining. However the Vikings ran out of gas as the Bobcats ripped off an 8-0 run in the final minutes to secure the victory.
The defensive shortcomings of Portland State have been dragging the Vikings down. Portland State is letting up 70.3 points per game while allowing teams to shoot at an alarming 49.1 percent from the field. That mark is among the 10 worst in the country. Part of the issue is a failure to control the boards as Portland State has managed to bring in only 29.2 rebounds per game. Offensively the Vikings are solid enough, netting 67.0 points per game on the second best field goal percentage (.457) in the conference. Four different players are scoring in double figures for the Vikings but not more than Renado Parker (11.8 ppg). Aaron Moore (10.1 ppg 6.9 rpg) is one of the other scorers and has helped the Vikings pick up their play on the glass with double-digit rebounds in the last two games.
Despite shooting just 44.0 percent to Eastern Washington's 45.7 percent, Montana was able to best the Eagles thanks to advantages from beyond the arc (27-12) and the free-throw line (28-20). Jordan Gregory scored a game-high 17 points in the win and hit on 4-of-5 shots from 3-point range.
Montana has been effective but not overly so on offense. The Grizzlies are fifth in the Big Sky in points per game (68.8) while rankings third in field goal percentage by connecting on a solid 45.3 percent of their shots from the floor. The Grizzlies have a marked advantage on the defensive end as compared to the Vikings as they allow 65.9 points per game on just 41.1 percent shooting. Like Portland State the Grizzlies aren't particularly strong on the boards bringing in 31.2 per game which ranks ninth in the conference. Normally is Mathias Ward (14.5 ppg) and Kareem Jamar (13.5 ppg, 6.1 rpg, 4.0 apg) leading the charge for the Grizzlies. Jamar is a versatile swingman that contributes across the board. The Grizzlies could really use a return to form from Will Cherry who scored 15.8 points per game but has averaged only 8.0 after missing the first seven games.
Its only a matter of time before Cherry gets it going again. That could be bad news for Portland State which will already have its hands full with Jamar and Ward.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Montana 75, Portland State 65
01/05 10:31:34 ET