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Montana (0-0) at Minnesota (1-0)



The Sports Network

DATE & TIME: Tuesday, November 12, 8 p.m. (et)

FACTS & STATS: Site: Williams Arena (14,625) -- Minneapolis, Minnesota. Television: Gopher All-Access. Home Record: Montana 0-0, Minnesota 0-0. Away Record: Montana 0-0, Minnesota 0-0. Neutral Record: Montana 0-0, Minnesota 0-0. Conference Record: Montana 0-0, Minnesota 0-0. Series Record: Minnesota leads, 3-1.

GAME NOTES: The Montana Grizzlies will open their season on the road on Tuesday night, as they take on the Minnesota Golden Gophers at Williams Arena.

Montana was once again the class of the Big Sky Conference in 2012-13, going 25-7 overall and a near-perfect 19-1 in league play, ultimately holding off Weber State (30-7, 18-2 Big Sky) in the conference tournament championship game, 67-64, to earn its second straight NCAA Tournament bid. The Grizzlies' stay in the Big Dance was short-lived, however, as they were bounced by Syracuse (81-34) in the second round.

Minnesota, also an NCAA Tournament qualifier a season ago, got the new campaign off to a fast start last Friday with an 81-62 home win over Lehigh. The triumph was the first for head coach Richard Pitino, who replaced Tubby Smith in the offseason after leading FIU to an 18-14 record a season ago.

Minnesota leads the all-time series with Montana by a 3-1 count, although the Grizzlies took the most recent matchup during the 2006 Old Spice Classic, 72-65.

The Grizzlies were an efficient offensive team a season ago, netting just shy of 70 points per game on 46.5 percent field goal shooting, although with the losses of Mathias Ward (14.8 ppg) and Will Cherry (13.3 ppg), there will be plenty of opportunities for players to step. One sure thing returning to the lineup is Kareem Jamar, who was named the Big Sky's MVP after tallying 14.2 points per game (.494 FG percentage) to go with 5.9 rebounds, 4.0 assists and 0.9 steals per contest. Jordan Gregory (8.2 ppg) and Eric Hutchison (3.3 ppg) also return to the starting lineup. Keron DeShields can expect increased playing time after serving as a reserve in his first two seasons, and he netted 15 points in the team's exhibition contest versus Lewis-Clark State.

The Gophers took a 19-point lead into halftime in their opener and never looked back, as they outshot Lehigh from the field in the victory, 45.8 percent to 36.1 percent. Joey King, a transfer from Drake, emerged as the top scorer with 20 points on 6-of-10 efficiency from the field. He was an All- Freshman selection in the Missouri Valley Conference last season and received a waiver from the NCAA allowing him to skip the one-year redshirt typically assigned to transfers. Andre Hollins was also impressive with 18 points and five assists, and lines like that should be the norm for the team's top scorer from a season ago (14.6 ppg, 3.4 apg). Austin Hollins netted 11 points, while Elliott Eliason was a beast in the paint with 11 points, 17 rebounds and two blocks. Eliason's presence down low will be crucial for a team that lost Rodney Williams (10.1 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 1.3 bpg) and Trevor Mbakwe (10.0 ppg, 8.7 rpg, 1.4 bpg).

With a solid core of returning players, Montana will likely be one of the top teams in the Big Sky once again, but the Grizzlies have very little experience against big-time programs, as their only game against a major conference team last season resulted in the blowout loss to Syracuse in the NCAA Tournament. In front of their home crowd, expect the Gophers to put forth another balanced effort in picking up a solid victory.

Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Minnesota 70, Montana 64

11/12 10:34:36 ET

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