Jan. 24, 2008
Montana had the size that Eastern Washington University did not.
The result was a 61 percent shooting night and an overwhelming 36-15 advantage on the boards for the Grizzlies as they defeated Eastern 80-61 in a Big Sky Conference men's basketball game Thursday at Dahlberg Arena in Missoula, Mont.
The Eagles lost their third league road game in as many tries and fell to 3-4 in the Big Sky. Eastern is currently 8-13 overall, including a 6-3 record at home and 2-10 mark away from Reese Court.
Montana, the preseason choice by the media to win the conference title, had entered Thursday's game just 1-4 in the conference. But the Grizzlies, who play at Eastern in the rematch on Sunday, Feb. 3 at 1:05 p.m. Pacific time, is now 8-11 overall with its first home victory over a NCAA Division I opponent in nearly two months. Montana had won just two of its last 11 games until thumping the Eagles.
Three starters 6-foot-8 or taller combined for 48 points and 24 rebounds for Montana. Andrew Strait (6-8) had 20 points and nine rebounds on perfect 8-of-8 shooting from the field and 4-of-4 from the free throw line. Jordan Hasquet (6-9) had a double-double with 16 points and 10 rebounds, and Brian Qvale (6-11) had 12 points and five boards in just his fourth start this season.
Eastern was led by Adris DeLeon's 19 points and two steals on 9-of-9 shooting from the free throw line. DeLeon, who was coming off a 42-point performance in a 91-85 overtime victory over Northern Colorado on Jan. 17 in Cheney, was just 4-of-13 from the field.
Kellen Wiliams had 13 points, but the 6-4 power forward had a season-low three rebounds after entering the game third in the league with an 8.9 average. Brandon Moore, Eastern's biggest player at 6-9, had a team-high six rebounds as Williams' 15-game streak of leading the Eagles in rebounding came to an end. Moore chipped in nine points and Milan Stanojevic had eight.
Montana made 27-of-44 shots from the field for 61 percent while the Eagles made only 18-of-47 for 38 percent. Eastern was just 6-of-16 from three-point range but was 19-of-22 from the free throw line for 86 percent. The Eagles had only seven turnovers after having just five versus Northern Colorado.
Montana used a 13-0 run to take an early 15-2 lead, but a 13-2 Eagle run helped pull Eastern to within four. The Grizzlies then returned to their big lineup and responded with a 7-0 run to help lead by 10 at halftime.
Eastern pulled no closer than eight in the second half. Eastern head coach Kirk Earlywine received two technical fouls and was ejected from the game with Eastern trailing by 11 with 17:05 to play. Montana went on to open its biggest lead of the night at 20 with 7:41 left.
Eastern now heads for Bozeman, Mont., to play Montana State on Saturday at 6:05 p.m. Pacific time. That is the first of two back-to-back games with the Bobcats as the same two teams play at Reese Court in Cheney, Wash., on Thursday, Jan. 31, at 7:05 p.m. Pacific time. The Eastern-Montana game on Feb. 3 will be televised live regionally by Altitude Sports and Entertainment and KSKN Channel 22 in Spokane.
Montana State is now 3-3 in the conference after a 70-67 road victory Thursday at Northern Colorado. The Bobcats are 11-8 overall and feature the Big Sky's leading scorer in Carlos Taylor (19.0 entering action Thursday).
Although he had just six points against the Bears, Taylor also entered Thursday's game ranked third in free throw percentage (.804), 10th in field goal percentage (.498) and third in three-point percentage (.475). Divaldo Mbunga is eighth in scoring (12.6), fourth in field goal percentage (.582), fifth in rebounding (6.6) and fifth in blocked shots (1.17).
Last year, Eastern opened Big Sky Conference play with an 82-79 home loss on a 25-foot three-pointer by Taylor at the buzzer. Eastern also lost in Bozeman 84-67.