Griz defeat North Dakota to set Big Sky record

Eic Hutchison

Eic Hutchison

Feb. 9, 2013

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It was a game for the record books. The University of Montana Grizzlies had four players score in double figures in a 78-58 victory over the visiting University of North Dakota, and they also established a new Big Sky Conference record by winning their 25th league game in a row.

The Grizzlies broke the record of 24 consecutive league wins which was set 43 seasons ago by Weber State from the 1967-68 to 1969-70 seasons (the inaugural season for the conference in basketball was 1963-64), much to the delight of the 5,366 partisan Dahlberg Arena fans.

"Everybody contributed tonight," said seventh-year UM head coach Wayne Tinkle, who had his 80th career Big Sky win (he's 80-30 in conference games) tonight. "What I love, is that we challenged them (his players) in the locker-room to come out with intensity and really, really want to take care of business here, and just unleash the fury. We haven't done that - but I thought we did it tonight.

"We got a little sloppy with the ball at times (UM had 16 turnovers) and didn't defend as well as we could have in the second half, but we played with an energy and passion for 40 minutes that we haven't seen this year," Tinkle said.

It was also the 14th win in a row for the Griz, who are now 14-0 in Big Sky play and improve to 18-4 overall. Counting last season's two wins in the Big Sky's post-season tournament Montana, has registered 27 straight victories over conference teams.

The Grizzlies also broke the record for regular-season wins at home, with their 24th in a row, breaking the record of 23 that was set by Idaho from the 1980-81 to 1982-83 seasons.

"It (the winning streak) says a lot about Grizzly basketball," Tinkle said. "When you do something that noone else has done, it's pretty amazing. I am just super proud of the staff and our players for the commitment for doing things the right way. You have to have toughness and commitment to do things like this. It says a lot about our guys and our program."

Montana's 14-game winning streak ties them with Memphis for the second longest skein in Division 1. Akron owns the longest streak with 15 straight.

The Grizzlies, who were ranked 14th in the recent (Feb. 4) Mid-Major Top 25 Poll, broke the game wide open at the mid-way point of the first half, out-scoring UND (7-7 BSC/1-13 overall) 16-3 over a six-minute period.

A lay-up by senior point guard Will Cherrygave the Griz an 18-12 lead with 10:45 to go to intermission, and about six-and-a-half minutes later, after Cherry nailed a three-pointer at the 5:08 mark before the break, giving Montana a commanding 19-point (34-15) lead and UM never looked back.

A big reason for that first-half surge by Montana was 15 turnovers by UND (which had just one first-half assist), and 9 steals, including 4 by Cherry, who scored 13 points in the opening 20 minutes. The Griz scored 22 of their first-half point off of UND turnovers. Montana led 40-21 at halftime

UND cut the Grizzlies' lead by 17 points on three occasions in the final half, but could never got closer than that.

Cherry led UM with 16 points, while junior guard-forward Kareem Jamar scored 12, junior center Eric Hutchison tallied a career-high 12 points, and junior forward Spencer Colemanadded 11.

Jamar had a game-high 9 rebounds and a couple of steals, and Coleman had a career-high 8 boards, while Cherry had 6 boards and 4 steals.

UND junior guard Troy Huff scored a game-high 23 points, while junior guard Jamal Webb added 14 points and 7 rebounds.

The Grizzlies are on the road for four league games and a BracketBusters contest over the next three weeks, beginning with a contest against the league's second-place team, the Weber State Wildcats (11-2 BSC/16-5), on Thursday, Feb. 14 in WSU's Dee Events Center.



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