League sweeps have become tougher task; Griz expect tough test at home vs. Northern Arizona
MISSOULA — As Northern Arizona is set to invade Dahlberg Arena on Thursday, the Montana men’s basketball team will look for just its second season sweep over a Big Sky Conference squad.
It isn’t a surprise that — no matter the quality of opponent — sweeping a team in the conference slate isn’t easy.
That theme showed itself last week when the Grizzlies split their season series with losses at Weber State and Idaho State.
“Anyone can beat anyone in this conference,” UM coach Travis DeCuire said Monday after the Grizzlies beat Southern Utah at home. “You don’t want to be the team or one of the teams in the top of the standings that loses one of those games. But it happens. In eight years it is going to happen at some point in time.”
There are plenty of reasons for the spike in difficulty in the second game of a series. The team that lost the first go around is more amped up and, many times, is in need of a win to boost itself in the league standings.
It also comes down to simple coaching, the adjustments made or a player not being available.
The first time against Weber State, the Wildcats were without starting center Dontay Bassett and had to play just six players more than 10 minutes — with none of them considered a true big like Bassett.
Then, in Ogden, Utah, for round two, Bassett played and made a noticeable difference. The transfer from Florida scored nine points, nabbed six rebounds and blocked one shot while contesting others. He hit timely shots and made a small, but key difference in a game that came down to just five points.
Alex Tew, a 6-foot-11 freshman forward, also played in the second game, giving the Wildcats needed size against Montana’s frontcourt and attacking guards.
With the Idaho State loss, which was by 23 points — the second-largest margin of defeat a DeCuire-coached UM team has had against a league opponent — it came down to a team low in the standings ready to make some noise against a top-four team.
The Bengals punched first with a blistering 8 of 9 shooting start from the field before growing the lead to double digits by halftime.
A loss like that is a wake-up call, and the Grizzlies showed that with the 11-point win over Southern Utah Monday night. Josh Bannan scored a career-high 26, Brandon Whitney shut down John Knight III, Lonnell Martin Jr. hit timely 3-pointers and the Grizzlies showed more growth in bouncing back.
“You always want to see how guys respond through adversity,” DeCuire said. ” … We had a rough weekend; the ending to the Weber game and obviously Saturday and to see (Bannan) come out and perform the way he did tonight says a lot of his maturity and how serious he is about this game.”
So in comes Northern Arizona (8-15, 4-8 Big Sky) on Thursday.
The Grizzlies (16-8, 9-4) took a 58-48 win in Flagstaff, a few weeks ago in late January. The Grizzlies held the Lumberjacks to a paltry 5 of 23 from distance and, more importantly, kept the engineer of the offense in check.
Jalen Cone, a 5-11 sophomore transfer guard from Virginia Tech, was held to 12 points on just 3-of-12 shooting. At the time the outing was his lowest scoring output against a league team. Since then, the guard has gone for at least 19 — including a 36-point burst against Sacramento State — in five of the last six games.
The Lumberjacks are struggling, but with a player like that they can’t be looked over.
“The biggest thing I think is you don’t want to put your guard down against a team you already beat,” DeCuire said. ” … You got to beat the teams you’ve already beat in the second time around if you want to continue to fight in the standings. This is an opportunity. They got a young man that can go for 30 or 40 on any given night and we got to make sure he doesn’t.”
How To Watch Northern Arizona vs Montana Live
You can watch Northern Arizona vs Montana Live on ABC with DIRECTV STREAM as part of their “Entertainment” channel package. We recommend signing up for DIRECTV STREAM this NBA season as the service provides a way to NBA games for the next two weeks free! While the service costs $69.99 per month, they will provide a full refund if you cancel service within 14 days of signing up. If you enjoy the service, you can continue DIRECTV STREAM month-to-month. They don’t force you into a contract so that you can cancel at any time. All DIRECTV STREAM plans include:
- the ability to watch on 20 devices at the same time
- a cloud-based DVR
- channels like ABC, ESPN AMC, HGTV, Discovery, and more
- supported on AppleTV, Android TV, Roku, Amazon FireTV, and more
You can watch by downloading the DIRECTV STREAM app to a supported device. For more information check out our review of DIRECTV STREAM.
FuboTV recently added ABC in the following major markets:
- Chicago, IL
- Fresno-Visalia, CA
- Houston, TX
- Los Angeles, CA
- New York, NY
- Philadelphia, PA
- Raleigh-Durham, NC (Fayetteville)
- San Francisco-Oakland-San Jose, CA
You can check out a free trial to FuboTV here. Fubo TV supports the following streaming devices:
- Android smartphones
- Android tablets
- Apple TV (4th Generation only)
- Amazon Fire TV and Fire TV Stick