GAME NOTES: A rivalry that spans nearly a century will be renewed on Saturday when the Montana Grizzlies land in Memorial Gym to duke it out with the Idaho Vandals.
The Grizzlies come into this game after their first win of the season, an 82-53 rout of NAIA foe Minot State. The win brought Montana back to .500 on the season after the Grizzlies were outlasted by Colorado State (72-65) in the season opener. Montana returns home in its next game against San Diego before a two-game road trip to close out the month.
It has been a week since Idaho last took the court. In that season opening matchup with Wright State the Vandals dropped an 80-70 decision at home. This contest is one of three straight at Memorial Gym to begin the season for Idaho which went 11-4 at home last season.
These squads have met 178 times since first matching up during the 1915-16 season. In that time Idaho holds a 101-77 advantage although Montana has won four straight.
In its win over Minot State, Montana shot at a 49.1 percent clip overall but really heated up in the second half (55.6 percent). The Grizzlies were especially effective from 3-point range, knocking down 11-of-21 shots from beyond the arc. Mathias Ward and Kareem Jamar led that effort with each knocking down three 3-pointers while combining for 37 points.
The efforts in that win boosted Jamar and Wards' season averages considerably. Jamar is now leading the team in scoring (13.5 ppg) while also turning in solid numbers on the boards (4.0 pg). Ward meanwhile, is scoring 12.0 points per game but has been largely absent in other aspects (1.0 rpg, 0.5 apg). Keron DeShields (10.5 ppg, 4.0 apg) has done a good job of scoring himself while also getting his teammates involved. Spencer Coleman has alternated from reserve to starter but is still nearly scoring in double figures (9.5 ppg). Michael Weisner (9.0 ppg) and Jordan Gregory (9.0 ppg) have both been reserves that have played major minutes.
Idaho failed to take advantage of a strong shooting effort against Wright State in the opener (23-of-43) by virtue of a a 27-of-50 effort from the floor by the Raiders which included a 27-15 difference in points from the 3-point line. Kyle Barone nearly had a double-double in the game with 18 points and nine rebounds, while Mansa Habeeb (14 points) and Stephen Madison (11) also finished in double figures.
Barone and Madison were each double-figure scorers last season and have gotten off on the right foot in this campaign. Barone, a senior forward, put in 12.9 points and also ripped down 8.0 boards per game and earned All-WAC Second Team honors. Madison meanwhile, has the ability to stretch the floor after knocking in 47 three-pointers last season, second most on the team. At 6- foot-5, Madison has shown the ability to rebound in the past (5.5 pg last season) but needs to improve in that area this season with only two in the opener. Habeeb along with Connor Hill and Mike McChristian, who each scored eight points in the opener, look to be more important pieces in the rotation after none of the trio played more than 13 minutes a game last season.
A week of rest could be a big boost for Idaho in a game that will more than likely be won on the inside. With their legs fresh and a home crowd behind them the Vandals should be able to pull out a win.
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