Saturday, November 12, 2011

Day of Almosts In The Big Sky

We already went over Montana losing to Colorado State, but it's time to take a look at the rest of the Big Sky action from an eventful Friday. It was a day of almosts for the Big Sky, with some really good performances, and some disappointing ones. Let's go over the games:

- Eastern Washington had an impressive debut against Gonzaga, leading midway through the 2nd half before losing 77-69. The big difference was fouls and free throws. Eastern Washington had 33 fouls (and 5 players foul out), while Gonzaga committed 11 fouls. As a result, Gonzaga shot 51 free throws compared to 11 for Eastern Washington. From what I hear, Eastern Washington settled for a lot of jumpers (they took 29 3s), while Gonzaga was more aggressive going to the hoop.

The stars for Eastern Washington were Cliff Colimon and Collin Chiverton (Hayford would apparently do well to only recruit players with C.C. initials). Colimon hit 3 3s, and finished with 17 points and 8 assists in 33 minutes. He only turned it over twice, which I know is key for Jim Hayford. Chiverton had an ugly shooting line (8/24), but I heard nothing but positive reviews. He buried 6 treys, and looked every bit the athletic specimen he was said to be. I picked him on the 2nd team Big Sky before the year, but it is clear he has the talent to be a first teamer. The good thing for the Eagles is that there are not a lot of front lines like Gonzaga's in the Big Sky, which is where they got outmuscled. All in all, the faithful are very pleased with this performance, as they should be.

- Montana State had a good effort against the Pac-12 Arizona State Sun Devils, losing 78-72. Brad Huse said he would have a more dynamic and balanced offense, and it is hard to argue that point after a 51 point 2nd half (though you have to ignore the 18% shooting in the first half). The star for the Bobcats was sophomore Shawn Reid, who had 19 points and 7 rebounds in 33 minutes. The Bobcats did a good job of forcing TOs, which helped keep them in the game, since they shot just 34% from the field. Xavier Johnson-Blount was 2/9 from downtown. They need more from Mohammed Fall, whose only stat line was 2 misses and 4 fouls, otherwise he had no impact in 11 minutes.

- Expectations externally are low for Idaho State, but they came to play on opening night, losing by 4 to Oklahoma. Granted, Oklahoma is one of the worst major conference programs out there, but when you are projected last in the conference and you go down to the wire on the road to a Big 12 game, that is a moral victory. They were extremely balanced, with 5 players scoring between 9 and 14 points. The star was Chase Grabau, who almost had a triple double, notching 10 points, 9 assists, and 8 rebounds. Joe O'Brien had to love his playmaking ability. Jakub Kusmieruk had 9 points and 5 rebounds in 22 minutes, but finished with 4 fouls. They need a better shooting effort out of Melvin Morgan, as he can be their most explosive player. Dejan Kostur was a nice piece off the bench, with 12 points in 21 productive minutes.

- Sacramento State and Weber State took care of business against low-level teams. The Hornets beat Menlo 70-56 in a game that was tied at halftime, but thankfully they woke up in the second half. Walter Jackson was a bright spot with 19 points on an efficient 7/10 from the floor. Not a win to write home about but a win is a win. Weber State had no such troubles putting Northern New Mexico away, and they won 109-50. Damian Lillard led the way with 25 points, but Frank Otis may have stolen the show with 17 rebounds. All in all, 6 'Cats were in double figures and they were 17-29 from downtown. Hope they saved some of that for Utah State.

- We knew Northern Arizona was going to struggle a bit out of the gate, but it has been a rough start. On Friday they lost 83-66 to Louisiana (formerly Louisiana-Lafayette), a game that they were down 13 at half. Freshman James Douglas had 21 off the bench, but the Ragin' Cajuns shot 62% from the field. Ouch! On Saturday, things didn't get better, as the Lumberjacks fell to San Francisco 69-50, getting pounded in the second half. The bright spot in this one was the emergence of Danny Cheek, who had 13 points in 15 minutes. For a team that appears it will struggle to score, that is huge. Stallon Saldivar has had two games he would like to forget - 10 points, 5 assists, 6 turnovers in 2 games. They will try to salvage the Hilltop Challenge with a game against North Dakota State.

- A loss against Denver was not entirely unexpected for Portland State, but they have to be a bit disappointed. Chehales Tapscott was as good as advertised, with 18 points and 12 rebounds. Nate Lozeau was better than advertised, as he had 19 and 7 in his time. But the guards were a big disappointment. Charles Odum was just 4/11 from the field, and highly touted JUCO Lateef McMullan and transfer Michael Harthun were a combined 0/16 from the field, and had 3 points. Yikes! Only one player off the bench had more than 6 minutes, so it is clear that depth is an issue. They were missing Marvin Whitmore, one of their best outside shooters, but it was not an encouraging start for a team that is expected to be much improved this year.

What did you notice this weekend?
Note: I attended the Northern Colorado/New Mexico State game, so I will have a write up of that tomorrow.

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