Let's take a quick rundown at the Big Sky's performance in Bracket Busters, a day in which the conference represented itself well. It was a 5-5 day, but one of the losses was by one at the buzzer, and another still earned the conference respect. Let's go into them:
- In the biggest matchup of the day, Montana fell to Davidson 93-87 in OT. They played the game without Mathias Ward, and Will Cherry also suffered an injury late in the game (and has reportedly re-broken his foot). They simply gave a great effort, especially down the stretch, and they should hang their heads high after the game. Wayne Tinkle again showed why he is the best coach in the Big Sky, both with halftime adjustments (Davidson star Jake Cohen had 25 points in the first half, and 3 points in the second half and OT combined), and by the way the Grizzlies battled back even without two of their stars.
The biggest star of the day was junior Kareem Jamar. He finished with 28 points, 12 rebounds, and 8 assists, and seemed to do it all down the stretch and in OT. It is clear that if Montana has any chance to win the Big Sky, they will need Jamar to turn into a full-time star like that.
- Northern Colorado was in a dogfight with UC Davis, and it looks like they would come away with a win. Paul Garnica hit a three with 16 seconds left to give the Bears the 78-77 lead. However, UC Davis answered with a bucket with two seconds left, and that was the ballgame. One storyline to watch... Tevin Svihovec has been struggling a bit, and did again on Saturday (5 TOs), while Garnica was solid (12 points, 7 assists, 0 turnovers)... it would not be a surprise to see Garnica's minutes increase, and Svihovec's decrease down the stretch.
- Idaho State looked like they might get a win against potential future Big Sky member Idaho, but fell just short, losing 75-69 to the Vandals. Four Bengals scored in double figures, led by Chris Hansen (19 points) and Tomas Sanchez (18 points, 7 assists). However, the Bengals had no answer for Idaho crashing the glass, ad the Vandals had 21 offensive rebounds which resulted in 34 second chance points. That was the difference in the game.
- North Dakota rekindled an old NCC rivalry with their game against Nebraska-Omaha, but UND was unable to pull out a road win. UNO won 83-75, and North Dakota had no offense down the stretch. UNO ended the game on a 13-2 run Troy Huff led the team with 21 points, while Aaron Anderson had 19.
- Northern Arizona at least got a trip to Hawaii out of Bracket Busters. The game itself did not go so well. The Lumberjacks got beat soundly, losing 84-50. DeWayne Russell led the team with 14 points, while Gabe Rogers had 12. The good news for NAU is that ultimately, the game doesn't really matter at all.
- Weber State already owned the best win by a Big Sky team this season with their early win at Dayton. Now, they have the second most impressive as well, after they went in and beat a good Oral Roberts team on the road. They trailed by seven at the half, but came back to win 70-66, improving their record to 20-5 on the season.
Kyle Tresnak led the way with 20 points, while Scott Bamforth (16), Jordan Richardson (12) and Frank Otis (11) were all in double figures. In a testament to the depth of Weber State, leading scorer Davion Berry shot just 2/7 from the field for seven points, and the Wildcats still picked up the win. (One note... even though Berry struggled shooting, he still found ways to contribute, with a team high seven assists). This is why they are so dangerous, a lot of guys can get it done.
- Eastern Washington took down Sam Houston State 81-76, but some of the numbers in the game were crazy. For example, the Bearkats pulled down 29 offensive rebounds and held a 45-29 rebound edge over EWU, and still lost. Eastern Washington blocked a Big Sky record 16 shots in the game, including 8 from Martin Seiferth and 4 from Venky Jois. Collin Chiverton led the Eagles with 20 points, while Parker Kelly had 17.
- Portland State may not make the Big Sky tournament, but they are ending the year playing some decent basketball. They won their third straight game, using a 16-0 to take down UC Riverside 66-58. The Vikings trailed by eight midway through the second half, but used that run to take command of the game. Aaron Moore had 13 and 9 for PSU, while Michael Harthun had 15. While PSU's chances aren't good, they could at least have a shot at a tiebreak scenario if they can win 3 of 4 down the stretch.
- Sacramento State got an exciting win over Cal State Santa Barbara, as a Konner Veteto bucket with five seconds left gave the Hornets a 51-50 win. The Hornets had lost two straight, so it had to be a good feeling for them. Also, in their quest to finish over .500, the win moves them to 13-12 on the year. Four Hornets were in double figures, but the key was the defense. UCSB shot 33.3% from the floor, and the Hornets also avoided giving them free points at the line. Nice game for Sac State.
- Finally, Southern Utah was also on the right end of a one point game, beating Cal State Northridge 73-72 on a late bucket from Jayson Cheesman. The TBirds were down by as many as 13, but battled back for the home win. Jackson Stevenett led the team with 21 points, and Damon Heuir had 18.
Anything else that I missed on the day of Bracket Busters?
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