My picks for the Big Sky games on Thursday night were not my finest. I got 3 out of 6 wrong, and almost picked another game wrong! The good thing is, that means there was a lot of unexpected things happening, which is always exciting! Let's take a look at some of the happenings.
What I expected:
- Montana grinded out a win over Northern Arizona - NAU had a halftime lead (and led by as many as 11 in the first half), but the Grizzlies were able to get the win, thanks in large part to seven threes (and 31 points) from guard Jordan Gregory. The biggest story might be that Montana continued their excellent defensive ways, allowing just 0.89 PPP as NAU was 19/55 from the floor and turned it over 14 times. The Grizzlies haven't played some of the more high octane offenses of the Big Sky yet, but they've been absolutely dominating defensively against who they have played. They now sit at 5-1 in Big Sky play.
- Eastern Washington had their way offensively with Northern Colorado - Don't let the final margin of 10 points deceive you... this was a blowout. EWU led by as many as 31 early in the second half, and seemingly got every shot they wanted, even without Venky Jois. Tyler Harvey had 35 points, including shooting 5/9 from downtown and 12/14 from the foul line, as four other Eagles joined him in double figures. UNC scored 41 points in the final ten minutes, which showcases their offensive firepower (even though the game was well out of hand), but this game was in hand for EWU by halftime.
What I didn't expect:
- Sacramento State just barely eeked by Idaho State - The Bengals led by 1 with 30 seconds left, but the Hornets were able to get fouled and hit free throws to go up 1, and ISU was unable to score on the next possession. It's just a reminder that every road game in the Big Sky is a grind and potential trap, even as the Hornets were in first and ISU was badly struggling. The Bengals were able to slow the game way down, and not allow Sac State many good looks from downtown (3/11). Winning formula for the Bengals to pull the upset, but they just couldn't finish the job. Tough loss for them, nice road win for the Hornets in a game where they didn't play their best.
- Portland State went on the road to beat Weber State - The lesson, as always, it's tough to know what to expect from PSU. Their frontcourt keeps looking better and better, as Tiegbe Bamba and Braxton Tucker are emerging as one of the better front lines in the conference. Last night, it was Tucker who had 21 and 6, while Bamba had 10 and 11, all the while making Joel Bolomboy a relative non-factor. Jeremy Senglin was excellent for the Wildcats, but everybody else struggled. Now, PSU is sitting well at 4-3, while Weber State is 3-4 and still trying to find their identity.
- North Dakota went on the road to beat Idaho - I thought the Vandals were going to run away with this game at home. They led by as many as 15 in the first half, and appeared to be in control. Then, at the end of the first half and into the second half, North Dakota went on a 27-5 run to give them a lead they wouldn't relinquish, though Idaho never went away. UND won this game with great defensive effort, holding the Vandals to just 0.85 PPP - an impressive mark against any team, let alone one as explosive as the Vandals. Idaho also did themselves in by shooting just 15/28 from the charity stripe. There's a lot of season to go, but Idaho could be really kicking themselves later on for losing what should have been a winnable home game.
- Montana State used a great second half to get their first Big Sky win - I liked SUU's chances to get a road win and move to .500 in Big Sky play, and for a while, it looked like that was going to happen. The TBirds led 47-40 early in the second half, but then two MSU runs put the game away. First, a 16-2 run put the Bobcats up 60-51, and then a 13-2 run later put the game away. It is Brian Fish's first Big Sky win, and you get the feeling there will be many more in the years to come. MSU was 12/23 from behind the arc (and if you count everyone other than Eric Norman, they were 11/16), and were led by 19 from Stephen Holm. It's good to see everyone has at least one Big Sky win well before February.
Anything else that I missed from last night?
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