Friday, March 13, 2015

Eastern Washington and Montana Advance to Big Sky Title Game

For the second straight day, we had some great games in the Big Sky tournament. First, the less complicated game, which was Eastern Washington taking down Sacramento State, winning their second straight game by a score of 91-83.

The EWU offense was as good as they have been at any point all year. In the first half, Sac State focused on Tyler Harvey, and held him to 0 points. The problem was that everyone else for EWU was firing on all cylinders. Felix Van Hofe hit five first half threes before finishing with 23 points. Bodgan Bliznyuk had 16 off the bench, and Venky Jois had 19.

Eastern Washington was 15/25 from downtown in this game, and finished with 1.25 PPP. You're going to win a lot of games like that. I said before the conference tournament that EWU had the highest ceiling of any team in the Big Sky, and they showed it in this game. If they play like that, they can and will beat Montana.

For Sac State, it's a bittersweet end to the season, but they have plenty to be proud about. They finish the best season in school history, Mikh McKinney was the league MVP, and Brian Katz the co- Coach of the Year. The senior class has elevated the program to a level that probably would have been unthinkable four years ago.

The Hornets were beaten by a better team on this day, but what a season it was.


In the other semifinal game, Montana escaped for the second straight day, this time hanging on to beat Northern Arizona 61-59 on a game-winner from Jordan Gregory with 0.4 seconds left.

Kris Yanku hit two free throws to tie the game with 8.2 seconds left, and Gregory got the ball and went coast to coast, driving right by Quinton Upshur (who looked more concerned with not fouling than with stopping Gregory) for the tough lay-in. This has gotten lost a bit in all of the happenings post-game (we'll get to it in a moment), but what a great play by Gregory.

He knew just how much time he had, he didn't settle for an outside shot, and he got a good look at the rim. That is textbook. It's a shame it got overshadowed a bit, but we need to give him his due.

However, as mentioned, after the shot, pandemonium broke out. College Basketball Talk has the video and image, but after the shot, 0.4 seconds remained on the clock. However, a Montana assistant ran on the court, realized there was time left on the clock, ran back and literally dove back to the bench. The play was reviewed (either for that or to see how much time was left), and 0.4 seconds was put on the clock, but no technical foul was called.

In my opinion, the Grizzlies were very lucky to get out of there with no technical. To my eye, a technical foul should have been called. From that CBT article, here is the rule that potentially applies:

Assistant coaches and bench personnel. All bench personnel, with the exception of the head coach, are required to be seated on the bench while the ball is live except to react spontaneously to an outstanding play and then to immediately return to sitting on the bench. Violations by players, especially assistant coaches, should not be tolerated by officials. When assistant coaches or bench personnel are violating bench decorum rules in a minor way, the official shall inform the head coach and request that he handle the situation. This is an official warning. Any further violation by bench personnel shall result in a technical foul assessed to the offender. Egregious (blatant) conduct violations by assistant coaches or bench personnel need no warning and shall immediately result in a technical foul. A tehnical foul assessed to bench personnel is also assessed as a CLASS B technical foul to the head coach.
I understand that it ultimately did not impact the game, which is the explanation that was given to Coach Jack Murphy. However, the only reason it didn't impact the game was because NAU happened to not throw the ball in right away (perhaps because there was an assistant coach on the floor?) To my eye, that crosses the arbitrary standard of being an egregious or blatant violation.

I understand you don't want a game to end in that way, or be impacted like that, but a rule is a rule. A technical foul should have been assessed. In talking to others around the league, I am not alone in this thinking.

EDIT: One report does say it was not an assistant coach, but a player who is sitting out this season that ran onto the court. That does seem to be the case. It doesn't change my mind on the play, but I should note that distinction.

EDIT 2: The Big Sky commissioner Doug Fullerton made a statement after the game saying that Travis DeCuire will not be suspended for anything, but that they are still looking into the actions of NAU coach Jack Murphy.


So, I've said my part! Once again, it's a shame this is taking away from the game itself a bit, because it has nothing to do with the Grizzlies players. They deserved to win this game, and for the second straight day, they made enough plays down the stretch to get the win and advance.

This sets up a dream Big Sky championship matchup between Montana and Eastern Washington, who are the two best teams in the Big Sky for my money. The teams split their season series, and each won on the other team's home court. We'll be in for a classic.

Preview to come tomorrow.

Follow me on Twitter @bigskybball


  1. With or without a technical foul Montana would of still won. Looking at the video Murphy did not touch Montana coach he mouthed something probably saying you got lucky no technical was called. Decuire pulled Murphy back to him.

  2. I agree anonymous...probably would not have changed the game. Decuire did pull Murphy back to him so he was the physical aggressor and probably deserved a reprimand (not a suspension). #1JacksFan

  3. Definitely probably at least an 80% chance it wouldn't change the outcome... a technical still needed to be called there. Just baffling.

  4. If the shoe was on the other foot in this situation.....Missoula would have burned down on Friday night due to the riots. Many Griz fans would be chirping a different tune if it was NAU hitting the last second runner with a Jacks player on the court. -MTJack

  5. #1JacksFan - Were you able to make it to Missoula for the tourney? -MTJack