1st Half Montana vs. Oregon State:
Brian Qvale gets the rebound to give the Montana Men’s Basketball team their biggest lead of the game by 11 points, TIMEOUT, the crowd goes wild and for the first time in Dahlberg Arena I got chills, this Griz team is for real!
Basketball has always been my first love, maybe that’s because I went to a high school who lived for the game, (shout out to West Valley/Spokane, WA) or maybe it’s the atmosphere or the fact that anyone can play spoiler on any give night.
Whatever the reason, I’m a huge fan of college basketball, and it’s so great to be covering a team like the Montana Grizzlies.
Last year was my first season covering Coach Wayne Tinkle’s team, and you may remember a certain superstar by the name of Anthony Johnson.
Johnson, had the biggest performance of his career in the 2010 Big Sky Tournament when he put up 42 points vs. Weber State and rallied the Griz back from a 22 point deficit to advance Montana into the NCAA tournament.
That team was a treat for me to cover, I enjoyed the group of guys and their effort all season long, but AJ couldn’t always carry the team and that was what happened in the NCAA tourney, AJ had a rough game, and nobody was there to step into that “hero” position.
But that’s not the case this year, AJ might be gone, but the Griz roster is filled with young talent.
When I interviewed these guys for the first time this season I honestly thought to myself, this is a strange group of personalities, but that didn’t seem to be a problem a few games in, in fact I think that’s what makes this team so unique.
The Griz have eight players new to the D-I ranks, including six freshmen.
The only returning senior starter is big man Brian Qvale and Guard Will Cherry has clearly become the vocal leader of this team and he’s only a Sophomore.
But somehow this team has shown an enormous amount of maturity early on this season, and there is still with two weeks to go before conference play starts.
Instead of just one weapon, the Griz have several this year:
Will Cherry- leads the nation in steals per game w/4.2 per game, Cherry is the quickest player out on the court, he’s improved his shot this year and will only get better as the season goes on.
Brian Qvale- The 6″11 center is on fire this year, he’s been a defensive force leading the team w/83 rebounds and 36 blocks (approaching UM’s & the league’s all-time leader), but he’s been consistent putting points on the board.
Derek Selvig- The junior forward is third in scoring w/ 10.1 points per game, he’s there when Qvale can’t be.
Kareem Jamar, Jordan Wood, Art Steward- These guys have come off the bench and for the most part they’ve performed well, I believe Wood will find his confidence and will be our 3 point man, along with Jamar and Steward.
These talented players put their team on the college basketball map this season when they beat UCLA on the road a couple weeks ago.
The Bruins couldn’t handle Cherry, Qvale or the Grizzlies’ zone defense and Montana came out with their first ever victory of UCLA in the history of their program.
I don’t care if UCLA isn’t the best team in the Pac-10 this year, they’re still UCLA and the Griz still beat them on their on floor, in historic Pauley Pavilion.
The Pac-10 beat down didn’t stop there, on Wednesday night Montana played host to Oregon State in Dahlberg Arena and for the first time in a long time, the energy from the fans was present and the Grizzlies fed off of it.
Brian Qvale had a career highs of 27 points and 18 rebounds and sophomore guard Will Cherry added 22 points and five steals, to lead Montana to a 71-66 victory over Oregon State.
The Griz never backed down, they had a plan to dish it to Qvale and they executed that to perfection!
Congratulations to Coach Wayne Tinkle and his team for putting on quite the show Wednesday night.
With two weeks to go before the start of conference play, Montana is 6-4 overall, 2-0 against Pac-10 teams this season.
The Griz are the team to beat in the Big Sky Conference this year, and expect them to make another appearance in this years NCAA tournament.