UMW News Bureau
The University of Montana Western men’s basketball team was fired up when they hosted the Westminster Griffins (20-5, 7-4) on Saturday, Feb. 9. In the teams’ first meeting, held Dec. 1 at Westminster, Montana Western was handed their worst loss of the season: a 63-84 blowout with 23 turnovers and only four steals.
Saturday was a different story as the Bulldogs returned the favor and gave the 12th-ranked Griffins their worst loss: a 54-76 drubbing. Westminster has only four other losses on the season, which they have lost by a total of 21 points.
The Griffins made the first basket of the game and looked to be in control as they built an eight-point lead to the 13:33 mark. After a Montana Western time-out, the Bulldogs went on a 14-3 run to take a three-point lead with 8:23 remaining. The teams traded baskets until Montana Western sank back-to-back three pointers and finished out the half with an eight-point lead, 38-30.
Montana Western shot 52 percent (15-29) from the field and 27 percent (3-11) from behind the arc compared to Westminster’s 44 (14-32) and 17 percents (1-6).
The Bulldogs started the second half with a 7-0 run and never looked back. Their largest lead, at 25, happened with 1:43 remaining. Montana Western hit 11 of 25 field goals (44 percent) and held Westminster to eight of 23 (35 percent).
Jake Owsley, who missed the Dec. 1 game, had his sixth double-double of the season with 14 points and 13 rebounds to go along with his three assists and three blocks. Tyler Miller tied his career-high with 17 points, including three treys, 7-10 shooting as well as three assists and two steals.
Maazin Butler chipped in 13 points, four assists and four steals while Gabe Rucker had 11 points and three assists. Kris Castro put up nine points, five steals and three assists.
This time around, the Bulldogs only committed 12 turnovers, had 14 steals and 19 assists in the great all-around team play. Westminster had their worst showing on the season in the same three statistics: 22 turnovers, four steals and seven assists. Montana Western also won the rebounding battle 38-35.
Jordan Hamilton came off the bench to lead Westminster with 11 points and six rebounds while Tallon Robertson had nine points.
For the game, Montana Western shot 48 percent (26-54) from the field, 28 percent (5-18) behind the arc and 66 percent (19-29) from the free throw line. Westminster was 40 percent (22-55) from the floor, 27 percent (4-15) on three pointers and 50 percent (5-10) from the charity stripe. The Griffins’ 54 points were 11 less than their previous low and well below their 80 points-per-game average.
Montana Western head coach Steve Keller had nothing but praise for his team.
“It was a great team effort on both ends of the floor,” Keller said. “I am proud of our guys. They dominated a very good basketball team.”
With only two weeks of regular-season play left, the Frontier Conference is still in chaos. Montana State University-Northern leads the pack at 9-3 followed by Lewis-Clark State (8-3), Westminster (7-4), Montana Western (7-5), Great Falls (7-5), Rocky Mountain (6-6), Montana Tech (5-7), Dickinson State (3-7) and Carroll College (0-12).
Montana Western will travel to MSU-Northern on Thursday, Feb. 14 to avenge a 53-64 home loss on Jan. 10. The Bulldogs will return home for their final three games against Carroll College (Saturday, Feb. 16), Montana Tech (Thursday, Feb. 21) and Lewis-Clark State (Friday, Feb. 22). Tip-off in Havre will be at 8 p.m. while all the home games are at 7:30 p.m.