UMW News Bureau
The University of Montana Western men’s basketball team will head into the Frontier Conference playoffs on a five-game winning streak after hosting Montana Tech and Lewis-Clark State College on Thursday and Friday, Feb. 21 and 22.
On Thursday, the Bulldogs battled with rival Montana Tech for the full 40 minutes before holding on to a 59-58 win. Friday, in perhaps their best game of the year, the Bulldogs upset fifth-ranked Lewis-Clark State 74-58.
Friday’s game against Montana Tech was close throughout, but the Bulldogs kept the upper hand. They led by as much as 13 and only fell behind twice in the 59-58 victory.
Jake Owsley put up 19 points and 12 rebounds for his eighth double-double of the season. Jordan Overstreet chipped in 14 followed by Gabe Rucker and Tyler Miller with nine apiece. Rucker also dished six assists and picked up three steals.
Daniel Simon led Montana Tech with 20 points and six rebounds. Adam Greger contributed 18 points while Bryon Bock had five assists.
Every statistical category was close with Montana Tech having a slight edge in most: rebounds 31-28, assists 13-12, turnovers 15-14, blocks 2-4 and steals 6-9.
Montana Western shot 43 percent (20-47) from the field, 40 percent (6-15) behind the arc and 81 percent (13-16) from the free throw line. Montana Tech was 43 percent (23-53) from the field, 42 percent (5-12) behind the arc and 54 percent (7-13) from the free throw line.
In their third straight week playing a ranked conference opponent, the Bulldogs were again able to get the upset, this time against fifth-ranked Lewis-Clark State in a 74-58 blowout.
The Bulldogs scored 14 unanswered points in the opening six minutes and led by as much as 20 points in the first half. Montana Western shot 53 percent (17-32) from the floor and 56 percent (5-9) behind the arc while holding Lewis-Clark State to 29 (8-28) and nine percent shooting (1-11). The Bulldogs took a 42-23 lead into the half.
Montana Western continued to add to their lead, going up by 29 at the 7:49 and 5:01 marks. Although they allowed Lewis-Clark State to finish the game on a 17-4 run, the Bulldogs still won big.
Tyler Miller led all scorers with 18 points followed by Jake Owsley with 13 and Jordan Overstreet with nine. Kris Castro pulled down eight rebounds while Maazin Butler dished four assists. Gabe Rucker had five assists to go along with his five steals.
Lewis-Clark State was led by Kale Schmidt with 15 points while P.J. Bolte and Jacob Champoux had 10 apiece.
Montana Western won every statistical category: rebounds (39-28), assists (19-11), turnovers (17-20), blocks (5-4) and steals (15-11). The Bulldogs were not as hot in the second half but finished the game shooting 51 percent (31-61) from the field, 41 percent (7-17) from behind the arc and 71 percent (5-7) from the charity stripe. Lewis-Clark State was the opposite thanks to their final five minutes as they shot 37 percent (20-54) from the field, 25 percent (6-24) behind the arc and 63 percent (12-19) from the charity stripe.
The home finale was also a tribute to lone senior Vince Turk, who came off the bench for some valuable minutes. He contributed seven points, four rebounds, two assists, a block and a steal during his memorable senior night.
With the weekend sweep, Montana Western finished the regular season with a 21-8, 11-5 record and earned the second place spot in the Frontier Conference.
Only the top six teams qualify for the playoffs. In order, they are: Lewis-Clark State (11-4), Montana Western, Montana State University-Northern (10-6), Westminster (9-6), Rocky Mountain College (9-7) and the University of Great Falls (8-8). The bottom three teams, Montana Tech (6-10), Dickinson State (5-9) and Carroll College (1-15) did not qualify.
With the six-team format, both Lewis-Clark State and Montana Western will receive first round byes. On Wednesday, Feb. 27., MSU-Northern will host the University of Great Falls and Rocky Mountain travels to Westminster.
In the conference semi-finals on Saturday, March 2, top seeded Lewis-Clark State will host the lowest remaining seed and Montana Western will host the highest remaining seed. The semi-final winners will play for the championship at the highest remaining seed on Tuesday, March 5.