UMW News Bureau
The University of Montana Western men’s basketball team rode a five-game win streak into the postseason, earning the second seed and a bye in the first round of the Frontier Conference Basketball Tournament. The Montana Western Bulldogs now will face Montana State University-Northern on Saturday, March 2 at 7 p.m. in the Straugh Gymnasium the UMW campus.
The expansion of the Frontier Conference to include Dickinson State brought with it a change to the playoff format for the 2012-13 season. This year only the top six teams from the regular season were eligible for postseason play. The quarterfinal match-ups featured the sixth-ranked University of Great Falls at at third-ranked Montana State University-Northern while fifth-ranked Rocky Mountain College takes on fourth-ranked Westminster. The number one seed, Lewis-Clark State College, and the number two seed, Montana Western, both earned byes into the semifinal round. Rocky Mountain is the lowest surviving seed from the quarterfinal games and will travel to Lewis-Clark State in Lewiston, Idaho for one semifinal game.
The Bulldogs last lost was in overtime to Great Falls in the first weekend of February. Since that time, Montana Western has knocked off a few of the top 25 teams, including Westminster, MSU-Northern and Lewis-Clark as well as a one-point victory over rival Montana Tech. The streak propelled Montana Western from 31st in the national rankings to a final ranking of 15 while MSU-Northern dropped to 20 and Westminster fell from the top 25. The two wins on the final weekend of conference play also moved the Bulldogs into second place in the regular season standings, securing the first round playoff bye.
Bulldog junior Jake Owsley of Bozeman, Mont. leads the Frontier Conference in rebounds with 8.3 per game and blocks with 1.7 per game. He also posted the most double-doubles with eight on the season. Owsley is the scoring leader for Montana Western, averaging 12.72 points per game followed by fellow juniors Maazin Butler of Tacoma, Wash. with 12.35 points per game and Jordan Overstreet of Three Forks, Mont., who averages 12.28 points per game. Overstreet connected on 44 percent of his three-point shots this season, which is good for second place in the year-end statistics. Sophomore Kris Castro from Huntley Project, Mont. is in the Frontier Conference top five for both blocks (.93) and steals (1.72) per game. Gabe Rucker, a junior from Bozeman, Mont., finished the regular season as fifth in assists per game with 3.36.
Montana Western and MSU-Northern split their two regular season contests this season with each team wining on the road. In January, the Lights shot 51 percent from the floor to cruise to an 11-point win while the Bulldogs struggled to a 24-percent shooting performance and their only home loss of the season. In February, Montana Western turned the tables on the Lights with a dramatic tip-in by Owsley to seal a two-point victory for the Bulldogs.
Northern finished third in the Frontier after losses to Montana Western, Rocky Mountain and Great Falls in the final two weeks of the regular season. The Lights average 68 points per game and are led in scoring by Devin Jackson with 14.10 points per game. The Lights lead the Frontier in scoring defense, allowing only 61.77 points per game.
Frontier Conference Playoff ticket prices for Saturday’s game are $7 for adults, $5 for senior citizens and students ages six through college. Children under the age of six are admitted free of charge. No regular season passes will be accepted.