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A blog about sports in Montana, with an emphasis on Flathead Valley High Schools.
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Around the Big Sky: Griz Ranked 16th in Mid-Major Top 25 Poll
Montana moved up seven spots from last week’s poll
The University of Montana men's basketball team is ranked 16th in the recent Mid-Major Top 25 Poll.

Montana moved up seven spots from last week’s poll.

The Grizzlies (14-4 overall, 10-0 in the Big Sky Conference) received 252 points this week.

This past week, Montana wrapped up the first half of Big Sky play with two victories, defeating Idaho State (70-51) and previously ranked Weber State (76-74) in a pair of home conference wins. The Wildcats (13-5), who were ranked 22nd last week in the poll, received 29 points in the recent poll.

Gonzaga (19-2) is ranked No. 1 for the second week in a row and received 29 first place votes. Wichita State (19-2) got two first place votes and remains second in the poll.

The rest of the top five consists of Belmont (17-4), Creighton (18.3), and St. Mary’s (17-4). Two teams that defeated the Griz earlier in the season, BYU (16-6) and South Dakota State (16-6), are ranked eighth and 18th, respectively.

This Week’s Conference Highlights: The second half of conference play begins Thursday, but not before Eastern Washington and Portland State close out the first half Monday. EWU will look to snap a four-game losing streak as it returns home. PSU has lost three in a row and brings an 0-9 road record and an 11-game road losing streak to EWU ... League-leading Montana hits the road this week, facing PSU on Thursday and EWU on Saturday. Montana enters the week riding a 10-game winning streak, and has won 21 consecutive Big Sky regular-season games … Second place Weber State continues a four game road trip, traveling to North Dakota on Thursday and Northern Colorado on Saturday ... Third-place Montana State guns for its fourth straight win on Thursday against EWU. The Bobcats are at PSU on Saturday … Southern Utah, winners of two straight and sitting at 5-5 in conference, plays Sacramento State on Thursday and Northern Arizona on Saturday. Both games are in Cedar City … Idaho State and Northern Colorado, a pair of 3-7 conference teams, meet Thursday in Greeley. The Bengals are at North Dakota on Saturday.

Grizzlies Take Command: Montana took control of the Big Sky Conference race, moving to 10-0 at home. Montana, the defending Big Sky champion, enters the second half of conference play with a two-game lead over Weber State and a four-game lead over third-place Montana State. Senior guard Will Cherry had his best game of the season on Saturday against the Wildcats. The two-time All-Conference selection scored 28 points with six rebounds, four steals and three assists. He made 15-of-16 free throws. UM finished the game 30-of-33 from the free-throw line. Montana has now won 23 in a row over Big Sky competition dating back to a loss at Weber State on Jan. 14, 2012.

Bobcats Get Hot: Montana State won three games last week to move to 6-4 in conference. Brad Huse’s Bobcats are now alone in third place. The Bobcats have won seven of their last nine games after starting the season 2-7. Montana State handed Weber State its first league loss, downing the Wildcats in Bozeman 79-74 on Thursday. Montana State made its final 14 free throws against WSU. In wins over WSU and Idaho State, Montana State went 37-of-44 from the free-throw line, including a stretch of 23 consecutive. MSU will gun for its fourth straight league win Thursday at EWU.

Sitting at .500: North Dakota, Southern Utah and Sacramento State all enter the second half of conference play at 5-5, tied for fourth place. Sacramento State picked up two home wins last week, as did Southern Utah. North Dakota split on a road trip to Sacramento State and Northern Arizona. Sacramento State hasn’t won more than five conference games in a season since 2004-05. The Hornets are on pace to qualify for the Big Sky Championship for the first time since 2006. UND and SUU are both in their first season in the league.

Home Teams Rolling: Home teams won 10 of the 11 conference games last week, and have won 19 of the last 21. Through 54 conference games, home teams hold a 38-16 record. Montana (6-0), Montana State (5-0) and Weber State (4-0) have yet to suffer a home conference loss. Montana (4-0) and Weber State (4-2) are the only teams with winning conference road records. Portland State (0-5) and Eastern Washington (0-5) have yet to record conference road wins.

RPI Report: Montana has assumed the No. 1 spot in the RPI among Big Sky teams. Wins over Idaho State and Weber State catapulted Montana 19 spots to 125. Weber State is second at 145, followed by NAU at 237. The Big Sky remained 29th among Division I conferences.

Bracketbusters Announcements: The pairings for the ESPN Ramada Worldwide BracketBusters will be announced on Monday, Feb. 4 at 4:30 p.m. Mountain on ESPNU. After the television pairings are announced, the rest of the pairings will be released. All 11 Big Sky teams are in the pool. EWU, ISU, MSU, PSU and SUU will be at home. UM, NAU, NC, UND, SAC and WSU will be on the road.

200 For Gabe: NAU senior Gabe Rogers had a big weekend, scoring a career-high 35 points in a loss and 28 in a win. Rogers made eight 3-pointers in the two games, giving him 201 for his career. Rogers became the 14th player in league history to make 200 3-pointers. Weber State’s Scott Bamforth enters this week with 198 career 3-pointers.

Tip-Ins: SUU’s Jackson Stevenett scored his 1,000th career point last week. He enters this week with 1,037 points and needs 40 more to move into the top 10 on SUU’s scoring list … Portland State is 0-9 on the road and has lost 11 straight road games … UM’s Will Cherry has 243 career assists, and needs just five more to move into third place on the Big Sky’s all-time list ... UND rallied from a 22-point first-half deficit to beat NAU 81-79 in Flagstaff. Troy Huff scored 26 points and scored the game-winning basket with three seconds left.
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