Big Sky Notebook
by Nicholas Lozito
Nanooks deny Weber State tournament title
Jermaine Boyette was on top of his game at the BP Top of the World Classic in Fairbanks, AK. The Weber State guard averaged 19.3 points over three games, as the Wildcats (2-1) won their first two games before falling to Alaska-Fairbanks in the championship game.
The run-and-gun Wildcats racked up 91 points in their opening game against Santa Barbara, and used a 9-0 run late in the second half after trailing 74-71 to pull out the 91-82 win. The Wildcats shot a remarkable 59 percent from the field as a team, while converting 18-of-21 free throws. And that was without sharp-shooting Ohio State transfer Slobodan Ocokoljic, who will sit out the team’s first eight games for violating the NCAA’s extra benefits policy, according to Weber State’s student newspaper. It is safe to say the Wildcats are one of the top outside shooting teams in the nation, and are capable of striking anytime, anywhere. The Wildcats’ fast-paced offense relies heavily on guards Stevie Morrison, John Hamilton and Boyette. The trio combined for 53 points against Santa Barbara, along with a cool 6-of-10 shooting from 3-point land. As a team, the Wildcats shot 9-of-16 from downtown.
In the tournament’s semi-final round, Weber State matched up with Ball State, who was also tabbed to win the Mid-American Conference this year in Adam Trumble’s conference preview. Despite a flat performance, Weber State still managed to knock off Ball State, 72-67. Unlike the opening game, the Wildcats struggled from outside, connecting on only 3-of-19 shots beyond the arc. Boyette and Hamilton led the Wildcats in scoring, each dropping in seventeen. The difference came at the stripe, where Weber connected on 31-of-42 free throws, compared to Ball State’s 13-of-17 effort. Two Ball State players fouled out, while two others finished the game with four fouls. On a day where the wildcats didn’t bring their “A” games, they got bailed out by favorable officiating.
Generosity from the men in stripes wasn’t something the Wildcats would get in the championship game, as they faced off against the host school, Div. II Alaska-Fairbanks. The Nanooks, who had five players score in double figures, defeated the Wildcats 77-65. Boyette converted 8-of-14 field goals en route to a 21 point performance. The rest of the Wildcats shot 14-of-40 from the field and 2-of-16 from 3-point land.
Throughout the tournament run, Boyette showed that he is good for at least sixteen points per game. The fate of the Wildcats will be determined by whether players like Morrison and Hamilton can also knock down shots on a consistent basis. Boyette and Hamilton were both named to the all-tournament team. The Wildcats will next return home to face Montana Tech on Nov. 27 and the University of Nevada on Nov. 30.
Eagles soar past Aztecs and Gaels
After averaging just eight points in Eastern Washington’s first two games, senior guard Chris Hester broke out this week in Eagle victories over San Diego State and Saint Mary’s College (CA). Hester scored fifteen points and snatched seven rebounds in the 75-70 victory over the Aztecs, who won the Mountain West Conference Tournament last season. Freshman guards Danny Pariseau and Brandon Merritt combined to shoot 6-of-7 from beyond the arc, while point guard Alvin Snow contributed fifteen points, seven rebounds and five assists.
In their home opener on Tuesday, the Eagles squeaked past Saint Mary’s. Hester and Snow led the way with twenty and 21 points, respectively. The Eagles will next hit the road to face the University of Denver on Nov. 30.
Around the conference
Montana State knocked off the Pac-10’s University of Washington 56-53, and held the Huskies to 33 percent shooting. Washington forward Doug Wrenn, who many predict will average close to twenty points this season, was held by Bobcat forward Casey Reynolds to only six on the night. Reynolds also pulled down ten rebounds. Montana State will next face Santa Clara on Nov. 27.
Idaho State went 2-1 over their first three games. The Bengals most recently lost to Boise State, 74-71, in overtime on Nov. 26 and fell to Texas, San Antonio on Nov. 22, 76-71. A 63-55 win over Coppin State was sandwiched between the two losses. True freshman point guard Marquis Poole is averaging 13.3 points, while junior forward Scott Henry is averaging fourteen points and 8.7 rebounds. The Bengals will next play at Fresno State on Nov. 29.
In new head coach Pat Kennedy’s debut, Montana fell 77-71 to Northern Iowa. The Grizzlies rebounded four days later to defeat Denver, 75-47. Shooting guard David Bell scored 26 points against Northern Iowa on 5-of-15 shooting from 3-point land. The senior scored sixteen in the Denver win. Junior college transfer Steve Horne has proven that he can be a factor in the paint, averaging thirteen points and eight rebounds. Montana will next face No. 10 Michigan State in the Great Alaska Shootout.
Portland State knocked off California State-Northridge, 69-65, and lost to UNLV 69-54. Junior college transfer Seth Scott averaged 16.5 points and seven rebounds in the two games. As the 6-foot-10 forward gets acclimated to the Div. I game, expect him to put up huge numbers. The Vikings will next head across town to face the University of Portland on Nov. 30.
Sacramento State opened up with a crushing 88-55 loss at Loyola Marymount. The Hornets shot just 36 percent from the field and committed 22 turnovers. Shooting guard Brandon Guyton led the team with fifteen points. The Hornets will next host Dominican (CA) on Nov. 27.
Northern Arizona opened their season with a 70-65 loss to High Point and a 99-93 victory over St. Peters. Senior forward Ryan McDade averaged fifteen points and 8.5 rebounds in the two games, while freshman guard Kelly Golob scored 29 points against St. Peters. I would like to wish the Lumberjacks the best of luck as they will next face No. 1 Arizona on Nov. 27th.
Big Sky Player of the Week:
PG Alvin Snow, Eastern Washington. Snow averaged eighteen points, five rebounds and 3.5 assists in the Eagles’ two victories this past week.