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Big Sky Notebook

January 22, 2003 Conference Notes No Comments

Big Sky Notebook

by Nicholas Lozito

Bengals open conference play in heart-wrenching fashion

The state of Idaho is not exactly known for having a rich tradition in college basketball. But if it were to release a tell-all biography, a small chapter about this weekend’s basketball festivities involving Idaho State would probably be included — most likely between Chapter 4: How to skin a potato, and Chapter 6: The invention of the potato.

The first epic battle in Reed Gym matched the Bengals (8-7 overall, 1-1 in Big Sky Conference) up with Montana (8-11, 2-2) on Thursday. Montana small forward Steve Horne put back a missed shot as time expired to give the Grizzlies a 90-88 victory. Horne finished with 19 points and 7 boards, while the Grizzly backcourt tandem of freshman Kevin Criswell and senior David Bell finished with 20 and 21 points, respectively. Bell currently ranks third in the conference in scoring, averaging 16.8 points. Criswell is second among Big Sky freshman, averaging 14.3 points. JuCo transfer Marquise Poole led the Bengals attack with 13 points and 8 assists.

The second battle ended in Bengal glory, a 56-55 win over Montana State (7-10, 1-3) on Saturday. Bengal forward Rashad Kirkland scored a layup with 3.1 seconds remaining to give Idaho State their first conference victory. Kirkland finished with a game-high 17 points and eight boards. He leads the conference with 8.5 rebounds per game. The Bengals will travel to Sacramento State (7-9, 1-2) on Thursday and Northern Arizona (9-7, 0-3) on Saturday. Idaho State is 7-3 over its last ten games.

Weber sweeps Montana schools

Weber State (12-5, 2-0) also hosted Montana and Montana State this weekend, and while their games weren’t as thrilling, the Wildcats were happy to come away with two home victories. Weber opened with a 78-70 win over Montana State. All five of Weber’s starting five scored over 10 points, but the wildcats received zero bench points. Every starter played 30-plus minutes, while no bench player played over 12. Small forward Nic Sparrow led the Wildcats with game highs in points (23) and rebounds (6). The conference’s leading scorer, Jermaine Boyette (20.7), scored 12 with 6 assists. Ohio State transfer Slobodan Ocokoljic scored 17 points with 3 steals.

On Saturday, Weber spanked Montana, 97-73, in a game where the Wildcat starting five combined for 75 points. Boyette and John Hamilton led the charge with 18 apiece. Montana’s Bell finished with 21 points.

Weber’s starting five is by far the best in the conference, but bench players such as Pat Danley and Stevie Morrison will need to step up when the Wildcats face some of the conference’s deeper teams. The Wildcats currently lead the Big Sky in scoring offense, averaging 74 points.

Gazing the Sky

Eastern Washington (12-6, 4-0) remained unbeaten in conference play this week with wins over Northern Arizona, 76-53, and Sacramento State, 75-41. Forward Chris Hester scored 22 points and grabbed 9 boards in the win over Northern Arizona, while guard Brandon Merritt scored 17 against Sac State.

Portland State (4-13, 2-2) continued its improved play with a 73-60 win over Northern Arizona on Saturday. Seth Scott led Portland State with 21 points and 10 rebounds. Jeb Ivey played 40 minutes as usual, and scored 22 points for PSU. Portland State is undefeated in two Big Sky home games. Portland State currently leads the conference in scoring defense, yielding only 63.6 points.

Player of the Week

Portland State forward Seth Scott scored 21 points and grabbed 10 rebounds in the Vikings win over Northern Arizona.

Game of the Week

Sacramento State will host Weber State on Saturday. The Hornets have been an up-and-down team so far in conference, knocking off Northern Arizona on the road, and falling to Portland State by 13 points and Eastern Washington by 34. The Hornets have yet to play a conference game at home, where they are 3-2 this season. Weber State is coming off two home wins against the Montana schools. Prediction: Weber State 73, Sac State 71.


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