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Big Sky Notebook

March 5, 2003 Conference Notes No Comments



Big Sky Notebook

by Nicholas Lozito

Lambeth leads Hornets to tourney

The fans were going nuts. Head coach Jerome Jenkins was crying. And a hero was made.

This was the scene after Sacramento State knocked of Montana State, 72-52, in a battle for the No. 6-and-final seed into the Big Sky Tournament.

Jenkins, in his this third year as head coach, looked as if three tons of weight had been lifted off his shoulders after the win. He embraced his wife and two kids, let out a few tears during a radio interview, and headed to the locker room.

After the game, Jenkins had nothing but praise for his senior forward Derek Lambeth, who, in his last game at Hornet Gym, scored 25 points – 23 in the second half. Lambeth single-handedly clawed the Hornets back from a five-point halftime deficit. He left the court to a standing ovation from the Hornet crowd with seventeen seconds remaining.

Following Lambeth’s exit, Jenkins put the ball in senior forward Leo Cravey’s hands for the last shot. After coming out of Sierra Community College, Cravey showed promise throughout his junior season. But his struggles in the classroom forced him to sit out the first half of the season, and when he came back his playing time was eaten up by junior Emir Medunjanin.

But for one possession, Cravey was given his chance to shine. He took the ball at the top of the circle, and his four teammates cleared out the lane. It was one-on-one – just like every kids dreams.

The senior dribbled the ball to his left hand, faked back to the right and took off. His drive to the basket was cut off at the free-throw line, where he planted, jumped and released. The shot sailed wide, but a foul was called, sending Cravey to the charity stripe. The senior was 0-for-2 from the line so far in the game. His first shot bounced off the rim. The crowd let out a sigh. Second free throw…

Swish!

Cravey exits the game. Final line: Four minutes, zero rebounds, zero assists and one point.

Tournament breakdown

The seeds:

1. Weber State (24-5, 14-0)
2. Eastern Washington (17-9, 9-5)
3. Montana (13-16, 7-7)
4. Idaho State (14-13, 7-7)
5. Northern Arizona (15-12, 6-8)
6. Sacramento State (11-16, 5-9)
Non-qualifiers:
Montana State (11-16, 5-9)
Portland State (5-22, 3-11)

First Round match-ups:

Montana vs. Sacramento State

Sacramento State will take on Montana on Saturday at 6:35 p.m Pacific Standard Time in Missoula, Mont. The game will be won on the perimeter. Sacramento State will have to shoot the lights out, relying heavily on 3-point specialist Brandon Guyton, in order to beat Montana’s zone defense. The Hornets will also need another gutsy performance out of their four seniors – Lambeth, Cravey, Raashad Hooks and Jimmy White – who combined for 49 points against Montana State on Saturday.

Montana relies on the shooting of their two guards, David Bell and Kevin Criswell. The two scored 47 points against the Hornets last Thursday, when Montana defeated the Hornets, 77-71, in Hornet Gym. Kriswell lit up the Hornets for 19 first-half points, while Bell provided the final push. Montana beat the Hornets 66-59 when the two teams met in Missoula.

Prediction: Sac State 76, Montana 74 (Can’t beat a team three times. Besides, I can’t go against my own school in the playoffs.)

Idaho State vs. Northern Arizona

Northern Arizona will travel to Pocatello, Idaho to face Idaho State on Saturday at 5:05 p.m. PST. The Lumberjacks favor the half-court game, where they either throw it down to their dominant big man, Ryan McDade, or let their wing players heave up threes. The Lumberjacks’ key to success is McDade, who scored 31 in NAU’s win over Idaho State, but only fourteen in their loss.

Idaho State relies on an offensive attack which thrives when their athletic players run the floor. Point guard Marquis Poole in the team’s glue, as his penetration produces open looks for 3-point specialist David Schroyer.

Prediction: Idaho State 74, Northern Arizona 69

Tournament notes

Weber State and Eastern Washington both get byes into the semi-final round. Weber will host the semi-final and final rounds of the tournament, making them the obvious favorites. Weber will also host the lowest remaining seed in the semi-final round…

The Wildcats are only the second team in Big Sky history to go undefeated in conference play, with a 14-0 record…

Sacramento State is playing in their first-ever Big Sky Tourney since joining the conference in 1996-97…

Eastern Washington has lost in the Big Sky Championship Game the last two seasons. This year’s championship game will be televised on ESPN2…

The media picked Montana State to finish third in their preseason polls. Those idiots . . .

Nick’s Picks

At the beginning of the season, I gave my picks for how the conference would shape up. Let’s see how I did.

My Picks: (actual finish in parentheses)
1. Montana (3)
2. Eastern Washington (2)
3. Weber State (1)
4. Montana State (7)
5. Sac State (6)
6. Portland State (8)
7. Northern Arizona (5)
8. Idaho State (4)

Well, I am ashamed.

Player of the Week

Montana senior shooting guard David Bell averaged 25.5 points as the Grizzlies went 1-1 this weekend.

     

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