Balanced Tech men roll to another lopsided win

By Bruce Sayler

All of the players contributing might be making new head coach Adam Hiatt’s first order of business a little more difficult than expected in the Montana Tech men’s basketball program.

Hiatt kept up with line changes all game long Monday night as he tried to further assess the talent on the Oredigger roster in competitive conditions. The Orediggers were scary good on Halloween — winning by 106-67 over the Northwest Indian College. Montana Tech beat the same team 99-66 Sunday on the same Kelvin Sampson Court in the Montana Tech HPER Complex. Stats

“I thought we played better,” Hiatt said. “Last night, even though we won by a wide margin, I didn’t think our sense of urgency was there.

“Our film session was about how soft we were and about our lack of pressure.”

The Eagles presented challenges likely different from what Montana Tech will be facing as the season proceeds. The team from Bellingham, Washington, ran little in the way of sets, bringing more of a playground style to the court. It was rough with some tumble, and the pace was breakneck fast. Shots launched at any time.

The Orediggers received offense from about everywhere around, but mostly Chris O’Neill and John Chapman in the first half as they combined for 25 of the team’s 54 points in a 54-25 bulge by intermission.

“I thought we were more active tonight from the get-go,” Hiatt said. “Young teams, like ours, won’t communicate like we need. They communicate in practice when the coach is standing in front of their face telling them to, but not always on the court in the game.”

It was better on Monday, it seemed, said the coach.

The Orediggers made sure the game was out of reach of Northwest Indian College in the first five minutes of the second half. Jaloni Peppers of NWIC canned na 3-point shot just after halftime ended. Montana Tech then rattled off the next 18 points with Lukas Vining netting six of them.

The score was 68-41 and the Orediggers cruised the rest of the way — with little or no letup despite mass substitutions. Dylan Pannabecker scored the 100th point on a 3-pointer that took Montana Tech to a 102-63 cushion with 3 minutes left on the clock.

“”I’m still trying to find a rotation,” Hiatt said. “We are looking for guys we can trust (to do the right things in situations), guys who play under control and who does it consistently. Some guys do it in practice, but not in a game, and some play consistent in a game, but not in practice.

“We’re also trying to build depth. Plus, our young guys need court time.”

The balance of the Orediggers on Monday was such that six  players scored in double figures, led by Pannabecker with 18 points, followed by Chapman with 17, O’Neill with 16, Sadiq Inuwa with 14, and Flemming Okeke and Vining with 10 apiece. Okeke finished also pulled down 14 rebounds to finish with a double-double. Jordan Jones hauled down 13 rebounds as Montana Tech enjoyed a 53-21 advantage on the boards.

Hiatt said Inuwa and O’Neill have played their ways to the top so far in the competition for time.

“Sadiq is battling all sorts of injuries and he’s been great,” Hiatt said. “He’s strong, you can drive into him and he doesn’t move. Chris is a great guy his countenance when he’s on the court.

“We have a very good point guard (O’Neill) and a great guy (Inuwa) underneath. And we have some really good guys in secondary positions. Sadiq and Chris are difference makers.”

Peppers scored 26 to lead Northwest Indian College while taking game-scoring honors. Sonny Sylvester had 12, and Christian Nickerson 11. Peppers also snared five rebounds.

The win put the Orediggers at 3-0 for the season. Their next game is scheduled for Friday at Montana State-Billings.