By Bruce Sayler
Montana Tech head coach Adam Hiatt said he expects to see a different Concordia-Edmonton team on Thursday and that he’s concerned about it.
The Thunder caused plenty of early worry for Hiatt and Montana Tech Wednesday night at the HPER Complex before the Orediggers surged ahead for good. The final gap was 98-63, but Montana Tech needed a little time before looking comfortable in the non-conference college men’s basketball game.
“I wanted us to play a team that would push us back, physically,” Hiatt said. “And, (the Thunder) did that. We needed that test. Now, I’m concerned about (Thursday’s) game because I think we’ll see a different team from what we saw tonight.”
The afternoon rematch is scheduled for a 4 p.m. tip-off in the Montana Tech HPER Complex.
Concordia-Edmonton showed some early dominance while building a 20-13 lead. The Thunder held advantages on both the inside and outside games from the time Brett Jakubec stuck back a rebound for an inside basket and then Ryan McLaren gunned in a 3-pointer. The combination gave the Alberta team a 13-9 edge.
The Indianapolis Bacons — 6-foot-8 Ronald Jr. and 6-3 Darrelle — combined on an 11-4 run against Montana Tech, and Hiatt wasn’t about to let the game get away. The Thunder had come in hot as winners of their last five contests.
“They had 20 points and there was a media timeout,” the Montana Tech coach said. “We got fired up and had that run.”
“That run” was a 35-3 explosion that saw the Orediggers blow open a 48-23 crater. Two free throws by TrayVon Lackey and one by McLaren were all that kept the 9 ½-minute Montana Tech scorch from being a complete whitewash.
Chris O’Neill started it with a pullup jumper followed by a drive to the hoop for two. The lion’s share of the run was a 21-0 spree that included two 3-point baskets by John Chapman, one by Jake Miles and a steal-and-stuff by Derrius Collins as highlights.
The Orediggers sank six of seven free throws in the surge and wreaked turnover havoc on defense to set up high-percentage attempts.
By halftime, the score was 55-34 with Montana Tech well in control. The Orediggers shot 63 percent from the field in the first half, including going 6-for-11 from 3-point range.
“Obviously, it helps when you make shots,” Hiatt simplified about the huge run. “And, when you make shots, you energize the defense. The turnovers helped us with easy baskets and upped our tempo.”
The Orediggers only had to maintain the advantages the rest of the way and did do a good job of taking care of the sizeable lead. A 12-1 run firmed their grip and widened the margin to 96-59 with a minute and a half left in the game.
The Thunder couldn’t roll to another win.
“The start is always a concern for us game to game,” Hiatt said, speaking to the slow beginnings this season’s version of Montana Tech men’s basketball seems to wade through. “And, we wanted to win the free throws tonight. Free throw margin has been a struggle for us this year. Fortunately, we made a lot of those free throws tonight.”
The Orediggers were 21-for-24 from the foul line, and wound up shooting 52 percent from the floor. They were 42-percent successful on 3-pointers, due largely, Hiatt said, to having several shooters who have been quite capable from beyond the arc.
The coach described the offensive needs or intent to be able to score from the perimeter, but also have the bigger board-men cleaning up misses for second chances, and slowing opposing rebounders underneath.
“We have to be able to make our perimeter shots, and get consistent production from the big guys underneath,” he said. “Defensively, we played with our hands well. Despite our lack of physical length, we did pretty well in the passing lanes.”
Miles finished with 20 points to lead Montana Tech, which also got 19 from Chapman and 15 from O’Neill. Ten Orediggers played seven minutes or more, lending depth to the effort. Carson Dummer led on the boards with eight rebounds, and O’Neill dished four assists. Collins came up with four steals as Montana Tech forced Concordia-Edmonton into 26 turnovers. The Orediggers committed 10. The win put Montana Tech’s record at 7-5.
The 8-% Thunder were led by McLaren with 15 points and Ronald Bacon Jr. with 14. They outrebounded the Orediggers 36-29 as Mike Malin, Ronald Bacon Jr. and Chad Oviatt pulled down six apiece.