By Bill Foley
Montana Tech’s men’s basketball team put together maybe its best offensive performance of the season Saturday night at the HPER Complex.
The Orediggers lit up the scoreboard for 75 points in a Frontier Conference battle with Lewis-Clark State. That’s 17 points more than the offensively-challenged Tech team is averaging in league play.
The Warriors, though, shot lights out and turned back the Orediggers for an 88-75 victory. Stats
“This was the best offensive game that we had in conference season,” Tech coach Adam Hiatt said. “We had not been in the 70s all year long. I think our high in conference coming in was 68.”
Lewis-Clark State sank 10 3-pointers in the first half. They made 14 of 26 long ball on the night.
“They shot really well,” Hiatt said.
The Warriors were particularly hot early, taking a double-digit lead in the blink of an eye.
Kale Guldseth drove for a hoop to put the Orediggers up 2-0. It was the Orediggers’ only lead of the night.
Ty Higbie answered with a 3-pointer to start a 15-0 Warrior run that put Lewis-Clark State up for good.
“That was a tough start,” Hiatt said. “The first couple of shots I will take responsibility for. We had a defensive plan and they exploited it.”
Hiatt pointed to the play of LC guard Zavon Jackson, who dished seven of his nine assists in the first half.
The Orediggers, like they do every game with their relentless effort, battled back.
Tech cut the lead to 35-31 late in the first half when John Chapman sank a 3-pointer. Chapman was one of three Orediggers in double figures scoring with 13 points.
Hiatt said that his team learned a little about offense when studying how to defend the Warriors.
“As we were watching film in preparation against LC State I was using it not only to talk about how we were going to defend,” Hiatt said. “I was also using them as an example as how the ball should move. They move the ball so extremely well.”
Hiatt saw a lot of that good offensive play from his Orediggers.
“The ball was moving,” the coach said. “We made passes we haven’t made all year, and we capitalized. We got more open shots than we have all year.”
Hiatt, though, wasn’t counting on the Warriors, who shot 18 for 18 from the free throw line, to be so hot 24 hours after falling 81-78 in overtime at Carroll College.
“They shot the ball under their standard last night at Carroll, when they had open opportunities,” Hiatt said. “Tonight they capitalized.”
The Chapman 3-poitner was as close as the Orediggers got, and the Warriors extended the lead to 47-37 by halftime.
LC (18-7, 8-5) , which received votes in the latest NAIA poll, came out in the second half with an all-guard lineup, and Hiatt said that through his team off.
“They’re a difficult team to cover with so many weapons,” he said. “They downsized in the second half with five guards on the floor. It made it difficult for us to cover all of them.”
Isaiah Omamogho came off the bench to scored 18 points to lead five Warriors in double figures. Higbie and Doub McDaniel each scored 14, while David Shedrick scored 12 and Anthony Sullen scored 10.
Lukas Vining tossed in 23 points to lead the Orediggers. Dylan Pannabecker scored 14 points.
Tech also got nine from Chris O’Neill, six from Sadiq Inuwa, five from Guldseth, three from Jordan Jones and two from Carson Dummer.
The Orediggers (7-17, 1-12) are back at home for two games next week. Tech hosts the University of Great Falls on Thursday before battling MSU-Northern on Saturday.
Hiatt said he likes the direction his Orediggers are heading as we enter the home stretch of his first season in Butte.
“I will do a better job getting us ready defensively for next week,” Hiatt said. “If we can carry over some of these offensive efficiencies that we were able to achieve tonight, I like our chances next week.”