Joel Barndt and Jeremy Nicolas each scored 18 points to lead the way as Rocky Mountain College handed Montana Tech’s men’s basketball team a crushing defeat, 65-55, Thursday night at the HPER Complex.
The loss is a huge blow to Montana Tech’s playoff hopes.
The Orediggers (5-8 in conference, 14-13overall) fell two games behind the Bears (7-6, 16-11) in the race for the sixth and final playoff spot with three games remaining. The Bears swept the season series, so Tech has to finish ahead of the Bears to make the postseason.
Adam Greger scored 15 points to lead the Orediggers. Daniel Simon scored 14, while Roman Pruneda-Garza tossed in 10.
Montana Tech took a 31-29 lead late in the first half when Pruneda-Garza sank a pair of free throws.
It was the last lead the Orediggers would enjoy, however. Matt Strickland sank a 3-pointer to send the Bears into halftime with a 32-32 lead.
Rocky took control early in the second half.
The Bears led by as many as 10 points a couple times in the second half. The Orediggers, though, made things interesting with 7-2 run late in the game. Brandon Rydberg started the run with a bucket. Greger finished it with a turn-around jumper to cut the lead to 56-51 with 3 minutes, 15 seconds left.
Barndt killed the momentum by driving for a bucket and a foul. He missed the 3-point opportunity, but Jeremy connected on his a moment later, basically putting the game away.
Malachi Roberts added 15 points for Rocky. Strickland scored nine.
Rydberg and Travis Peevey scored five for the Orediggers. Bryan Bock, Quinn Smith and Paul Engstrom each scored two.
The Orediggers play Dickinson State at 7:30 p.m. Friday at the HPER. Tech then closes the regular season on the road at Montana Western and Westminster College next week.
The Orediggers need to win out and get some serious help to make the playoffs.