By Bill Foley
Montana Tech’s men’s basketball team showed off its youth, talent and depth Saturday afternoon.
One thing the Orediggers didn’t demonstrate was a flare for the dramatic. Tech took any suspense out of its season-opening game by scoring the first nine points and cruising to a 96-31 win over Yellowstone Christian College at the HPER Complex. (Stats)
The Orediggers led 16-2 and 25-9 before taking a 45-16 lead into halftime.
“You can see we’ve got a lot of depth,” Oredigger third-year coach Adam Hiatt said. “We can come with waves. We’ve got some good, young players.”
Tech started three new transfers, and the Orediggers played 12 of the 15 members of its roster.
Junior Dylan Pannabecker, one of Techs veterans, scored 18 points to lead five Orediggers in double figures.
Junior Troy Owens Jr. and redshirt freshman Drew Huse each scored 13 points in their first games as Orediggers. Sophomore transfer Nate Ward and senior Carson Dummer each scored 10.
Ward, who also dished out six assists, had the play of the game, dishing a behind-the-back pass to Pannabecker for an easy bucket on the break.
That play highlighted why Hiatt really likes his new point guard, a transfer from Eastern Arizona College.
“We think he’s a special one,” the coach said of Ward. “He’s got a great feel. You can see he plays with tremendous poise on the floor. He usually makes the right play most possessions. His leadership is important for us. If he sets the tone on both ends of the floor, our guys are going to step right in line.”
The Orediggers also got six points from sophomore Taylor England and senior Gavin McPherson, five from redshirt freshman Christian Jones, four from junior Blake Dittman, three from redshirt freshman William Mytty and two from sophomore Derrius Collins.
Dittman, Ward and Owens were the three new additions to the starting lineup that also included Pannabecker and England.
Keck Jones’ scored 11, and Joseph Hooker tossed in 10 to lead the Centurions, a team Hiatt said is much improved from last season.
While Hiatt said his team has lots to work on, he liked the defensive ability the Orediggers showed in Game 1.
“I loved our energy. It was terrific. We were flying up and down,” the coach said. “You can see we’re athletic this year. We’ve got a lot of long guys. We make it really hard for teams to get quality shots.
“You come away from a game like this and you try to focus on what kind of effort your guys are going to play with,” Hiatt said. “If they can play effort from start to finish, you feel pretty good about your chances in a particular season.”
Luke Peynenborg, Tech’s 6-foot-7, 240-pound freshman from Australia, didn’t play. Neither did freshman Connor Kieckbush or redshirt freshman Cody Lyles.
Hiatt said he expects them to be on the floor soon. The coach pointed out that 10 of his 15 players are freshmen, redshirt freshmen or sophomores.
“They’re really talented. They’re really good,” Hiatt said. “We lean heavy on guys like Dylan Pannabecker and Carson Dummer to be consistent for us. If they can do it day to day, it’s going to raise the tide for everybody.”
The Orediggers are on the road next week. They play at Willamette University in Salem, Oregon on Friday. Tech plays an exhibition game at Oregon State next Saturday.
Tech hosts the Montana Tech Tip Off Classic Nov. 1-2.
Hiatt said he hopes Saturday is a sign of good things to come.
“It was a nice starting point for us, and we hope we can build on it,” he said.