Sharp elbows and pointy hips held about as much importance in the Montana Tech men’s basketball game with Willamette Friday night as did shooting touches.
The Orediggers prevailed in their home Montana Tech HPER Complex, posting a 78-62 non-conference win over the Bearcats from Salem, Ore. It was a good rebound from Wednesday’s 90-75 loss to Whitworth.
“It was great. We needed to bounce back and we did,” Oredigger head coach Aaron Woliczko said. “They still shot 28 threes against us and I don’t know how many we contested. Somewhere there’s a breakdown.”
The allowance of opponents to launch 3-point shots has the coach concerned early in the season. He said the team certainly needs to learn to guard against the trey.
Willamette made good on just eight of the 28 long-range attempts.
The game was a physical one with drivers continually knocked off stride, inside shooters whacked and the key little more than a collision zone. Montana Tech was up to the task.
The rough play resulted in 46 fouls being called and 56 free throws tried. The Orediggers benefited. They shot 35 times from the foul line and netted 21 of the attempts, a 60 percent rate that begs, too, for improvement.
Adam Greger again led the way for Montana Tech with 26 points and 12 rebounds. Travis Peevey finished with 11 points. The top scorer in the game was Terrell Malley of Willamette with 28 points.
“We did a pretty good job of making them shoot over the top of us,” Woliczko said while pointing to shot-blocks on the perimeter by Bryan Bock. “But Malley got hot and looked like an All-American against us.”
The Oredigger offense stuttered a little bit and Woliczko said it was a transition matter.
“We have to get into our set play from motion,” he said. “It should be seamless. We have to go around guys and make plays when teams pick us up at half court.”
Montana Tech led almost the entire game, grabbing the lead for good at 4-3 on a pair of Greger free throws. The Orediggers stretched the lead out a little, but had only a two-point edge, 30-28, after two Malley made foul shots with 6 minutes, 15 seconds left in the first half. Montana Tech then closed the half with a 9-3 run for a 39-31 halftime advantage.
“We’ve struggled to finish early-on,” Woliczko said. “We’ve had some lack of aggressiveness by some individuals around the basket, on shots and in rebounds.”
The Orediggers held a 64-57 lead with 6:45 to go in the game before going on a 12-0 spree to lock up the win and bring the reserves into the game. Quinn Smith scored four of the Montana Tech points in the pull-away.
The rougher play of the Bearcats did not seem to distract Montana Tech too much.
“Teams are physical with us because we are physical with them,” Woliczko said. “Tonight, we were very under control and that was one of the things I was most happy about with our players. When they got hit, they left it up to me to talk to the officials and not get emotional about it.”
The win put the Orediggers at 6-3 for the season. They will next play on Thursday, in Bozeman against Montana State of the NCAA Division I Big Sky Conference.
Woliczko confirmed Friday night that Ryan McCarty, a red shirt freshman from Harrison, has left the Montana Tech team and said the player is hoping to continue his education and playing career elsewhere.
The following photos were taken by Bret Graden. To buy high-quality copies of these photos or others like them, go to gradenphotography.com.