Western men drop season opener to Lethbridge

DILLON — The University of Montana Western men’s basketball team fell to the visiting University of Lethbridge Pronghorns in its 2015-16 season opener, 89-82. Stats

In a back-and-forth first half battle that neither team was able to take control of, Lethbridge took a 46-45 lead into intermission behind their fast-paced play and unforced Bulldog turnovers and mistakes.

The Pronghorns were able to put a stranglehold on the contest as they started the second half on an 8-0 run. On multiple occasions Lethbridge was able to stretch their lead to 14-points, only to see Montana Western answer with some clutch long-range bombs from Kurtis Parsons and aggressive drives to the basket from Shyke Smalls and Dexter Williams, Jr.

Despite their offensive efforts, the Bulldogs were unable to slow down the Pronghorns who countered every counter-punch the home team had to offer. Lethbridge shot 46% from the field compared to just 36 percent for Montana Western.

The major difference in a game that had each team with very similar statistics was the numbers from the free-throw line. Montana Western shot 68% from the charity stripe on 35 attempts, compared to 82 percent for the Pronghorns on 29 attempts.

Montana Western had a difficult time slowing down Pronghorn big man Chris Maughan who finished 10-13 from the field and scored 22 points, grabbed 13 rebounds and blocked five shots in route to a victory. Rob Olsen added 20 points, Will Hickey and Dejon Burdeaux pitched in 17 and 14 points respectively to round out four players to reach double figures.

The Bulldogs were led offensively by All-American Dexter Williams, Jr. who pumped in 20 points on 7-13 shooting from the field, Williams, Jr. added 10 rebounds, although he finished the game with six turnovers. Kurtis Parsons added 16 points and four three-pointers, Shyke Smalls and Connor Woodill added 12 and 10 points respectively for Montana Western. Parsons also grabbed seven rebounds and Smalls added five.

Transfer Demitrius Balark led the way by handing out 10 assists in his first appearance as a Bulldog.

Montana Western will return to action on Saturday at 8 p.m. as they play host to Northwest Indian College.

— Montana Western Sports Information