Western men earn road split

Montana Western’s men’s basketball team left Dillon on Thursday with the hopes of returning with two conference victories to guarantee at least a share of second place in the Frontier Conference standings. Instead they will come back with an all too familiar road-split.

The Bulldogs snapped a two-game skid at Montana State University — Northern where they won for the first time since 2013, but their losing streak in Great Falls will remain until next year, they have not won at UGF since 2012.

Even more surprising is that Montana Western has not emerged victorious in both Great Falls and Havre in the same season in more than a decade, it is a trip that Head Coach Steve Keller has never swept.

On Friday night the Bulldogs took the floor against UGF to attempt to get the trip started on the right note, instead the game ended on a Darren Lockett buzzer-beating layup that concluded a double-digit comeback and earned a 70-69 victory for the Argonauts. (Box Score)

The Bulldogs led by as many as 11 points in the second half before UGF began to chip away at the lead, the Argos largest lead was just two points at the 17:27 mark of the first half.

With the game seemingly in hand, Montana Western struggled to close the game out from the charity stripe, where they finished 5 out of 10 over the final five minutes.

For the game, Western ended 18-29 (62 percent) from the free-throw line.

Offensively, the ‘Dawgs were led by senior Connor Woodill who finished with a game-high 17 points after knocking down five three-pointers. Demitrius Balark (14), Dexter Williams, Jr. (13) and Shyke Smalls (12) all scored in double-figures to pace Montana Western.

Balark stuffed the stat-sheet in his 36 minutes of action as he added six rebounds, six assists and four steals to his 14-point performance.

Quinn Smith brought down a team-high seven rebounds to go with four points and Woodill came away with five rebounds and two steals.

Williams, Jr. finished with a game-high five steals and three rebounds.

Despite high rebounding numbers, UGF owned the glass as they came away with a 43 to 34 rebounding margin, including 16 offensive rebounds.

Lockett, the hero of the night ended the game with six points, seven rebounds, five assists and one steal.

Issac Howard (14), Gerald Watkins (11) and Sigman Farmer III (10) all finished in double-figures for the Argos.

The loss dropped Montana Western to 12-8 overall and 5-3 in Frontier Conference play.

The second night of the road trip proved to be far less exciting than the night before as the Bulldogs led from start-to-finish against MSU-Northern and came away with a 73-65 victory. (Box Score)

The ‘Dawgs led a majority of the second half by double-digits and stretched their lead to as many as 18 points following a Shyke Smalls lay-up with 16:09 remaining in the game.

A last-ditch effort and a barrage of three-pointers in the final minute was not enough to erase the hole the Lights had buried themselves in.

Demitrius Balark led the way with a season-high, team-high and game-high 24 points for the Bulldogs. Balark was extremely efficient as he finished 6 out of 8 from the floor, but converted on 12 of 14 free-throw attempts to reach his highest output as a Bulldog.

Balark also finished with a team-high four assists and four steals as he play all 40 minutes in the game.

Quinn Smith (14) and Shyke Smalls (13) also finished with double-digit scoring outputs to pace the Montana Western offensive attack.

Connor Woodill finished with seven points and a team-high six rebounds. He was followed by Williams, Jr. who grabbed five boards. Williams, Jr. finished with a season-low six points and failed to reach double-figures for just the third time this season.

Northern’s Justin Dunsmore finished with a team-high 14 points after connecting on four three-pointers.

As a team, the Lights made 11 of 32 three-point attempts in the game. The second time in as many matchups against the Bulldogs they finished with double-digit makes from behind the arc, both resulted in losses.

The win moves Montana Western to 13-8 overall and 6-3 in Frontier. They sit just one game back of Carroll College (7-2) who fell to Frontier Conference front-runner Lewis-Clark state (7-1) on Saturday night.

The Bulldogs will return home to face Montana Tech and LC-State on Jan. 28 & 30, with tip-off scheduled for 7:30 p.m. both nights.

— Montana Western Sports Information

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