Montana Grizzlies feel good at the start of the season

MISSOULA – With the Grizzly football team currently wrapping up its season, Montana’s men’s and women’s basketball programs have recently started their campaigns and are set to get into the thick of their lives with the Big Sky conference. which will begin later this week.

Griz’s men are 4-3 to start the season and recently finished the Zootown Classic holiday tournament where they won two games.

The team lost to Oregon on Monday night and also suffered a narrow loss to North Dakota earlier in the year, but recent wins over NCAA Division I mid-majors Southern Miss, UC San Diego and Omaha were the first highlights.

“We are trying to find our identity,” said junior forward Derrick Carter-Hollinger. “I feel like this is something (head coach Travis DeCuire) that has been talked about a lot especially since last year. Last year we were young, we had a lot of new guys, so it was tough for us but this year i feel like that the same core as we freeze up and find out we play hard defense, we share the ball, that’s what we do. we try to figure out how to play the Montana way right now. “

With the core group of players returning from last year’s Big Sky tournament semi-finals, the Grizzlies also integrate in Idaho, transfer forward Scott Blakney, a senior, and college transfer. junior Lonnell Martin Jr, a junior, who was an early spark plug and showed his ability to be an in-depth threat to Montana, including a 20-point outing against Southern Miss. Martin also shoots at 36.4% depth while Robby Beasley III shoots at a rate of 34.2%. Josh Bannan has also demonstrated his abilities with a 9-for-17 mark in depth this season.

“I just come in and feel it honestly,” Martin said of his acclimatization to the team. “Just let the guys accept me and feel it and let them know that’s what I do and that’s what they do.”

These two join seniors Mack Anderson and Cameron Parker, juniors Kyle Owens, Josh Vazquez and Carter-Hollinger and sophomores Bannan, Beasley and Brandon Whitney as the main rotational players so far this year. Junior Freddy Brown III also enjoyed a career-high 14 minutes against Oregon after Whitney did not play.

Beasley, Bannan, Martin, Anderson and Whitney have started the squad this year, Parker starting in place of Whitney against Oregon.

It’s a deep rotation for UM this year for a DeCuire coach who normally doesn’t go too far in his bench and typically only plays seven or eight players with heavy minutes.

“I think there are 10 guys who are good enough to play basketball so it’s really hard not to have everyone rotating, but I think one of the things to play well you have to be. sort of know when you’re going to be there and that’s important to me, but we feel good about our current situation, ”explained DeCuire. “The rotations can change. It’s early. There’s a lot of basketball to be played. Some guys can play each other in rotations, some guys can play each other.”

Bannan leads UM with 12.7 points and 8.0 rebounds per game while Whitney is averaging 10.8 points per game. Parker leads the team in assists with 4.9 per game. Anderson leads the team in blocks with nine while Bannan leads the team in interceptions with 11.

DeCuire enters Season 8 as Montana’s head coach, and the Grizzlies enter again with high hopes thanks to their comebacks. The Grizzlies were selected to finish fourth in the media and coaching poll ahead of the season.

Last year Montana started to gel towards the end of the season with their young players, and they’re hoping that the experience and the added faces will help them boost them up again in March. The Grizzlies will carry that ideal forward when they begin conference play in Sacramento State and northern Colorado on Thursday and Saturday.

“It’s been awesome,” Anderson said. “I think everyone’s really convinced right now and I mean that’s the most important thing when you get a bunch of guys who can all contribute at different times. I mean someone will have a different night every night, so it’s pretty special and I hope we can keep doing that. “

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