Grizzlies, Eagles engage in Big Sky title bout

Mar 14, 2015 - 3:07 PM Missoula, MT ( - The top-seeded Montana Grizzlies take aim at an unprecedented 10th Big Sky Conference Tournament title on Saturday when they host second-seeded Eastern Washington in the championship game at Dahlberg Arena.

Montana was actually the co-league champion along with Eastern Washington, which was also 14-4 in league play. But, because UM and EWU split their season series, the tiebreaker for the No. 1 seed and host status of the tournament was won by Montana by virtue of a better collective record against the two teams who tied for third.

But, despite playing in its home arena, Montana has had its hands full in this tournament. It survived in overtime against Weber State in the quarterfinals (76-73), then pulled out a thriller versus Northern Arizona in Friday's semifinal tilt.

Jordan Gregory scored on a layup with one second left in regulation to lift the Grizzlies past fourth-seeded Northern Arizona, 61-59. Gregory finished with a team-high 21 points for Montana, which is back in the championship game for the fifth time in the last six seasons.

Martin Breunig added 10 points with eight rebounds, and Riley Bradshaw chipped in with 10 of his own in the win.

Montana has now won eight straight Big Sky tournament games in Dahlberg Arena, and has been victorious in nine of its last 10 tourney contests.

Eastern Washington, meanwhile, has had an easier time of it so far in this tourney. After getting by Idaho in the quarters, 91-83, Felix Von Hofe came off the bench to score 23 points with seven rebounds in Friday's semifinal win over Sacramento State, as the Eagles outlasted the third-seeded Hornets, 91-83.

Venky Jois chipped in with 19 points and six boards for Eastern Washington, which is back in the championship for the first time since its only other appearance back in 2004 when it won it all.

This is the sixth time Eastern Washington has reached the title game.

These teams did split their two matchups this season, but Eastern Washington won the contest in Montana. In fact, it was a Big Sky best 10-6 on the road this season.

The Grizzlies, of course, are paced by All-Big Sky Conference first-teamers Gregory and Breunig.

Gregory is ranked fourth in the Big Sky in scoring at 17.0 points a game Breunig leads the Griz with 28 double-figure scoring games this season and is sixth in the conference at 16.6 ppg. He is also sixth in the league with 7.1 rebounds per game.

Montana leads the Big Sky with a scoring defense of 66.7 ppg and is third in turnover margin at +1.58. That stellar defense should be put to the test on Saturday against an Eastern Washington team that is not only tops in the Big Sky, but fourth overall in the nation at 81.8 ppg.

Eastern Washington's Tyler Harvey, who scored a tournament-record 42 versus Idaho on Thursday, leads all D-1 scorers at 23.6 points per game, as well as 3-pointers per game (4.14). However, he saw his streak of 40-straight games scoring in double figures come to an end on Friday, as he was held to just nine points.

Even without any heroics from Harvey, four Eagles scored in double figures against Sacramento State, as Eastern connected on 58.2 percent of its shots, its best showing versus a D-1 opponent this season. Five Eagles combined for a EWU's 15 3-pointers, just one away from the tournament record of 16.

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