Monday, March 5, 2012

EWU Eagles @ Montana Grizzlies Big Sky Conference Semifinal Preview

The Eagles will need a complete
team effort to win Tuesday
photo from goeags.com
Tuesday night the Eagles head to Missoula, MT to take on a regular season champion Montana Grizzlies squad featuring two Big Sky Conference first team-ers and two second team-ers as well.  The winner will head on to the Finals of the Big Sky Conference and play for an opportunity to advance to the NCAA Tournament.  

The Eagles are coming off a dominant quarterfinal victory over Idaho State.  During that game the Eagles rode career performances from Jeffrey Forbes (#22) whose 21 pts were the most he’s scored against a D1 opponent since 2009 and Laron Griffin (#15) whose 21 points were his career high and he paired that with 11 rebounds for his 6th career double-double.  The Eagles were able to mix up inside and outside play offensively to defeat a Bengals teal that was mostly content to fire away from intermediate to long range.  That is not Montana’s game.



Keep reading after the break:



The Eagles will need to
play solid defense on Tuesday
photo from goeags.com
In two previous match-ups this season, Montana dominated the paint scoring 60 pts to the Eagles 36.  The Eagles will need their forwards to play big, play strong and stay out of foul trouble.  In the two games the Eagles were held to 38.7% shooting from the field and gave Montana 56 free throw attempts, while only attempting 46 of their own.  The Eagles will need big performances from Cliff Ederaine (#42) who had one of his seasons six double-doubles against Montana on January 26th when he scored 10 pts and added 13 rebounds; Tremayne Johnson (#20) who had one of his two double-doubles this season against Montana on December 30th; and Laron Griffin who is coming off back to back double-doubles and averaged 10.5 pts and 8 rebounds in games against Montana this season.

The Eagles back court will need to penetrate and to get to the free throw line, and if they get open looks from the outside they need to score.  The Eagles haven’t lost this season when shooting at least 44% from the field.  Cliff Colimon (#11) will need to continue the rampage he’s been on to finish the season averaging 22.5 pts, 5.25 assists, 4 rebounds and 1 steal per game for the last four.  Collin Chiverton (#24) will need to regain his mid season form where he averaged 22.4 pts in five games from January 12th to January 26th including a 22 pt, 4 rebound effort against Montana.

For the Grizzlies this game will be about getting Junior Guard Will Cherry (#5) to penetrate and force the issue inside against the Eagles foul prone big men.  Cherry was a unanimous selection to the Big Sky All Conference First Team and led the Grizzlies with 16.1 pts per game.  Joining Cherry on the First Team Sophomore Kareem Jamar (#32) who has scored less than 10 pts in only 3 games all season and has 3 double-doubles on the season.  The Grizzlies will also feature a pair of Senior Forwards who were both selected to the Big Sky All Conference Second Team in Art Steward (#1) who averaged 9.3 pts and 4.6 rebounds and Derek Selvig (#24) who averaged 8.8 pts and 6.2 rebounds per game this season.  Rounding out the Grizzlies front court is Junior Forward Mathias Ward (#40) who averaged 10.4 pts and 3.8 rebounds this season.

This game will likely be determined by the Eagles ability to defend the paint and their ability to hit a good percentage of their long range attempts.  If the Eagles can hit more than 44% of their shots from the field including at least 40% from beyond the arc and if they can slow down Montana’s assault on the paint without getting into foul trouble and giving up unnecessary trips to the free throw line, they should have a shot at advancing to the Conference Finals on Wednesday night.



Let me know what you think in the comments or by email: brian@ewueagleeye.com and be sure to follow me on twitter @EWUEagleEye