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November 26, 2013 at 12:22 PM

Scouting report: Montana

kareem jamar

Returning Big Sky player of the year Kareem Jamar is back for Montana. (Nelson Chenault – USA TODAY Sports)

Scouting report: Montana
Game info: 6 p.m. Tuesday at Alaska Airlines Arena (10,000 capacity).

TV: Pac-12 Networks (Rich Waltz and Ernie Kent).
Radio: 950-AM KJR (Bob Rondeau and Jason Hamilton).

Record: 1-2.
2012-13 record: 25-7 overall, 19-1 (first in Big Sky).

Stats/schedule: Click here.

Game notes: Montana and Washington.

Coach: Wayne Tinkle has a 141-76 record in his eighth with the Grizzlies. He ranks third on the school’s all-time career wins list.  Tinkle has taken the Griz to the NCAA Tournament three times. He served as an assistant five years at Montana before taking over in 2006. Tinkle, 48, was a standout forward for the Griz from 1985-89 and a three-time All-Big Sky pick. He’s ranked fourth in UM history in career rebounds with 836 and sixth in career points with 1,500. Tinkle had a 12-year professional playing career in the CBA and overseas.

Prediction: The Grizzlies were picked to finish second in the 11-team Big Sky preseason media poll and third in the coaches poll.

Series: Washington leads 42-9, which includes a three-game winning streak. Before the Huskies’ latest run of victories, Montana won three in a row.

Last meeting: No. 14 Washington overcame a 12-point, second half deficit to pull out a 63-59 win on Nov. 29, 2009 at Alaska Airlines Arena. The Huskies needed a last-second block from Venoy Overton to seal the victory. He was benched at the start being 30 minutes late to a morning shootaround, but he came off the bench and had 10 points and four assists. Overton made a block on a potential game-tying three-pointer with six seconds left. He also sank a clinching free throw with 4.1 seconds remaining. The Huskies struggled with Montana’s 2-3 zone and shot 30.8 percent (20 of 65) from the field. Isaiah Thomas led UW with 13 points.

Previous game: Montana lost 75-74 at home to San Francisco. The Grizzlies were dominated inside while surrendering 30 points in the paint.

PLAYERS TO WATCH:

— For the Grizzlies, it starts and ends with senior Kareem Jamar. He was the Big Sky regular-season and post-season MVP last season. He was fourth in the league in assists (4.0 pg), eighth in the league in scoring (14.2 ppg) and field goal percentage (49.4%), and 11th (tie, 5.0 rpg). He was named an honorable mention All-American by the Associated Press.

As a sophomore, Jamar was a first-team all-conference selection.

This season, the 6-5, 210-pound guard/forward is averaging 22.0 points, 8.0 rebounds and 6.0 assist, which are all tops on the team. He had 25 points in last Friday’s loss to San Francisco and 23 on Nov. 14 in a win over South Dakota State.

Jamar ranks 15th on Montana’s all-time scoring list with 1,174 points.  Here’s a link to video highlights from a 24-point performance last season.

— Junior guard Keron Deshields is Montana’s only other Montana double-digit scorer, 10.7 points per game.

OVERVIEW:

— Two-time Big Sky champion Montana is coming off back-to-back 25-7 regular-season records and consecutive trips to the NCAA tournament. The Grizzlies have mauled Big Sky competition posting a 34-2 record in conference games the past two years, including 19-1 last season.

— The Grizzlies lost two key starters from last season’s team to graduation – forward Mathias Ward and point guard Will Cherry. The duo combined for 28.1 points a game and Cherry finished his career as the school’s all-time leader in steals.

— Montana returns three starters and eight lettermen. In addition to Jamar, the other returning starters are 6-9 senior center Eric Hutchison (27 starts) and 6-2 junior guard Jordan Gregory (21 starts).

— Rebounding is a major problem for Montana. The Grizzlies average 27.7 boards, which ranks 347th out of 351 Division 1 teams. They’re allowing opponents 38.7 rebounds per game.

— Former Washington forward Martin Breunig transferred to Montana in May. He’s redshirtting this season and will have two years of eligibility. Breunig played in 21 games and averaged 1.7 points as a freshman. Last season, he appeared in nine games and scored just one point.

— The Griz are on a two-game road trip that includes Friday’s game at Hawaii.

— Montana started the season with an 84-58 loss at Minnesota. Highlights (below).

STARTING LINEUP:

C – Eric Hutchison, 6-9, 243, Sr., 3V, 4.3 ppg., 1.7 rpg., 60.0 FG%
F – Mike Weisner, 6-7, 193, Jr., 2V, 6.7, 3.7, 40.0 3PT%
G – Kareem Jamar, 6-5, 207, Sr., 2V, 22.0, 8.0, 6.0 apg.
G – Jordan Gregory, 6-2, 194, Jr., 2V, 6.7, 3.0, 1.3
G – Keron DeShields, 6-2, 177, Jr., 2V, 10.7, 3.0, 3.3

KEY MATCHUP:

— Montana’s offense and defense doesn’t work without Jamar, who leads the Grizzlies in scoring, rebounding and assists. If the Huskies can stop him or slow him down, then Montana will be hard pressed to score enough points to pull off an upset. C.J. Wilcox may not get the start on Jamar, but if the UM guard gets hot then expect to see Wilcox shadow Jamar everywhere he goes. The other interesting matchup is inside. At 275-pounds, Perris Blackwell should have a size advantage against Hutchison who isn’t much of a rim protector. He doesn’t have a block this season.

COACH WAYNE TINKLE QUOTES:

(On road trip) “It’s a very tough road trip. We feel both of these teams may even be better than the two teams (Minnesota and South Dakota State) that we played on the road a week-and-a-half ago. We’ve got our hands full. The big thing is that we’ve got to get better defensively and on the glass (the Griz are getting out-rebounded 38.7 to 27.7 in their first three games). The offense is going tocome. We’re taking better care of the ball, and we’re scoring the ball and shooting at a (UM is 50.0% from the floor) decent percentage. But, we really have to defend and rebound.”

(ON UW) “Washington is very athletic. They’ve got some shooters and slashers, so if we don’t get back in transition and play good ‘D’ it’s going to be a long night. Our guys know that. They’ve been watching film and know what they are going up against. We’ve got to get more physical and get on the glass, and there’s just no way around that. It’s a good challenge for our guys, and that’s what we like in the preseason. We don’t necessarily want to build up a bunch of wins in the preseason, we just want to get better, and hopefully win along the way.”

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