Game Preview: UW vs. Montana (Game #5)

UW Montana preview copy
The Huskies (4-0) will play the Montana Grizzlies (4-1) on Sunday night at Hec Edmundson Pavilion at 6:00 PM. /

The game will be broadcast on Fox Sports Northwest and KJR-950 in Seattle, or your local Husky radio affiliate elsewhere (click here to find yours). Tickets are still available through and start at $20 each.

What you need to know about the Huskies:

The Huskies come into the game at a perfect 4-0, having defeated San Jose State, 80-70, in their last game on Friday, November 20. While the final result of the game was rarely in doubt, the Huskies didn’t play their best against the Spartans, who employed a zone defense.

The Huskies are ranked #14 in the nation in both the AP poll and the Coaches’ poll.

Quincy Pondexter has put together a start for the ages, averaging 24 points and 12 rebounds so far.

Freshman Abdul Gaddy is coming off his best game yet (seven assists, four points, zero turnovers), and looks more confident with each passing day. His 3.5/1 assist-to-turnover rate is tops among Huskies averaging 15+ minutes per game.

This will be the 51st meeting between the Huskies and Grizzlies, with UW winning 41 of the first 50 games in the series. They last played last season, with the Huskies winning, 75-53.

Projected lineup: G – Venoy Overton, G – Isaiah Thomas, F – Quincy Pondexter, F – Darnell Gant, F – Matthew Bryan-Amaning

Husky to watch:

Freshman forward, Clarence Trent: After not playing on opening night, Trent played eight minutes in the second game, and 13 in each of the last two. As Coach Romar has said several times, Trent “makes things happen” when he’s in the game. If Clarence continues to make so much impact with every appearance, he’ll move himself up the depth chart, and will need to be considered for a regular rotation spot as the season progresses. He’s averaging four points and almost four rebounds in 11.3 minutes per game.

What you need to know about Montana:

Montana comes into the game at 4-1, most recently picking up an impressive road win over Oregon, 68-55, on Monday night.

The Grizzlies went 17-12 last season overall, and 11-5 in conference play, finishing in a second-place tie in the Big Sky Conference. Montana was picked to finish second in the Big Sky coaches’ poll, and third in the media poll.

Head coach Wayne Tinkle enters his fourth season at Montana and returns four of his top six performers, including his two best players, from last season.

The most dangerous Grizzly is last season’s Big Sky newcomer of the year (and all-conference selection), guard Anthony Johnson. Considered by many to be the best player in the conference, Johnson was named last week’s Big Sky player-of-the-week, and is averaging 22 points, 4 assists and 3.4 rebounds per game.

Kirkland native, senior guard Ryan Staudacher, led the Big Sky in three-point percentage in 2008/2009, and averages more than five long-range attempts per game. 6’11” center, Brian Qvale averages 11.6 points, 7.6 boards, and two blocks.

Projected lineup: G – Anthony Johnson, G – Ryan Staudacher, G – Will Cherry, F – Jack McGillis, C – Brian Qvale

Grizzly to watch:

Senior guard, Anthony Johnson: Johnson is adept at penetrating and drawing fouls, getting to the line 15 times during the upset at Oregon. When defenses collapse on him, he can dish to backcourt-mate Staudacher in the corner. In last year’s meeting, the Huskies held Johnson to 11 points on 4-13 shooting, and only sent him to the line four times. The Dawgs will need to throw a mix of defenders (Overton, Holiday, and Pondexter) at him and hope for a similar result this time around.

A QUICK word from the opposition:

Montana head coach Wayne Tinkle was pressed for time when I got in touch but was able to fire off some quick-hit responses to a few questions. Here’s what we discussed:

Montlake Madness: Please give me the capsule scouting report on your team as you see it at this point — style of play, strengths, weaknesses, etc.

Coach Tinkle: We are a balanced team inside and out and play multiple defenses.

MM: What’s your strategy for beating Washington?

CT: We need to play at our pace and take good care of the ball.

MM: You were an assistant coach when Montana shocked Nevada in the 2006 NCAA Tournament. How much extra meaning do your regular season games against bigger conference schools take on, knowing there are so few opportunities before tournament time to test yourselves against those schools likely to get the high seeds come tournament time?

CT: It’s important to gain confidence.

MM: Can you give me your brief scouting report on the Huskies?

CT: The Huskies are very deep and dangerous.  We must find a way to slow them down.

MM: You’ve got a few players from the Puget Sound area on your roster. Describe what it means for a local player to come compete in a game close to home.

CT: It’s important to bring players back to their homes and play in areas that we recruit.

MM: What’s your coaching philosophy? How do you approach being a basketball coach and also being a role model to your players?

CT: My focus offensively is solid, balanced scoring inside and out.  I’ll change tempo’s depending on our opponents strengths and weaknesses.  Defensively I like to mix things up to keep our opponent from getting into a rhythm.

The path to victory:

Pressure defense: The Grizzlies turned the ball over 19 times against the Ducks pressure on Monday and still won by 13 points. If Montana thought Oregon’s defense was annoying, the Dawgs have the capability to be downright stifling. If young point guards Will Cherry (freshman) and Shawn Stockton (sophomore; John Stockton’s nephew) leave Hec Ed wondering what in the world just hit them, the Huskies should be in good shape.

Beating the zone: We wrote a longer post on this Wednesday. Montana shut down Oregon’s offense, holding them to 33% shooting, using a matchup zone. While the Huskies didn’t look good against San Jose State’s zone, they managed to grind the game out and win. Montana is a better team than San Jose State, and this will be a good opportunity for the Huskies, especially Isaiah Thomas, to gain more experience. Some day soon, an opponent will be too good for the Huskies to beat without playing their best, and facing the zone cannot be an excuse for mediocre execution.

What I expect:

I  expect a confident Montana team will show up, fresh off the victory at Oregon. Coach Tinkle has scheduled two tough road games each year for his team since taking over, and many of these Grizzlies are veterans of games at Duke, Gonzaga, and UW. They won’t be in awe of the #14 Huskies.

I expect Abdul Gaddy to see as many minutes as Venoy Overton as the freshman’s play continues to improve. I also expect Tyreese Breshers to continue eating into Darnell Gant’s time on the floor.

I expect the Huskies to come out swinging after the so-so performance last time out. I’m picking the Dawgs by 20, 86-66.