HELENA – The No. 10 Carroll College men's basketball team rolled early and never stopped en route to a 90-63 Frontier Conference win over Rocky Mountain College on Saturday night in the PE Center.
Four Saints (18-4, 6-4) scored in double figures, led by Matt Wyman’s 18. Ryan Imhoff added 16, Match Burnham had 13 and Alex Santos finished with 10.
"That was fun," Saints coach Carson Cunningham said. "The fellas got after it. It was great to see the energy and effort flowing on the court, on the bench and from the crowd, which gave us a fantastic boost. Rocky is a tough team to deal with."
Rocky (13-8, 5-5) had four turnovers in the game’s first five minutes and by the time Rocky stopped coughing the ball up every other possession, the Saints led 16-3. Carroll’s defense feasted on the Battlin’ Bears mistakes and energized their transition offense, leading to easy scores. The Saints finished the game with 14 steals.
“They’re a tough team offensively, especially when you let them get easy baskets,” Rocky coach Bill Dreikosen said. “We let them get too many easy baskets early on. They got their offense rolling and we had way too many turnovers early on.”
Carroll rode that wave of energy to a 48-19 halftime advantage. The Saints’ past offensive woes seemed like things of a season’s past. Carroll rattled off 32 points in the paint, many in transition or many off the extra pass or breaking down a mismatch.
Rocky switched to a trapping zone press in the second half, slowing the Saints’ offensive imitation more than anything. The pressure did little to stop the scoring, though. A half after shooting 66 percent from the field, Carroll continued the hot scoring, shooting at a 60 percent clip in the second half.
Rocky surpassed its point total from the first half in the first seven minutes of the second half, scoring 20 points and showing more poise on offense. Still, the Battlin’ Bears needed a lot of defensive stops and the Saints’ offense kept humming. The Battlin’ Bears did outscore the Saints 42-40 in the second half, but never came close to putting a threatening run together.
“We gathered things and were able to score the basketball in the second half at almost 60 percent,” Dreikosen said. “You can’t wait a first half to do that. They kept their offense going. They played very well tonight.”
The latter portion of the game became more of a trial run for some of the Saints’ offense, churning the clock and looking to execute against a Rocky defense that just didn’t have its stuff on Saturday.
Chad Kananen led the Battlin’ Bears with 12 points, hit 4 of 6 3-pointers. Jared Samuelson was the only other Rocky player to crack double figures, scoring 11 points.
The win left the Saints with a sense of relief after dropping a game to last-place Montana Tech on Thursday. Carroll’s win over Rocky put the Saints at 1-1 on the week and also dropped Rocky to 1-1 on the week.