Both the Montana Grizzlies and Montana State Bobcats men's basketball programs made huge statements tonight.
The Grizzlies ran up their third three-game win streak of the year in a 72-65 triumph over Portland State. The win not only atones for two consecutive drubbings at the hands of the Vikings, it makes the Big Sky a wide open race that could have the Griz in the hunt for the all-important Big Sky 1-seed down the road if they can keep up the high level of play.
Meanwhile, the Bobcats put the brakes to a three-game skid with a grind-it-out 69-65 win over Eastern Washington. The win gave Montana State some breathing space as they stay in the top six, hoping to qualify for the Big Sky tournament themselves.
Back to the Grizzlies for a second. Yes, it seems just when I knock this team, they turn it around and begin to play well. However, until they prove they can turn this recent run of wins into a stretch run that will see them contend for a Big Sky title, it's hard to get TOO excited about it. A win over Portland State has to feel great for the Griz faithful, and holding POY candidate Jeremiah Dominguez to five points is certainly something to write home about. That said, the Griz have followed up winning streaks of two, four and three with losing skids of three, three and two. Will these apparently matured Griz keep this latest roll going?
The Bobcats didn't have a losing streak all year until their latest three-game setback. The win over Eastern Washington is extremely important as it still solidifies the young group as dark horse contender for the Big Sky tournament title. The Bobcats (as well as Idaho State) sit in the 5/6 slots with two games ahead in the loss column over Eastern Washington. Eight games left in an unpredictable conference leaves no guarantee for the Bobcats (nor the Griz for that matter), but it has to be comforting to see a little separation right now. The Bobcats need to keep the airways open and flowing, now is not the time to take the much needed breathing room lightly.