Short turnaround, long turnaround; it’s all the same to Montana men’s basketball coach Wayne Tinkle.
Fresh off their 85-60 loss to BYU on Wednesday in Salt Lake City, the Griz flew to San Francisco on Thursday and will face the USF Dons on Friday night.
That’s not much time to solve the defensive lapses and turnover problems that plagued the Griz in the loss to the Cougars.
“It’s a perfect opportunity,” Tinkle said. “The things we’re struggling with – don’t get me wrong, some are X’s and O’s – but it’s more between the ears than anything else.”
Tinkle said he gave his young team – the Griz have just one senior until Will Cherry returns from a broken foot – a pretty simple game plan for BYU.
“We showed them a few set (plays), told them about their tendencies and we schemed to take a couple of things away,” Tinkle said. “What’s frustrating is we did not take it to the court.”
In the Dons (3-1) – Montana’s third straight West Coast Conference opponent – the Griz will face a team that’s not too complex.
“They spread you out and dare you to stop them,” Tinkle said. “They say, ‘Forget you, we’re going at you. Let’s see if you can stop us and then handle our pressure.’ ”
The Griz (3-2) lost just two games at home all of last season. One was to a Nevada team that ended up winning 28 games and one was to San Francisco, which ended up 20-12. The three-point loss to the Dons was a sore spot for the Griz.
“I’m sure our guys would like to have some revenge,” Tinkle said. “But they’re more in the moment – we didn’t play well last night, we have some issues we haven’t improved on and here’s this tough team that beat us last year, lets’ see what we’re made of.”
Against BYU, the Griz faced a high-scoring guard with good size (6-foot-5) in Tyler Haws, who scored 18 points. They’ll face a similar test in USF’s De’End Parker, a 6-6 junior guard who is averaging 20.3 points a game. Parker is coming off a 31-point outing in the Dons’ 79-59 win over Columbia last Saturday.
“He’s somewhat similar to Haws, but maybe not as crafty and he hits some 3s,” Tinkle said of Parker, who is shooting 67 percent from beyond the arc in the early going.
Tinkle said he’s giving junior Spencer Coleman his second start of the season at one of the wing spots.
“We’re challenging Spencer to get after Parker,” Tinkle said, adding that Coleman is back close to 100 percent after an early-season sprained ankle. “Now that he’s feeling better we have to get him on the floor more.”
The Dons have two other players averaging in double-digit scoring: point guard Cody Doolin (10.3) and 6-7 forward Cole Dickerson, who averages 13.8 points and an equal number of rebounds.
Senior Mathias Ward, who leads the Griz in scoring at 14.0 ppg, will match up against Dickerson. Ward fouled out in just 19 minutes of action against BYU.
“It will be a challenge for Mathias at the four,” Tinkle said. “He hasn’t been rebounding well. He needs to find a way to be physical without fouling.”
The Griz will be without junior center Eric Hutchison for the second straight game, meaning true freshman Andy Martin will get his second start in the middle. Hutchison sprained an ankle in practice this week.
Kareem Jamar, coming off of a 17-point, nine-rebound game at BYU, and Keron DeShields, who had 12 at BYU, will man the other two starting spots.
“I said to the guys that I’m not going to coach you any less while we’re ... waiting for (Cherry) and (Hutchison) to get back,” Tinkle said. “I expect to win these games with whoever’s out there. (Friday’s) a game we feel like if we play like we’re capable of, we should win.
“I have to remind myself of how many young guys we have out there and remind myself to stay patient, but it’s the (lack of) focus and mental lapses we have that’s disconcerting.”
NOTES: Cherry said he had another X-ray of his broken foot this week and it came out “great.” He’s out of the boot and wearing a shoe with a brace. Tinkle said Cherry might be able to begin shooting next week. ... The Griz have never beaten USF in four tries. ... USF’s 6-11 center Tao Xu, is from Qingdao City, China.
Sports editor Bob Meseroll can be reached at 523-5265 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.