UM takes road show to Butte for KGVO/Montana Power ClassicMontana men's basketball coach Don Holst has a place on his team for players who take poor shots and turn the ball over.
"They can sit on the bench, right next to the redshirts," Holst said Thursday as he and his staff prepared for Friday's matchup with Saint Mary's in the first game of the KGVO/Montana Power Classic.
The Griz take on the Gaels for the second time this season at 6:35 p.m. in the Butte Civic Center, the site of this year's tournament. Idaho will face Youngstown State 30 minutes following the completion of Montana's game. The losers of Friday's games will square off Saturday at 6:35 p.m. in the consolation tilt with the championship to follow.
"My biggest concern is mediocre shots and turnovers," Holst said. "We've worked real hard on that area this week. Whether that will show or not, I don't know."
Those two areas have been a particular problem in the first halves of the Grizzlies' four losses. The Griz have turned the ball over 73 times in those games, 45 of those coming in the first half. Montana has shot 42 percent in the first half of those games, lowlighted by last week's 22-percent showing in a 27-point loss to San Jose State in Billings.
"The key for us is getting a good start and not going into the locker room with 10 or 12 turnovers," Holst said. "We get in a little bit of a hurry."
Montana played one of its better games of the season in its 74-73 loss to Saint Mary's on Dec. 2 in Moraga, Calif. The Gaels won when guard Frank Allocco drove the lane and got a layup to fall at the final buzzer. Allocco led Saint Mary's with 20 points. Frank Knight, a guard with a penchant for penetration, added 18 and Eric Schraeder, a 6-foot-8 shooter, had 17.
"Those are three very good players who hurt us," said Holst, whose Griz were led by the 19 points of Mike Warhank. "Knight broke us down on the dribble and Allocco is a headsy point guard who never turns it over. He takes over late in the game. And Schraeder is 6-8 and shoots the ball like Mike Warhank."
Holst said starting point guard Cory Reiser and backup Kyle Keyes will need to contain Allocco. Warhank will be matched up with Knight to start and UM's small forwards, Jason Collins and Mat Seidensticker, will keep an eye on Schraeder.
"We need to make some plays at the offensive end, too," Holst said. "Defensively, I didn't think we were that bad. Offensively, we missed some opportunities."
The Griz, who played in front of a very quiet crowd of 1,881 last week in Billings, might again be faced with a very neutral court. Just 880 tickets to Friday's game had been sold as of Thursday afternoon.
"They were pretty fired up when we left the Civic Center today," Holst said of a Thursday practice in Butte. "I told the kids, 'You're not in Missoula. You need to generate your own enthusiasm and intensity. You can't expect the crowd to do it for you.' That's the road mentality and that's what we'll have."
The Griz, ranked 310 out of 310 teams in one power index, have yet to beat a Division I team. Their wins have come over NAIA teams Simon Fraser and Carroll College.
"I just want to get a win," Holst said. "You can't put too much pressure on yourself, though. I'm using these last five (non-conference) games as preparation for the conference season."