Montana men's basketball coach Pat Kennedy will get an unexpected night off.
Big Sky Conference commissioner Doug Fullerton suspended Kennedy for one game for comments critical of officials made by the coach after the Grizzlies' 71-52 loss to Eastern Washington last Saturday night. Kennedy will miss Thursday night's game at Weber State. Assistant coach Wayne Tinkle will assume Kennedy's duties for the night.
"I'm excited," Tinkle said of the opportunity. "We go in there and have nothing to lose. Coach Kennedy will put everything in place and I'm sure he'll give me instructions. I'll just take his plan and run with it. It comes down to our players executing the game plan."
Kennedy received a pair of technical fouls from official Andy Rios with 29.4 seconds to play in the lopsided loss to the league-leading Eagles.
"There's supposed to be a visible five-second count," Kennedy told the Missoulian following the game. "It's as simple as that. You don't ever cheat the student-athletes."
A similar quote was used in a story by the Spokane Spokesman-Review.
"I knew what I was trying to say," Kennedy said. "The verbiage created a sensitivity. I'm always going to support our players, but I understand what the commissioner did. I feel very confident about our coaching staff. The only difference will be when we leave hotel, (Tinkle) will be appointed head coach."
Losing Kennedy for a night is just another setback for the reeling Griz, who have lost six straight league games and 15 of 17 overall. The list of dubious marks looming for the Griz continues to grow.
Eastern's win in Missoula was its fourth straight on the Grizzlies' home court, making the Eagles the first team in more than 30 years to pull off that feat. Weber State won five straight games in Missoula between 1967-71.
At 2-7, the Griz are in last place in the Big Sky standings. Montana hasn't finished in the league cellar since going 5-10 in the 1967-68 season.
With six games remaining, including a non-conference game against Frontier Conference weakling Great Falls, the Griz (5-16) are in danger of their first 20-loss season since the 1953-54 team went 7-20. The 1944-45 Griz club went 7-22, the most losses in school history.
Losses at Weber State and Idaho State this week would give the Griz their second eight-game losing streak of the season.
Sacramento State's 110-97 win over Northern Arizona in Flagstaff on Saturday produced some eye-popping numbers, like the 67 points the Hornets scored in the second half alone.
It was the most points scored by an NAU opponent in Flagstaff since Montana State scored 111 in 1975. The total also tied the Hornets' best output since becoming a Division I school and extended their league winning streak to three, their best since joining the Big Sky in 1996-97.
"It was kind of a shock," NAU point guard Kyle Feuerbach told the Arizona Daily Sun. "They came out with more energy than we had and we just dug ourselves holes. It's frustrating. We were in a very good position (in the Big Sky race). Now we have to climb an uphill battle."
The Jacks and Idaho State are tied for second, 2fi games behind Eastern Washington, which plays four of its final six games at home. The Eagles, 5-0 in league road games, are 20-7 on the road in the Big Sky in Coach Ray Giacoletti's tenure.
If the Eagles can finish strong, they'll earn the right to host their first Big Sky Conference.
Idaho State forward Scott Henry had the kind of homecoming every player dreams of.
Henry had 24 points, 15 rebounds and a pair of blocked shots in Idaho State's stunning 81-75 win over Weber State in Ogden.
Henry grew up in Orem, 80 miles south of Ogden, and played two seasons at Salt Lake Community College.
"He just had his way with us," Weber State coach Joe Cravens told the Ogden Standard-Examiner.
Idaho State had lost 13 straight times in the Dee Events Center, which was filled to the brim with 8,111 Wildcat fans.
"It was a huge game for us," Henry told the Ogden Standard-Examiner. "We haven't won here in 13 years, so it was a very fun win."
It also gave the Bengals their first season sweep of the Wildcats since the 1990-91 season.
Weber State's Slobodan Ocokoljic sprained his right ankle with 6:52 to play in the game and did not return. The senior power forward has sprained the same ankle three times this season and is also suffering from inflamed knee ligaments.
After falling 64-61 at home to Eastern Washington last Thursday, Montana State found itself trailing Portland State 29-22 at halftime of Saturday's game.
The Cats still trailed 49-39 with 8:40 to play. But a 13-2 run gave the Bobcats the lead for good, handing MSU coach Mick Durham his 215th career win. The victory moved him past Boise State's Bobby Dye on the all-time wins list for league coaches.
"It's nice to get that record stuff out of the way," Durham told the Bozeman Chronicle. "It's something that I'm proud of and to accomplish it at Montana State is very special to me. But we have a lot of work left to do his season and I'm looking forward to seeing what this team can do."
Fastbreaks: Road teams regained the upper hand in last week's games, going 5-1, and are now 18-16 in league play. … In Eastern's current eight-game winning streak, the Eagles are allowing their opponents just 61.2 points a game. … ISU point guard Marquis Poole has scored 20 or more points in eight games. … Montana and Montana State combined to shoot 41-for-106 (.387) from the field against Portland State last week.
Sports editor Bob Meseroll can be reached at 523-5265 or by e-mail at email@example.com.