The Sacramento State men have faced three of the top four big men in the Big Sky Conference this season and the results haven’t been good.
Eastern Washington’s Venky Jois, Portland State’s Cameron Forte and Weber State’s Joel Bolomboy had double doubles to lead their teams to wins over the Hornets.
Next up on Thursday night at The Nest is Montana forward Martin Breunig, a 6-foot-8 senior who arguably is the best big man in the conference.
Breunig, a native of Leverkusen, Germany, has scored at least 20 points 10 times this season, and he has eight double doubles.
Bruenig, who transferred from Washington after his sophomore season, has helped keep the defending regular-season Big Sky champion Grizzlies (13-7, 8-1) at the top of the conference standings. Bruenig is fourth in scoring (18.5) and third in rebounding (9.0) in the conference, and his 63.4 shooting percentage is No. 12 nationally in Division I.
But Montana isn’t a one-man team. When rival Montana State focused heavily on Bruenig on Saturday, holding him to 14 points, guards Michael Oguine and Walter Wright combined for 45 points in the Grizzlies’ 80-72 win.
Sac State (9-10, 2-6) beat Idaho 65-63 last Thursday for their first Big Sky road win, then came from 17 points down to close within three points with seven seconds to play before falling 74-67 at Eastern Washington on Saturday. Sophomore guard Marcus Graves combined for 37 points and 16 assists in the two games to lead Sac State.
The Hornets host Montana State (4-5, 9-12) on Saturday.
Road tests for Aggies – UC Davis (9-11, 4-3) has won all four Big West Conference home games but is 0-3 on the road entering Thursday’s game at Cal State Fullerton (8-12, 1-6). UCD plays at UC Riverside (13-11, 4-4) on Saturday.
The Aggies have beaten both teams at home.
I know defense travels. And if you share the ball, take good quality shots and take care of the ball like we did (Saturday), those things travel.
Jim Les, UC Davis men’s basketball coach
Junior Neal Monson scored 20 points to lead the Aggies to a 66-52 victory over Cal Poly on Saturday. Senior forward Josh Fox had 18 points and 10 rebounds, and the Aggies held Cal Poly to its fewest points this season.
Monson, the conference’s rebounding leader, said defense has been the Aggies’ focus since the start of the season. But more consistency on offense has helped the Aggies win four of five and move into fourth place in the conference.
“Coming off last year, where we had so much offensive firepower, we knew this year we were going to have to rely more on defense,” Monson said. “I think the last couple of games we’ve played better offensively to balance that and turn the season around.”
Coach Jim Les thinks the formula will lead to conference wins on the road.
“I know defense travels,” Les said. “And if you share the ball, take good quality shots and take care of the ball like we did (Saturday), those things travel. We expect those to go with us Thursday and Saturday to Southern California.”
Defense key for UCD women, too – The UCD women also are citing defense, especially in their four Big West blowout wins, including Saturday’s 80-51 victory over UC Santa Barbara at the Pavilion.
“Defense rules our offense,” said senior forward Celia Marfone, who had 17 points. “When our defense is going, we’re a great offensive team, and it shows. We shoot the ball very well.”
On Thursday, the second-place Aggies (12-8, 5-2) play at conference leader UC Riverside (13-7, 6-0).
UC Riverside, which leads the league at 77.3 points per game, scored at least 92 points in victories over Cal Poly and UC Santa Barbara last week. Highlanders senior guard Brittany Cain leads the conference in scoring at 19.8 points per game.
“They really score the ball well,” UCD coach Jennifer Gross said. “Somebody has got to put an ‘L’ in Riverside’s column. We’re not looking at it so much as a must-win as just let’s try to bring the same focus and energy that we brought (against Santa Barbara). I feel if we do, we are going to have a good shot to win the game.”
- Men: Thursday vs. Montana, 7:05 p.m., 1380; Saturday vs. Montana State, 7:05 pm., 1380
- Women: Thursday at Montana, 6 p.m.; Saturday at Montana State, 1 p.m.
- Men: Thursday at Cal State Fullerton, 7 p.m., 105.5; Saturday at UC Riverside, 7 p.m., 105.5
- Women: Thursday at UC Riverside, 7 p.m., 90.3; Saturday at Cal State Fullerton, 4 p.m., 90.3